writer

Has it been that long? It’s the holidays again!

Wow!  Izzy and I have been so busy that we didn’t realize a year has gone by since our last post.  Well, time to catch you all up, I guess.

We are still working on the relationship between Izzy and Louis (Izzy thinks it’s Louis; Louis swears it’s Izzy), but they really do love each other — even though Izzy lets Louis know he was here first and the bed is, after all, his.

20150711_072620

A couple of times this year, we left Izzy with our favorite dog sitter and were greeted enthusiastically when we returned.  I often wonder what it would be like if we moved to another place, like Ecuador or Paris or someplace truly romantic, like Kenya!  Would Izzy feel a bit out of place or would it be okay because we would still be together?

I’ve been working nonstop on my writing since we last posted, and I’ve been fortunate to have some successes.  In September, I spent some time at the Weymouth Center for the Humanities to write (and to heal after a horrible family tragedy). Throughout the year, there have been several essays published, I’ve republished my back list, and I have a new novel coming out next September entitled The Mourning Parade (about the plight of elephants in Thailand and the heartbroken women that dedicates herself to one of them).  Take a look at what I’ve been doing, if  you’d like: http://dawnrenolangley.com   Throughout it all, Izzy sits and keeps me company, reminding me every couple of hours to take a walk!

Right now, this little four-legged guy needs a haircut, but I hesitate to put him back with the same people who did him last time — because for almost three weeks, he walked with his tail held sideways.  They’d clipped his skin in so many places, the poor guy still has scars.  I’m seriously thinking of learning how to groom him myself.

How about you folks?  Do any of you do the grooming yourself?

Hope you all are having a great holiday season.  We promise to be better about keeping in touch.

Peace.

Advertisements

Animals and Emotions

Lately, I’ve been doing some research for a new novel that has an elephant as a main character, and though I thought I knew something about these fascinating animals, I’m finding out more and more with each page I turn.  I realize as I do  my research that the emotions we define as human-like are often simply instinct and the animal instincts we see are often emotions.

For example, last night, my friend Peggy came over with her dog Ellie (I’ve written about them here before).  As soon as Izzy heard her voice, he went into “play mode,” exceptionally excited to see both of them.  He ran over to me, tongue out, tail wagging, then went back to the door, over and over again, as if to say, “Well, aren’t you going to open the door?  I’m excited!  Look who’s here!”  To say that he wasn’t happy to see them would have been the understatement of the century.

Then there’s the dog who lives across the street from me, tied to his tree all day, all night, every day of every week of every month of every year.  There are times we walk by him and he simply cries.  Sadness?  You bet.  And Izzy feels compassion for him because when he hears Tyson cry, he whimpers a little, too.

Elephants are said to have emotions.  They sense their own mortality and are known to mourn over the lifeless bodies of those who were part of their herd.  Baby elephants torn from their mothers and forced to work for the vanity of humans experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Adolescents who lose their families because they’ve been off exploring are incredibly anxious about catching up with the matriarch.  And if a human abuses an elephant, that elephant will not forget.  Truly.

Over the recent Father’s Day holiday, I found a photo of my dad with one of his dogs.  I happen to know that the photo was taken shortly before my father had his sexy pompadour shaved, not long before he headed off to World War II.  That head of hair never grew back but was maintained in a crewcut for the rest of my father’s life.  That moment when the photo was taken was particularly poignant for my father who knew he might never see his beloved dog again, and I believe that dog picked up on the emotion, because he leans in protectively against my father’s leg.

My father and his dog, a Shepherd mix, circa 1943

My father and his dog, a Shepherd mix, circa 1943

So I’m a Baby Boomer Woman and I have a Dog. That doesn’t make me a crazy old lady.

Lately, I’ve been doing some thinking about dating at this age, and I’ve come to a conclusion:  I have more fun with my dog and my grandson.

For years, other single friends of mine have basically told me that they have “rich, full lives without men.”  I never believed them.  I thought how could they not miss having someone to eat dinner with?  How could they live without sleeping with a man?  How lonely must they be traveling without someone to share the scenery, someone to grab a suitcase when they’re tired, someone to do half the driving?  But every time I came up with one of those questions, the answer would be:  I don’t miss having to cook what someone else wants.  I don’t miss someone snoring and farting in bed.  I have plenty of friends who are fun to travel with and share half the driving.  And, inevitably, the friends also had companions of the four-legged variety.

