Hair of the Dog

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 )

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.


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3 Responses to Hair of the Dog

  1. Is it too late for me to buy Hoover a ticket to Sacramento and Left Coast Crime? Surely the Californians would like your idea of adding a canine component to writers’ conferences as much as we do!

    Love this post, Sarah, as my dog has also gotten me through some rough patches. Just like Evie (our erstwhile tour guide), he is worth any aggravation (although I am happy for you that she is settling down, digestively and other ways.)

  2. Barb Goffman says:

    First, so sorry about your pal who went onto the Rainbow Bridge. I’m sure those last six weeks were just wonderful for him.

    Second, I would love to attend a conference with dogs present. It would be so fun. Plus with the potential nip under the table, I bet a lot more sales would occur.

    Third, everyone who loves dogs should come to the Malice Domestic convention next month. We’re having a panel named Must Love Dogs: Mysteries Featuring Man’s Best Friend.

    Have a yappy happy day.

  3. Barb Ross says:

    We lost our cocker spaniel in February of 2011 and since then, my husband and I have been walking around the whole new dog issue. Not sure what we’ll ultimately decide to do–and not sure in which direction your story inspires me 😉

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