Photo: Karen Waldman and her new pooch Archie

Karen Waldman recently published her first novel, ‘Sidnie Meets Uncle Sam’, which follows Karen’s Cocker Spaniel Sidnie’s story from Sydney to Brisbane, to America and humble Yass.

Aimed at Australian and American dog lovers, both young and adult alike, the story is told from Sidnie’s perspective as he accompanied his human parents on their travels and had adventures of his own.

Now retired, Karen splits her time between Sydney and Yass visiting family in each and said she and her husband found it easy to fit into the Yass community enjoying the fresh air and country atmosphere.

“You can breathe, you don’t have to fight the Sydney traffic, the aggressive drivers,” she said. “You can drive down the main street and find a parking space and everyone was just so welcoming.”

Karen has lived in Sydney most of her life working in the construction industry before moving into the public sector in NSW and QLD holding operational and corporate roles in the water and energy industries.

“I’ve written journals all my life and I’ve done some creative writing courses and I always said, ‘When I finished my career and I retire, I wanted to write a book’.” The premise behind the book was born after she retired when Sidnie, Karen and her husband moved to New Jersey, USA in 2012 while living on a Christmas tree farm in regional Princeton.

After having a corporate identity for so long when she retired, Karen found she needed to reinvent herself using the opportunity of living in a new country as inspirational fodder she began writing a book about her black and white Cocker Spaniel’s adventures.

Karen Waldman selling her book at the Yass markets over the Easter long weekend

Sidnie met squirrels, groundhogs, deer, and geese and had many other adventures with his family. Told through his eyes the story is quirky yet poignant as Sidnie makes sometimes hilarious but astute observations about his world and is sadly eventually diagnosed with cancer.

Anyone who has lost a beloved pet can relate to the particular brand of grief that accompanies it. Once Sidnie was diagnosed with cancer in 2018, Karen was unable to write. “I just couldn’t, bring myself to do it, because I just was grieving.”

“Then after he passed away, I took it up with a vengeance again, determined to finish,” she said. “The next day I decided I would complete his book as a tribute to him and after eight years, I finally finished it.”

“The writing allowed me to come to grips with him no longer being there and also served in honour of him,” she said. “[The novel] is for dog lovers and armchair travellers of all ages as well.”

After several drafts it finally evolved into a book set before the family’s departure to the States, Sidnie’s flight overseas, settling into his new domain and all his experiences, joys and challenges thereafter.

Karen said she eventually settled on a seasonal structure for her novel ending with their move back to Australia, Sidnie’s later time in Yass and unfortunately when he died.

The chapter, ‘An Aussie Horse Farm’, is set entirely in Yass painting an image of what many dogs enjoy doing in the country sniffing at horses and kangaroos, and startled barks at the strange looking creature that is the echidna.

You can purchase ‘Sidnie Meets Uncle Sam’ at the Yass Bookstore, online at Booktopia or Karen’s website. Alternatively, you can borrow a copy at the Yass Valley Library.

Karen has now recently become a mum to a new puppy, Archie, who following Sidnie, has “big paws to fill”.

By Brianna O’Rourke