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Tallahassee Author Recounts The Adventures Of A Small Town Dog In Coastal North Florida

A tan dog lies on a paved pathway outside with the words "The Adventures of Surf Dude" written above it.
Zelle Andrews
(used with permission)
The cover of Zelle Andrews' new book

A book based on a real dog in a small, North Florida coastal town is the subject of a local author's latest book. Here's the lowdown on the saga of "Surf Dude."

Mary Andrews, pen name "Zelle Andrews," is a seasoned writer. Her first poem, written when she was 12, wound up in the Tallahassee Democrat. Now she has a number of books to her credit, focused on the fictional and often challenging life of a young single mom named Tess Cooper.

"I have two that are self-published right now. 'Paisley Memories' is the first and 'Dancing With Dandelions' is the second one in the series. And I'm currently working on the third one to close up that series. It's about a young girl who has a baby with Downs Syndrome," she explained by way of introduction.

In Andrews' books, Tess Cooper lands in Panacea, Florida. It's a place that figures prominently in Andrews' works.

"I was born and raised in Tallahassee. And I love the area, the atmosphere, the coast, the friendliness of the people and people down here are just very genuine and down-to-earth. And there's also so much humor with the characters that you run into in the small towns. And so that's what made me know that I wanted to set this in a smaller town."

The story regarding a particular small-down character, says Andrews, who just happens to have four legs and a tail.

"This is actually based on a stray dog that took up residence and was well-known in the community of Panacea."

A tale that Andrews was convinced to capture on the printed page by a truly legendary North Florida writer by the name of Rhett DeVane.

"Not only did she encourage me, she gave me a good, gentle shove into reaching out to one of the caregivers of Surf. So once we got the go-ahead from him, it all came to fruition."

In the form of Andrews' latest book, "The Adventures of Surf Dude: The Dog of Ochlockonee Bay."

"He has a few people that are caregivers who have been feeding him along the way. He has his own Facebook page that I've been following for a while. He's a pretty resilient little fellow, considering he's a senior dog. He's made it through hurricanes, fireworks, I'm sure wild animals, and he's still truckin'."

Even though Surf Dude is very much an actual dog, Andrews decided a few literary liberties would make his story more appealing.

"You're getting it from Surf Dude's perspective. It's a fiction story. I've thrown my own ideas into it on where he originated from, because nobody knows for sure. So it's a fictionalized story about him, but it's based loosely on him."

Andrews says the official roll-out for the book will happen this Saturday, Sept. 4 in - where else? Panacea!

"The first weekend of September is when I'm having my book release where people can come down and get signed copies. Marker Eleven at noon."

Marker Eleven, which also sells furniture, is on U.S. 98 just north of the road to Wooley Park in Panacea.

Follow @flanigan_tom

Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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