Dale Ryan’s newly released coffee-table book Sleeping with the Beast features her dogs and her life with them as their loving caretaker. Before even opening the book I was struck by the front cover, showcasing a brilliant photograph of her husband completely sacked out with three grand sized dogs, or shall I say “Beasts!” The pages that ensue eloquently articulate the couple’s life entangled with their best friends on her east coast home given the name Breeze Hill Farm. In conjunction with Dale’s beautiful writing, stunning photographs reveal an uncanny depth of personality and emotion for each one of her dogs in the moments that she captures with her lens.
It’s quite evident in the way these beings look at Dale on the other side of her camera, or even while remaining engrossed in their own immediate objectives, that they are comfortable, loved and free as they roam and rest within the kingdom that they all co-habitate. Dale describes the home that she has designed to give her dogs safety and freedom within their reign. And she offers tips for dog lovers to do the same, from cooking for dogs, constructing feeding etiquette, creating appropriate wall coverings for the constant activity multiple dogs bring to bear, developing an ambiance and flow of a floor plan that caters to your loved-ones, to even creating well thought-out sleeping quarters to share with your canine pups.
Sitting atop the roof deck of L’Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills for her book signing, I was struck by the natural elegance of Dale Ryan, and further struck by her intelligence, insight and passion. Her commentary, both in person and throughout the pages of her book, takes us into the social politics of caring for another being.
Adamant about not being an “owner” of her dogs, but rather a custodian, she speaks of human’s ideology over time and in different countries. She also talks with compassion for how she believes we should honor the “beasts” we bring into our families as their own individual beings, to listen to them, provide for them and take care of them, rather than rule over them. She speaks of the contradiction of calling dogs our “best friends” while not seeing them completely as multifaceted individuals, and, sadly, being quick to euthanize them with a certain ease. Dale, at times humorously, weaves in that people are ironically beasts as well, and sometimes even less civilized and more beastly than the puppies and dogs we care for.
Dale Ryan’s Sleeping with the Beast is beautiful to look through and engaging to read, even for a person who’s only experience living with a dog was as a mere toddler. The verbiage is eloquent, quick paced and very personable and clear. And her content is engaging and heart-felt, because she doesn’t just seem to be talking about living with dogs, but also the responsibility and thought behind being a compassionate, aware and loving care-taker of any being. She talks about what it means to live with and love family.