writing

Izzy Doesn’t Care about Ferguson or NaNoWriMo but he does care about hard rain

I know that what’s going on in this country because of the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson is hot.  I get it.  I hate it, but I get it.  I wish we as a people didn’t have to be in this spotlight or having this conversation.  And I wish it wasn’t on my mind or so entrenched in social media because writing this blog post is stealing time from my other writing:  working on my novel and meeting my 50K word goal for National Novel Writing Month.  I’m sure I’m not alone.  I wonder how many other writers have written thousands of words in the past couple of days about the subject of racism when they could have been adding pages to their fiction.  Yet, that’s what we do as writers.  We plead, we question, we inform.  We grieve.

But dogs, on the other hand, don’t see race.  They don’t question another animal’s motivations.  When Izzy sees another dog, he thinks PLAYTIME.  That word might as well light up in neon lights over his little head, because that’s what that dog represents to him.  When he sees a squirrel, he thinks CHASE.  Though he has become a bit smarter about that one and knows now that squirrels do that skip-hop-jump thing to the nearest tree and that they have little suction cups on their feet that allow them to run along telephone pole wires.  When he sees a cat, he thinks ATTACK.  Yup, I have a little dog that absolutely detests cats.  He doesn’t know why; he just knows he does.  They are the one animal at which he barks, and if he wasn’t leashed, I’m sure that poor cat would be mincemeat.  Natural enemies.  He doesn’t care what color they are or what their belief systems are, whether they have families or are nice, purring cats.  They’re just cats.

Wait.  Does that mean those who see another person who’s different from them are just like animals with natural enemies?

Nope, I’m not going there.

Let’s continue.  Izzy doesn’t care about Nanowrimo either; in fact, when I’m on the laptop, the only thing he’s concerned about is why the laptop is taking up his space on my lap.  Move over, you damn keyboard.  Let me sit there.  If I don’t finish my 50K words by the end of this month, it wouldn’t make any difference to him.  He wouldn’t notice if I was depressed about not winning.  Not on his radar.

But this morning when I woke up to the sound of hard rain against my rooftop, I thought:  perfect.  Bad weather = good excuse to stay in and catch up on my writing.  Izzy went to the door, let me put on his Thundershirt (for the cold/rain), and when I opened the umbrella, I could see his eyebrows raise.  Uh oh.  Do I have to go out in this crap?  Halfway through our morning walk, the rain became a downpour, tearing leaves off the trees in such a torrent that Izzy (checking out a place to poop) jumped and ran.  From that point on, there was no calm moment for my little dog.  He shivered as he tried to find just the right spot, kept looking around as if afraid the boogey man was under each leaf, and never did quite settle down enough to finish his business.  He pulled me back up the street to the house, jumped over the rushing water in the street gutter, didn’t pause to sniff the piles of leaves my neighbors had blown yesterday, kept looking back at me as if to say, Come on, woman, I’ve had enough of this!  And when we reached the back door, he darted in, then shook and shook and shook until I took off the soaked Thundershirt and dried him with the towel I keep in the sunroom.  He’s been hiding on his bed ever since, and I’d be willing to bet my last dollar that even though he’ll want to go out again sometime today, he’ll give me that look right before we leave the door that says, Isn’t this stuff falling from the sky ever going to stop?

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Izzy’s no help during NaNoWriMo

It’s November and that means it’s NaNoWriMo.  National Novel Writing Month.  For those of you not insane enough to write, it’s the month that we writers stick our butts in our chairs and don’t move until we’ve churned out 50,000 words.  If you listen closely right before midnight on November 30th, you’ll hear a sound much like that one when you rip a bandage off a skinned knee.  That’s our butts as we collectively remove ourselves from our chairs and go back to a normal life.  Or at least what could be considered normal for someone who stares at a computer screen talking to invisible people most of the time.

Dogs don’t understand that, and that’s one of the reasons Izzy’s no help during NaNoWriMo.

