In many ways, Gunnar, a 2-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback owned by Egg Harbor Township residents Lori and Steve Wittenwiler, is just a typical dog. He responds enthusiastically to belly rubs and is not to be trusted around an unattended steak. But Gunnar has one thing that sets him apart from the rest of his four-legged brethren: He is the star of his own book.
On Aug. 15, Lori published her book "Through the Eyes of a Ridgeback: Gunnar's Deep Thoughts," which features anecdotes from his first year as a member of the family.
While she had little experience writing before putting the book together, Lori said Gunnar's colorful personality made it easy to translate his character to the page.
"He's a piece of work," Lori said. "His personality is very outgoing. He loves everybody - and he's a thief."
Lori first got it in her head to write a book about Gunnar last year, when a short story she had written about him was included in a collection of pet stories called "Mischief Master Class." She was encouraged by the book's editor to continue writing and decided to expand her ideas into a book.
"Gunnar's Deep Thoughts" is not a novel, but a collection of short stories and musings inspired by his antics, such as his tiffs with his adversary Walter the Squirrel and his love of digging holes.
Lori would devote long hours to the book, translating notes she had written down on disposable plates or sheets of toilet paper into chapters. Sometimes, she would be so focused Steve would go a whole day without seeing her, he said.
"I became the ridgeback book widower," Wittenwiler said. "Drove me nuts. She's working 12, 13 hours a day - but the book is funny as hell. It's hilarious. She did a killer job."
In addition to his literary fame, Gunnar is a social media maven and has accumulated nearly 500 Facebook friends under the name Dykumos Gunnar Wittenwiler. Lori makes daily posts on the site about his adventures.
Friend Kia Pellegrino counts herself among Gunnar's fans, saying it is part of her morning ritual to catch up with him on Facebook.
"I've learned not to keep my coffee cup near my laptop, because there's been a couple times where, it's just, I lost it," she said. "It was just like, 'Oh my lord.'"
Lori plans to write a follow-up to the book, but has not started to pen it yet. She is keeping a detailed record of his antics for when the time comes, she said.
Sales of the book have been slow so far, Lori said, as she has done little to market it outside of telling friends and family. Regardless of whether it catches on, though, she is already pleased with the response to her work.
"When I hear people tell me, 'If I have a bad day, all I do is read something you've posted, or from Gunnar, it makes me smile,'" Wittenwiler said. "That's a good feeling. That's why I do it."
For more information about Gunnar, look Deep Thoughts with the G Man on Facebook. The book is available in print and as an eBook on Amazon.
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