The Dog and the Dialogue
I have six dogs. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this fact in previous posts, but if I did I would have had only four at the time.
There are dogs in the bed. Dogs in the pantry. Dogs in the sink. Dogs in every nook and cranny.
I have been working in animal rescue since 2006, so I’ve had a while to accumulate such a motley crew. There is Louis, our fourteen year old Bulldog mix. He was abandoned in a hotel room. Then there’s Ruthie, our six year old Boston Terrier. Her front legs are fused at the elbow. There’s Lillie, our siX year old Pug/Frenchie. She was abused so badly at the puppy mill that she lived behind my couch for months. After that comes our seven year old English Bulldog, Winnie. She was found wandering the streets of a small Kansas town starving, deaf, and blind. A few months ago we adopted a fourteen year old wire haired Terrier mix we named Maisey. She has a heart murmur, is slightly incontinent, and has severe allergies. I’ve stopped counting the number of pills she takes in a day.
Two weeks ago we took in a twelve week old English Bulldog puppy. His front legs are fused like Ruthie’s. His name is Tank. So far Tank has chewed through my computer power cord, a lamp cord, and my husband’s vintage radio cord. He attacks feet, hands, and any exposed flesh. There is no off button.
To say my dogs are a big part of my life is an understatement.
When it comes to writing, they have ended up playing a bigger role than I could have imagined. I’ve discovered what I assume everyone else already knows–animals make the best fictional sidekicks. They provide countless opportunities for dialogue. They provide countless opportunities for your characters to self-reflect, to figure it all out. They allow us to reveal a character’s true colors–all based upon how that character treats the animal in the book.
At first it wasn’t purposeful on my part. I wrote about animals because I lived with animals (and I’m not talking about my son and husband.) But when I began writing Stay, a novel where one of the main characters is a one-eared Pit Bull, I realized just how much of my story depended upon this dog.
Really, everything depended upon him. There was no story without him. He was the catalyst for every integral moment.
The dog in Just Fine With Caroline isn’t quite as important. Clementine, the three legged Boxer, is more comedic relief than anything else. But the story wouldn’t be the same without her.
My dogs are a lot of work. And having six, almost all of them with some kind of special need, can be frustrating. But it’s safe to say that I couldn’t have written my first book without them.
Once you get past the hair and the snoring and the farting, the pills and the pee and barking, well, it’s pretty hard to tell just who saved who.