Every year at this time when transferring birthdays I want to remember onto the new wall calendar, I include those of the dearly departed. It’s my way of celebrating that person on his or her special day, be it a relative, friend, or dog. For in some families, dogs are people too. In our case: Spooner (5/14), Callie (8/9), Sunny (3/13), and Coco (9/11).
From the very first writer’s conference I attended, I was struck by how extraordinarily well writers age. They just keep doing it. I’m thinking now, there was probably a dog behind each one. Every writer on earth should have a dog, and every dog, a writer; it’s a match made in, let’s say, heaven. To the extent that “writing is the art of applying the seat of one’s trousers to the seat of one’s chair,” as Kingsley Amis suggested, I don’t know how I’d do it without a dog willing to log hours upon hours under the writing table, where I keep the dog bed. Toys are scattered around the room, the house, or out on the terrace in the summertime—but it goes without saying that throughout the day, the dog is usually by my side, or breathing her doggy breath at my feet. And nonjudgemental, did I mention that? That could be what helps drive the critic from the room when I am writing.
Coco is my current companion. We’ve had three Golden Retrievers and this crazy little mix, and one by one they all became writing dogs. With Callie I started a memoir, and with her daughter, Sunny, I completed it. As Sunny began to age we went looking for the next adoption. Coco is half American Eskimo and half poodle. We knew nothing about the American Eskimo breed and only looked like we were looking it up in reference books, for having seen her and held her, we were already sold. With Coco’s help we weathered the death of Sunny, and I went for my MFA in Creative Writing at Goddard and wrote my first novel, Black Angels. Lately we are at work on the sequel. Being a small dog, she may outlive and outperform them all and see this one too through completion.
What makes us so compatible, writers and dogs? High on that list has to be a fondness for walks and naps. Throughout the year writers look for every opportunity to walk the dog. And come spring, could those be human scratches at the door too? As for my napping, like writing, the dog is nonjudgmental. My husband would come home and have a fit, but my dog will unquestionably sleep alongside me on the sofa anytime I want a nap, morning, noon, or night.