Dog Soldier Press was founded in October 1999 by me, John Pruit, as the vehicle under whose imprint to publish Santana, War Chief of the Mescalero Apache, a historical manuscript edited and made ready for publication by my father, A R Pruit. Ultimately, Dog Soldier Press is the child of my last conversation with him before his death in 1994 at age 81 from complications after open heart surgery. One of the things he asked me to make sure of was that this manuscript got published. I got involved late in the game, after aborted publication attempts with two other presses. In the process, I found that I enjoyed the work involved in publishing and decided to continue to publish such works as interested me when and if I had the financial means to do so. Because I am publisher, sole owner and only employee, and a rookie in the publishing game, it is more than fair to say that Dog Soldier Press is a work-in-progress.
Choice of the name Dog Soldier Press was inspired by a story I heard David Stewart tell about an oral history program he watched on PBS some years ago, in which a 100+ year old Lakota man told a story about being a boy in his village ........
A dog soldier would come riding into camp on his horse. The first thing you noticed was the horse. The coat was combed and shiny. The tail was braided and there were ribbons woven into it. The mane was combed and straight, and there were two feathers tied between the ears. His face was painted and there was a perfect hand print on the hip. The horse was perfect.
Then you looked at the man. He was dressed in buckskins that were fringed and beaded. His hair was braided, and there was an eagle feather tied in it. His face was painted half white and half black, and he carried his lance and his shield. And his shield was painted. His bow and a quiver full of arrows were slung across his shoulder. The man was perfect.
And I would look up at this man and think 'Wow!'
And today, where are our dog soldiers?"
The inspiration I find in this story is conditioned by what I have learned about the dog soldier and other Lakota traditions from stories told by my Lakota friends and from talks given by Lakota elders at various gatherings I have been privileged to attend.
Loyalty is the defining characteristic of the dog. A dog willingly places itself in harm's way to defend it's master. Following their namesake's model, dog soldiers prepared for battle by tying one end of a 10-15 foot length of rawhide to one ankle and tying the other end to a stake which was driven in the ground. Live or die, they took on all comers, and so long as the battle continued, did not venture outside the circle prescribed by this rawhide tether. In the dog soldier's mind, he/she was already dead. Loyal to the death, he/she gave his/her life to the tribe, so that the tribe might live. Consequently, with nothing left to lose and no fear of death, dog soldiers were fearsome adversaries.
At the dawn of the 21st century, few of us in the economically developed countries of the world, fortunately, are ever called upon to physically defend our homes and families. Even fewer of us, however, ever conquer or come to terms with our own internal adversaries. Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker do not battle only on the television screen. They, or their metaphoric equivalents, battle daily within our own hearts and minds.
I like the image of the dog soldier's tether. He/she made his/her stand, and staked his/her life on it. "Live or die, I will go no farther than this." Any opponent coming within the dog soldier's circle had the opportunity to discover just how creative a person who knows his/her limits can be.
There are now and have been in the past people whose behavior suggests that they too took such a stand. Essentially, they staked their lives on following their will. Characteristics of such people as I have in mind include personal integrity, generosity, kindness, a well developed personal sense of good and evil/right and wrong/acceptable and unacceptable, willingness to make personal sacrifice for the benefit of others, courage, willingness to put aside personal preference to accomplish a greater good. Intelligence, humility and the ability to laugh at themselves are often, but not always present. The virtue such people unconsciously express as a matter of course in their lives causes them to stand out among their fellows. In today's world, such people unfortunately draw scant attention from media who make their living publicizing the more sensational elements of modern life that polarize, rather than heal, emotions and opinions in the name of the public's right to know.
Dog Soldier Press was founded to focus the light of public attention on the accomplishments of people who by their actions have demonstrated that, live or die, they have chosen to take a stand and commit themselves to a greater good. We can look up to such people and say 'Wow!'. Their words and their accomplishments have the power to inspire. In today's world, where virtually no institution has been untouched by scandal and where disclosures of personal selfishness, greed and, for lack of a better term, moral depravity on the part of highly visible public figures are a daily event, such inspiration is in short supply.
"He helped the truth along without encumbering it with himself"
Inscribed on the tombstone of Artemus Ward, American humorist (b 1834, d 1867)