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I'm most recently a writer.  In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot.  As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades.  An unwilling transplant from the South,  twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US.  Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect.  When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do.  Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!

Friday, February 15, 2013

What, No Dog?

It's been a doggy sort of week.  First the Westminster Dog Show, which always has the power to make me smile and feel fortunate to live in a society which treasures its canine companions to such an enormous degree.  I look at these obviously outstanding animals and marvel at their patience, willingness, and down-right joy at being groomed to the nines, intimately examined by a total stranger in front of the entire world, and strutted around a ring under the scrutiny of a pack of equally spectacular wannabes.  At the end of the day, they put out the ultimate in showmanship for the sake of a "Good dog!" and a treat.

As we speak, I'm grand-dog sitting for Sweet Pea the Llasa and Gigi the Schnauzer, my daughter's pampered and exuberant darlings.  When I went to check on them this morning, they overwhelmed me with just over twenty pounds of combined adorableness.  They have this knack of making me feel they've missed me desperately and just the sight of me has made their day.  They're con artists, no doubt, but I'm more than willing to be conned by that kind of unconditional affection.

My own dog, a Cocker named Raleigh, is much the same.  But like every spaniel, his ultimate goal must be to systematically search out every corner, every trash can and beneath every piece of furniture for whatever his uber-keen nose suggests is, was or ever has been hidden there.  He loves me, but he is constantly distracted by scents no human nose could ever detect.  Much like the dog in the wonderful film "Up," every other minute his focus is drawn from expressing his untiring devotion to rummaging for granola bar wrappers.  When he finally exhausts the search, he collapses into a curly black heap on the most convenient piece of furniture, sleeping so soundly I have to check for signs of life.  Raleigh can be classified, with no disrespect intended, as a thoroughly goofy kind of dog, nothing resembling those noble examples of his breed at Westminster.  But he's my dog and I love him.

When I first shared my writing with my husband John (see yesterday's post for details), one of his persistent suggestions was the addition of a dog.  "But Emily lives on a farm.  There has to be dog!"
"No dogs!  People have to stay home to have a dog, and none of these characters stays in one place long enough to be a good dog owner," was my unflagging stand on the issue.  A touring concert violinist would not have time for a dog.  A nursing student, then special duty nurse, would not leave her noble companion at the mercy of neighbors on a remote farm for weeks on end while she was off at school or work.  Besides, a dog is a device I felt no need for.  There were already enough supporting characters popping up in the plot, without the addition of animals.  Eventually I did give in and add a couple of cats and a mule who were actually central to the progression of the story.  But no dogs!  I'd feel guilty about relegating them to secondary roles and have to make of point of seeing they were properly appreciated by their humans.  Too much trouble for my characters and for me.

That said, while watching all the wonderful Highland breeds parading their noble selves in the ring at Madison Square Garden the other night, I did see several potential candidates for future editions in the series.  There are, after all, children entering the fictional world at Valley Rise Farm. All children need dogs in their lives, need to experience the devotion and protection of a special furry friend and learn to be responsible for seeing that their parents care for the pet properly.  I haven't committed to the idea completely, and I certainly haven't told John yet.  That would only open the ongoing discussion of what kind of dog, who its master or mistress will be, and what kind of adventures it will play a role in.  Not a conversation I'm ready to have just yet.  Besides, I want to make the choice myself.  Big dog or small, male or female, purebred or mutt?  Maybe he or she will be a hero, like Lassie, or then again a rogue or a comedian.  Once this dog becomes clearer in my vision, then maybe I'll break the news to John that we're getting a dog after all.

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