Auckland postman Mike Paterson has had a surprise hit with his children’s book Postie Mike, A Dog’s Best Friend. Photo / Supplied via RNZ
By Leonard Powell of RNZ
An Auckland postie’s idea to write a children’s book dedicated to dogs on his run has turned into an runaway success.
Mike Paterson has delivered the mail on a pushbike for 33 years, including the last 17 in Mt Eden, and become friends with hundreds of dogs along the way.
On a first-name basis with 160 dogs, 14 made the cut for his book Postie Mike, A Dog’s Best Friendwhich sold out in just eight days last December.
“It actually started off about two years ago as a joke between me and Katie from the Time Out bookstore in Mt Eden.
“I was just joking about how I could write a children’s book about all the dogs I meet, but it was supposed to be just a joke. Then I got some funding from the Albert Eden Local Board, so that sort of got the ball rolling.”
Paterson was well on his way to publication, or so he thought.
“Then I actually had a meeting with a publisher, so I thought it was all going to be all nice and easy, and then Covid hit so that meeting got cancelled.
“We rebooked another meeting and Covid hit again, so that got cancelled again. From then on the publisher just ghosted me and didn’t want to talk to me, so I sort of had to go at it alone.”
On a tight budget, the dog-loving postie could not find a local illustrator to get the job done but eventually found one in Sri Lanka via a website.
“I was sort of going down all these no-exit streets. I almost gave up, and then as a last resort, I went onto a website called fiver and found a guy who did the illustrations in the style I wanted. Six months later, here we are.”
Paterson, who went to teachers’ college once upon a time before settling on being a postie, was floored by the response to the initial release of his book.
“It was amazing, it’s almost overwhelming really. With the money left over from the funding, there was enough to get 169 copies made. I thought I’d sell about 50 and then give the rest away to kids on my run or kindies or whatever.”
The book sold out in a flash from the Time Out bookstore in Mt Eden, the sole stockist.
“They even let you take your own dog into the store,” Paterson said.
The demand has left the charismatic postie with no other choice but to reprint the book.
“I’m gonna have to because there are people out there I know who actually went up to get the book and it was sold out, so there’s plenty of locals still around this area that are after the book,” Paterson said.
Not all of the canines Paterson has got to know made it into print, far from it in fact.
“From the four or five postie rounds I’m normally on, there are about 160 dogs that I know by name. I narrowed it down to 21, and then I even had to narrow it down further to 14, otherwise the book would’ve been too big. A kid’s gonna lose interest after a while.
“I just narrowed it down to the ones who I just thought had a better story or a funny story, or even just something I thought the kids might like.”
Paterson said there were a few dog owners heartbroken that their pooches did not make the cut.
“A couple of owners were very, very keen to get their dog in the book, and I even took photos of their dog in case they would make the cut.
“But I know they still bought the book, so I guess no hard feelings.”
Paterson admitted he had become something of a “dog whisperer”.
“I used to deliver out west way back before there were even dog control laws, so there were no gates, no fences and stuff. Dogs were just roaming loose, and I hated dogs. But in the last few years, they’re treated more like genuine members of the family rather than guard dogs.
“I’m just friendly towards the dog, and dogs can sense if you’re friendly or if you’re scared of them. There are dogs in the book that I’m friendly with, and they growl at other posties because those posties act quite timid towards them. I think dogs can sense if you’re not a threat and if you’re friendly towards them.”
It only took Paterson an hour to write about the 14 dogs, due to everything in the book being factual.
The book only contains dogs, because cats, he said, have a mind of their own.
“There’s plenty of cats on my postie run, but if you’re trying to get them to come close to give them a pat they just run away. I’ve got three cats of my own, but put it this way, dogs like me more than cats do.”
And before his chat with First Up ended and Paterson got back on his bike to complete his Mt Eden postie run, he wanted to make one thing clear.
“You should always ask the owner before you pat their dog.”
Postie Mike, A Dog’s Best Friend will be back on the shelves in February.