America Loses A Great American Pet Writer

Profound, that is how I describe Mordecai Siegal's influence as a pet writer. After suffering declining health for several years, the venerable author of 33 books just passed away.

In 1970 when Morty and dog trainer Matthew Margolis teamed up for their first of 10 books together, "Good Dog, Bad Dog," and as a result the old paradigm at book stores changed. Animal books were no longer grouped together, penguin books were no longer next to dog training books. Morty proved (with huge sales) that pets can hold their own, with their own place at the stores. The last formal interview I did with Morty was for his book "Dog Spelled Backwards."

Morty was an eloquent speaker and elegant writer. With the late Roger Caras, the best spokeperson companion animals ever had.

Morty used to call me kid. The first time we met he put his arm around me and said, "You're going places, kid." He was a good friend to me - and all colleagues who wrote about companion animals.  The last time we spoke, about a month ago, he sounded pretty upbeat, looking forward to the Spring, but after talking about an hour, he said he was getting tired. "Gotta go kiddo - you know, I love you."

"Acquiring a dog may be the only opportunity a human ever has to choose a relative," Mordecai Siegal

Mordecai and Me at Cat Show.jpg

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  • I have fond memories of Morty.

    I met Morty at a string of firsts for me..
    my 1st DWAA/CWA Writers Convention,
    my 1st CAT show,
    my first book signing AT a Cat show (where I sold a couple of my DOG books).
    Morty gave me my 1st CAT book, and it was abound galley (so, it was a first printing).

    It was really welcoming, Morty greeted a "no name" like me with open arms. He was a great man and I will miss him.

    Charlene G. LaBelle

  • He did wonderful things as a deceptively ordinary human being. In his tenure as President of DWAA he nourished the organization and made it flourish. No one surpassed him as a wordsmith. He wrote thousands of articles and books in collaboration with Matthew Margolis in "Good Dog, Bad Dog," Roger Caras in "Dog Owners Bible,"
    and Steve Dale in "Dog Spelled Backwards," to name three. And many articles appeared in House Beautiful and Good Housekeeping magazines in his pet columns. Worth most among his talents was his ability to talk to any human being as an equal on level ground. For me he made Westminster Week attainable, accessible, and not overwhelming. I believe he was a man who belonged to the world.

  • Condolences, Steve. I'm so sorry.

  • Morty was a great writer and a great friend, not just to cats and dogs but to his cohorts. I saw cohorts, because few were his peers. I will never forget all our gab sessions, his assistance and his laugh. When I last spoke to him, he did seem to be upbeat as Steve said. Several years ago when he first became ill with leukemia after 9/11, I sent him an angel to keep in his pocket. He never failed to carry it and to mention it to me. He could be a curmudgeon, but he was a lovable curmudgeon.
    Chris Walkowicz

  • I remember Morty in the Press Box at The Garden (Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden) saying that he was "looking for the old guy." A reference to the deceased writer for The New York Times. "Then I realized that I AM the old guy," he said with typical wry humor. We laughed. It seems as if I've known Morty forever. We exchanged humorous e-mails, sharing a joke if not actual time together. It's hard to imagine not seeing him again...

  • Morty was the editor for the first book I ever worked on, and I learned from the master. He was also one of the funniest people I knew. What a legacy he leaves! A life well lived. Godspeed, Morty.

  • I too met Mordecai in the Westminster press room -- on Valentine's Day, 2000. I was launching www.goodnewsforpets.com and Steve Dale told me I should meet Mordecai. From that point on, he contributed to goodnewsforpets.com, and took great care and pride in his columns for as long as he was able to contribute. I learned so much by reading his writing, and listening to so many stories. Sure he had his rough edges -- as do I at times, but he loved, loved, loved everything about pet writing, and helped many in the business and that includes me too. He also loved his family, and when I spoke about my own children, he spoke about his with such tremendous pride. He loved them too. A multi-faceted legend that will be remembered. Thank you for this post Steve.

  • Steve, thank you for writing this story about Morty and allowing his fans and friends to comment about his passing and share memories - no matter how insignificant they may seem. I first met Morty back at a Cat Writers' Association convention in the early 1990's in Chicago. The convention took place at an older hotel in Chicago (called "The Congress Hotel," I think). This was NOT a five-star hotel as it may have been in its original glory days, unfortunately, and seemed more of a historical landmark than a place of business/leisure. I didn't know anyone in CWA back then, but walked into the cocktail party taking place before our Awards banquet and there was a crowd gathered, so I walked over to hear/see who was in the center. There was that cutie-pie Mordecai, surrounded by admirers, listening to him tell of a hotel "mishap" that almost made him miss the banquet. While getting ready for the dinner, he actually got STUCK IN THE SHOWER. The hotel bathrooms had shower doors instead of curtains (at least some of the rooms did) and once he was in there, the door got stuck and he couldn't get out. Of course, his telling of the story was so funny with his added commentary and imaginary "visuals" of him stuck - and in a panic - made it all the more comical! I remember thinking what an honor to be in the presence of such a great writer...but I've also remembered the shower story, too, with a smile. Thanks again, Steve, for the opportunity to share this story. To this day, whenever I'd mention Morty to my "non-writer" husband, he'd say, "Oh, that guy who got stuck in the shower..."
    Rest in Peace, Morty,
    Sandra Toney

  • There is a deep sadness in my heart. I have lost my dearest friend, a brother to me and the most gifted pet writer of our time. I have known Mordecai for 41 years and it has been one hell of a ride. We have laughed together, cried together, fought like siblings - but the mutual respect we had for each other enabled us to work together. His great ability to put into words, my dog training philosophies was a miracle, and believe me that wasn

  • Friend, father figure and colleague captures my relationship with this very special individual who came into my life in the mid 1970s when I joined the Dog Writers Association of America as a features writer and pets columnist for the Seattle Times.
    This was an era of snail mail and land-line telephones chiefly, so communication wasn

  • Steve Diller was the first dog writer who ever mentioned Mordecai Siegal to me. Steve introduced me to him a few years later at the press room of The Westminster Dog Show. Mordecai was holding court. (Mordecai holds court wherever he is and probably will continue to do so.) I was introduced as a songwriter who loved dogs and was working on a music project about dogs. We hit it off and started to have coffee at his favorite Village haunt, Mojo. It was a few blocks from my studio so we made it a regular thing. Sometimes I just showed up and there he was with a bubble of thoughts floating over his head. We laughed, celebrated dogs, caffeine and life! He was knowledgeable about everything and always had a viewpoint. Oh boy, what a viewpoint! We laughed a lot. He had an impish smile at times. I could tell that he loved life deeply. We talked a lot about everything from music to acting, politics to women and of course, dogs. And cats! Mordecai had heart and still does in my vision of him. Like some of my buddies of the "old school," he called me "Babe."
    I have a feeling that the last guy to call me "Babe" is gone.
    Murray

  • I first met Morty when he was the president of The Society of New York Dog Trainers. Having been familiar with his writings,I was star struck to be in the same room with him. Morty had the gift, he had a silver tounge and the knowledge of many topice to share, and share he did. We were close and I'll miss him, dogs and their people have lost a superstar. I am thankful to have been his friend as he was kind and thoughtful.
    Love you Moedecai

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