My friend Jenna travels all over the country in a small mobile home accompanied by her dog, Sandy, and a cat, Mittens, both of which she adopted sometime during the last ten years.  Sandy isn’t her first dog and probably won’t be her last.  Mittens isn’t the first cat either, but she might be the last since dogs travel better than cats in mini-mobile-homes.  Jenna has been single for all of the years I’ve known her (we met back in the  mid-1980s when we were at a writer’s conference).  Only once during that 30+ year span has she had a relationship.  It lasted less than a year, and she practically threw a party when it was over.  I could hear her relieved sigh all the way in Florida, where I was living.  She was in Maine.

Greta moved from Massachusetts to Florida when her long-term relationship disintegrated because the guy she had been living with for 23 years was arrested for pedophilia.  Good reason to say goodbye and good riddance.  I thought she’d find another, better, man at one point, but she has always insisted she’s been quite happy with her two cats (sometimes one) who are quite independent and reflect her persona.  She travels with friends, works from home, visits her grandchildren in Seattle, London, Boston, and has come to the point of being happier at home in her seacoast town than she has ever been elsewhere.  Her question to me has always been:  why do you need a man?  I always insist that I haven’t “needed” one, I just liked having one around, especially one I loved.

Julie pens children’s books and teaches at a liberal arts college.  She lost her husband, the man with whom she was truly in love, several years ago.  Her dog, a rangy and adorable mutt, has kept her company and staved off an unbearable loneliness.  I think that, in many ways, that dog saved her from dying of a broken heart, much the same way my Izzy did with me.  She dates on occasion, but the last time I saw her, she said that she would be fine if she spent the rest of her life walking her dog, visiting with friends, traveling to see her daughter, and being happy that she had the time she did with her precious husband.

The women in my family who lost their husbands always ended up spending the rest of their lives alone.  Some of them had animals, others did not, and I think that the reason why most did not is because the majority of them lived in apartments (which might not have permitted pets).  Those who had animals were happier, I think.  And that supports the research that’s been done on older single people who live with pets — they have less heart attacks, less stress, and get more exercise than their counterparts who simply live alone.  I suspect they are also warmer during storms like the ones we’ve had during this (not-over-yet) winter.  Nothing better than having a cat or dog cuddle up with you on the couch or in bed when no amount of quilts seems to be enough to keep you warm.

Image

Perhaps I’ll be like this woman in the picture who probably talks to the dog and cat who have been her companions for most of her life.  It could be worse.  At least she’s smiling!  I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better to have the contentment I have with my silly little dog (and my grandson and my friends and my writing) than to have knots in my stomach  because I’m wondering what the man who lives with me will find to critique at dinner tonight.  I’m not crazy.  And I’m not alone.  I’m a dog lover who happens to be over 40 :0)

Single Baby Boomer with Dog Celebrates Thanksgiving with NaNoWriMo

For the past couple of days, every time I walked Izzy, it was cold and raining, and he didn’t want to poop.  Seriously.  That’s been my biggest problem for the last 48 hours.  We’d go out around the block, he’d stop and look, pee on his bushes, stop and look again, shoot me a sad “woe is me” puppy eye, sit down (seriously, Izzy???  It’s raining!), sniff a little, then look at the rushing water in the gutter, look up at me again, and consider that he didn’t want to jump it.  And wet leaves?  Lordie, they’re poison!  Who wants to walk through wet leaves and lower their butt to the ground to do their thing.  Not Mr. Izzy.  No way.  Sigh.

So, instead of our usual five walks a day, it’s been more like seven, and each time, I stand there, shivering, saying, “Good boy, Izzy.  Now, poop!  C’mon, Izzy, you can do it.”  And each time, he didn’t.  Until the second walk this morning, and by that time, I was already late for work, and he knew I was getting itchy — and irritated.  But at least it’s done, and I can relax.

