Jojo and John
Many of our readers know that Hope wrote over 24 books about the wild animals she came to know by spending years in solitude in their environment. Her astute observations and brilliant writing gave readers a different view of wild animals they either reviled or hadn’t heard of.
But I’d like to tell our readers something personal. It’s about Hope’s love for her last dog, Jojo. When Pete Muller and I met Hope in her apartment in New York City, she and John, her husband, had just adopted a large and energetic dog they named Jojo. Jojo gave so much joy to Hope during the time that they were together. Hope especially loved telling the story about how he discovered a jar of peanut butter on the kitchen counter, cleverly knocked it to the kitchen floor, more cleverly managed to remove the lid, and most cleverly got every bit of peanut butter into his mouth.
When we learned that Hope was no longer living in her apartment due to ill health, we were also concerned about Jojo and needed to find out what happened to him. Jojo, we had heard was taken by a family member temporarily to another state. After weeks of trying to get more information, I was able to reach John who was living at their house upstate NY. It was good to hear John’s voice - could he tell me what happened to Jojo? “Yes, he’s standing right here next to me!” I burst out laughing from relief! That led to a delightful visit where I took the photo.
Jojo had some age on him from the lean, spunky guy I remembered who loved racing back and forth along the hallway of his NYC apartment building. He loved jumping on everyone who was brave enough to walk toward him (or back away from him), almost knocking them over - all to Hope’s delight! Jojo was still excited to have company, but after the initial surprise wore off, and perhaps as he recalled our visit to the apartment in NYC, I could tell from his far-away look that Hope was still deep in his heart, and I know he is in hers. When I last talked to Hope, she certainly remembered Jojo, and had fun recounting memories of his antics.
A couple of years before ill health struck, Hope told me she was writing a new book. It was to be about her life as it intertwined with the various dogs who had been a part of her history from childhood to the present time. Each chapter would be about a different dog and her life during the time they were together. I’m sure many of us who’ve lived long enough to have had successive dogs in our lives can relate to that way of organizing who we were and when.
Losing Hope Ryden is calamitous for the wild animals she loved so deeply, and whose lives she so intimately understood from her years with them in the wild. As a compassionate observer of their individuality, Hope was able to communicate their personhood even to people who didn’t agree that animals had any. She was more than a writer and photographer, Hope was an activist who spoke out for wild animals who were hunted, trapped, and subjected to other types of cruelty. Her book, God’s Dog, a Celebration of the North American Coyote is a classic that rightfully transforms the demonized coyote (by game agencies, hunters, and Wildlife Services of the USDA) into God’s dog who has a purpose of his or her own, and, more importantly, a soul.
Hope will be greatly missed!