Sarah Graves again here, thinking about writing and dogs. But mostly dogs, to tell the truth, since for the last three months each word I write has been punctuated by a bark, growl, yap, whine, or woof. You may recall my post when Cory died, her short, happy life ended by that most-dreaded bane of the golden retriever
breed, lymphoma. For 48 days we lived like the doggy Make-a-Wish foundation had come to town, and that turned out to be a pretty good way for people to live, too. But on the 49th day the fight took an ugly turn, so we ended it.
And in an instant, the house was so empty it felt like it could suck itself inside-out. The last time a dog of ours died, we waited a long time to get another one, and having done it that way that time we decided to do it the other way, this one. A couple of weeks later we brought 2-year-old Evie home, and the fun began.
Not. She was beautifully bred, but that was about all you could say for her. Skinny and scared, with a digestion so out of sorts she practically gurgled when she walked, shy of us and of everyone else, she was a 24-hour-a-day project. I got so I could get up in the middle of the night, pull on my winter gear and ice cleats, get her outdoors, and then maneuver us both back inside and back into bed again without even waking up fully. At the same time we went through six brands of dog food, I don’t know how many vet visits, and in one scarifying episode an after-hours barium x-ray series (imaging giving your dog two full bottles of pepto bismol; it’s like that) trying to get her poor gut straightened out.
But three months later, life has improved. Did you know there are dog foods made of bison and sweet potato, that even dogs whose insides are as fragile as tissue paper can digest? Or that if you just stand there with your dog and a friendly stranger a million times, that on the million-and-first time the dog will let the stranger pet her?
Or that at night when you can’t sleep, the sound of a dog’s quiet breathing is better than Lunesta? Or that when you are writing, a dog’s weight on your feet lets you know you can figure out the knottiest plot point, no problem? Or when some careless Amazon commenter has hurt your feelings, your dog will (a) make it all better, and (b) if given the chance, bite them?
I used to try to come up with reasons why those things are true. Nowadays, I’m just glad that they are. Many writers have felt the same, I know. Maine’s beloved E. B. White, for instance, had Susy, a West Highland White terrier. (The photo here is by Jill Krementz from her series in New York Social Diary www.newyorksocialdiary.com/node/205235 )
In fact, I think it might be a good idea to start inviting writers’ dogs to writers’ conferences. After all, what better way to break the ice than to start chatting about that time you spent an hour marching around the yard at 3 AM under the icy stars, waiting for your dog to deliver a…well, a plot point, sort of. It would be great, I think, to have my furry pal along to make nice with the other writers, editors, agents, readers, and conference organizers gathered at these events.
Or in the case of certain persons, to, you know, bite them.