Letters with Smokie

Blindness and More-than-Human Relations

Table of contents

An Introduction from the Authors

The Letters






Leave it to a dog to put the “human” back in “humanities”

In September 2020, Rod Michalko wrote to friend and colleague Dan Goodley, congratulating him on the release of his latest book, Disability and Other Human Questions. Joking that his late guide dog, Smokie, had taken offense to the suggestion that disability was purely a human question, Michalko shared a few thoughts on behalf of his dog. When Goodley wrote back—to Smokie—so began an epistolic exchange that would continue for the next seven months.

As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world and the realities of lockdown-imposed isolation set in, the Smokie letters provided the friends a space in which to come together in a lively exploration of human-animal relationships and to interrogate disability as disruption, disturbance, and art. Just as he did in life, Smokie guides. In these pages, he offers wisdom about the world, love, friendship, and even The Beatles. His canine observations of human experience provide an avenue into some of the ways blindness might be reconceptualized and “befriended.”

Uninhibited by the trappings of traditional academic inquiry, Michalko and Goodley are unleashed, free to wander, to wonder, and to provoke within the bonds of trust and respect. Funny and thoughtful, the result is a refreshing exploration and re-evaluation of learned cultural misunderstandings of disability.


"Though not an academic text in the traditional sense, Letters with Smokie does address urgent philosophical questions with the weight they deserve. Delivered in an accessible, conversational tone, this book offers a balance between cultural analysis and man-and-dog camaraderie. The refreshing result is a dismantling of some of the more pervasive assumptions about disability and difference, and a loving portrait of a man and his beloved guide."

- Stacey May Fowles