Sunday, July 13, 2008

Goodbye, Roland

A sad visit to White Dwarf Books yesterday. The store owners’ trusty Basset Hound, Roland, has died.

It was shaping up to be a good afternoon… it was a sunny Saturday, my wife and I were driving around Vancouver after a nice lunch and we thought we’d drop by the store to check out the latest books, chat with the owners and say hi to Roland. The first part of the trip went as planned – many good books (naturally) and I was happy to find the newest offerings from Nick DiChario and Naomi Novik. But something was missing. No sign of the old dog on his blanket under the display table at the back of the central aisle. Now, Roland being off-site was nothing unusual… sometimes he’d be out for a walk, but the tablecloth had never been blocked the entrance to his lair before. As I settled-up for the books, I asked where he was. The owner got a sad look in her eyes and told us Roland had died last week.

To a regular like me, this was a shock. Roland was part of White Dwarf. He was one of the first things I saw the first time I went there, that old Basset Hound lounging in front of the door in a nice sunny patch. I remember smiling to myself thinking, “Here’s a quiet little SF bookshop with quiet owners and a quiet dog. This is a good place.” If he wasn’t under his table at the back, Roland would be in a sunny spot up front, keeping an eye on the door. Sometimes he’d work up the energy to patrol the aisles and check out the customers, always ready to accept a pat, always hoping you had a cookie you’d share. If you went to an author reading at the store, no matter how many people were crowding the aisles, Roland would always be there, doing the rounds in his slow, steady way, having a good look and sniff at the customers and making sure his store was in good order. He was an important part of the feel of the store - Easy-going. Comfortable. Encouraging you to take your time and wander between the shelves like he did, idly sniffing out that next good book.

Hearing the news, I felt sad. Sure, he wasn’t my dog, but Roland was a good old dog, the kind you always said hi to when you passed him, the kind who you just knew you were going to stop and pat if he happened to be awake when you dropped by. I felt worse when the owner said it was still pretty soon and she couldn’t talk about him much without having to hold back the tears. But she told me that it was alright that I’d asked. She said she liked it when people asked because it let her know that all of us cared about Roland. And we did. So if you’re a regular at White Dwarf, give the owners their space if they need it, but if you’ve got fond memories of Roland, let them know that you’ll miss that old dog too.

Goodbye, Roland.
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