I seem to remember going through the same thing last year at this time.  It was raining and cold.  I wasn’t excited about going out for walks and neither was Izzy.  It was our first year living in Roxboro, our first Thanksgiving together, my first holiday alone.  Ever.  This year makes two.  Second year living here, our second Thanksgiving together, my second Thanksgiving alone.  My savior?  Writing!

I’m convinced whoever conceived of National Novel Writing Month must have been single and hating facing the holidays alone.  The best way to get through them was to keep extraordinarily busy.  “Oh, I have an idea!  Why don’t I write a novel during November?  Commit to at least 50K words on the page, then I can take December to do some rewriting (or finish the novel) and by January, I’ll have a bright and shiny new story to start sending out to agents and editors.”

It works.  

Image

Last year, I sat at my desk over the long Thanksgiving weekend and almost finished the first draft of a novel (I’m not dumb enough to send something that new out in January; I’m going to do another rewrite of it in February and March, which means the novel will have gone through at least three-four drafts before it hits an agent’s/editor’s desk), and I certainly felt better that I had survived the holiday — and was productive doing so.

This year, I’m rewriting a novel that was originally part of my dissertation.  This one has gone through enormous structural changes, so even though I’m not committing 50K NEW words during this NaNoWriMo, I feel like I’m writing something even more valuable to me:  a polished manuscript.  This one might be ready in January or February.  Depends on what my reader says when she finishes it over the Christmas holidays.

I’m sure I’m not the only Baby Boomer with a dog who’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving alone.  Though most of my single friends are escaping to the warmth of a family member or friend’s house to share the turkey and the gossip and the silly jokes Aunt Milly never understands, there are plenty of us who’ll be huddled over a laptop, our favorite canine (or feline) faithfully keeping us company and making us take breaks from the writing to walk the cold, rainy streets.  

Here’s to those of us who are celebrating Thanksgiving with our animals!  Cheers to all those wagging tails and warm noses.  I give thanks to them for keeping us all sane — and far from lonely.

Falling leaves and temperatures . . . must mean cold dogs and NaNoWriMo!

Over the weekend, I spent most of my time writing (this is National Novel Writing Month, and the goal is to write 50K words), but when Izzy and I went out walking, it struck me that autumn is at its peak.  This morning, I realized winter is on its way.  We’ve had our first frost.

Saturday night, Izzy and I scuffed through piles of leaves that industrious neighbors blew off their fading lawns and onto the sidewalk.  At first, he didn’t want to plow through them, and I had to cajole him to hop right on in.  He’s short, so there were times the leaves were over his head, and he’d pop up, leaves stuck to his nose and to his coat (which needs to be cut before the end of the week — he’s having more “bad hair days” than good lately).  After the first couple of leaf dives, he discovered it’s much more fun than he thought, and now he’s searching out those piles of crunchy playthings.  Now I’m the one reticent to dive in since I’m not sure whether the snakes who’ve just shed their skins might be finding a hiding place under the warmth of the fallen leaves.

While we were walking down Main Street, I glanced up at the sky.  The black storm clouds were backlit with fiery reds, lemon yellows and pumpkin oranges, mirroring the colors of the leaves hanging on the trees along the street.  The whole world seemed warmed by the autumnal colors.  In the air, the smell of woodsmoke reminded me that the season for lighting the fireplace was upon us.  The air, brisk and clean, prickled at my cheeks.  Even Izzy seemed to recognize the change in season and he popped along beside me as if invigorated by the chillier air.

Image

On Saturday night, I relished the extra hour of sleep, and Izzy didn’t seem to mind it either, but this morning I had to get up for work, and Izzy’s internal clock hadn’t registered Daylight Savings Time.  He started poking me with his paw around 4:35 AM.  Twice, I said, “ten more minutes, Izzy,” but he wasn’t listening.  He hopped over me and sat on the floor near my head.  I could feel him standing beside me, paws on the bed, sniffing my hair and quietly “woofing” — as if to say, “Here’s a gentle reminder that it’s time to get up, woman.  Let’s go!”

He lasted until 5:30.  No matter how many times I rolled over, it wasn’t working to ignore him anymore.  So I got up, put on three layers and my gloves and headed out into the 37 degree morning.

Yup, it ain’t warm in North Carolina anymore.