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When I talk to the screen, he thinks I’m telling him we need to go outside or play with the ball or eat dinner or — the most exciting–go get a treat.  He comes to my side, sits his little self down on the floor, cocks his head and barks once.  If I don’t quite get it and don’t move immediately, his tush comes off the floor and he goes into a puppy bow.  Heaven forbid I continue talking to that invisible person on screen, because then it’s a full-blown insistence for my attention — and an immediate walk.  Do not pause, mama, do not talk to that person in the screen, do not tell me to wait ten minutes.  Now.  Walk.  Pee.  Poop.

Fifty thousand words in one month.  1667 per day.  5.5 pages a day.  Or maybe 3000 words on a weekend day.  7-10 pages on a Sunday.  2-3 every other day during the week.  And if you write by hand, a cramped fist.  If working on a computer, stiff shoulders and a crick in your neck.

One good thing about NaNoWriMo when you have a dog is that you are forced to get up before the sun rises to take the little bugger for a walk.  Izzy forces me up before the sun stripes the sky with fuschia, pumpkin and robin’s egg blue.  Bleary-eyed with my brain still out of gear, I negotiate the dark streets with him running before me, determined to examine every telephone pole and pee on every bush.  While he explores, I kick the novel-writing mind into gear and think about the next scene I will write, consider what the character will do and how those actions will affect other characters, what the actions will impact further into the novel, and whether I should wait that scene for a time that’s more apropos of the story.  As Izzy paces back and forth dozens of times looking for the perfect place to poop, I’m considering whether to flesh out the description of a scene I wrote the previous day and whether to take time from creating the requisite 50K words to mine back over the pages already developed to see whether they should be shifted around or rewritten.  But the point is to move forward like the boats that split icebergs.  Constantly forward.  Nothing to do but to forge ahead.

Dogs never move straight ahead.  Their traffic patterns run in swirls and squiggles and include squeezing out pee drops so they can let others know they’ve been there.  A NaNoWriMo for dogs would start on November 1 and end in July (the previous July).

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What Izzy DOES understand about NaNoWriMo is that occasionally I get stuck.  When that happens, he does his job quite well.  He moves into my lap, lifting my hand with his nose so that I know my job is now to pat his head or rub his stomach.  Taking a break is most important in NaNoWriMo for it is in those moments that the creativity creeps in and the mind is refreshed.

I guess Izzy knows more about writing novels than I give him credit for.

A Dog’s Vacation is Never Done

The past two weeks have been inhumanly difficult.  Not a dog’s life. Impossible, really.  And Izzy has known it.  Every night, he crawls up on my lap and lays his head on my hand.  If I try to work at night, he insists of being beside me, paw pulling my hand away from my laptop.  He stares at me with his dark, round eyes as if begging me to pay attention to him.  He knows that I don’t normally stay in anxiety mode when I get home.  I know yoga.  I know how to breathe.  I know how to relax.  But this past two weeks have required working non-stop and anxiety is my middle name.

It’s the perfect time for a stay-cation.

And Izzy knows that, too.

This morning, he crawled up on my lap while I was still in bed (doing my checkbook — yup, I know.  Enough with the nonstop work.) and insisted I pay attention to him.  You’ve been in another place for weeks, his gaze seemed to say.  You owe me.

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Last night, his eyes drooped as I stayed up until 1 AM reading.  This morning, he pulled me determinedly as we walked up Main Street, and he understood when we had to make a u-turn because I heard the old guy’s cane tapping as he walked his pittie mix a block ahead of us.  I didn’t want to deal with the dog’s growling and barking and pulling at the leash to get at Izzy.  I think Izzy understands when we have to make detours.  He knows who his friends are and who aren’t.  The black pug and the girlie boxer and the raggedy Shihtzu and the little Maltese are his friends.  He understands their names when I speak them, and he loves being able to say hello to them when we’re on walks, but he doesn’t mind at all when we don’t say hello to the pittie mix that hates us. Izzy’s smart that way.  He realizes that not everyone has to be your friend.  I need to learn that lesson.

This morning, Izzy kept close until I finished eating a late breakfast and took out the laptop again.  Then he looked at me, gave a little nod and moved into the other room to wait for the mail delivery.  This is our weekend routine, even though it’s not the weekend.  He knows our weekend pattern:  breakfast in bed, catching up on TV, some reading, then I go out for a while:  visit my grandson, see friends, come back every four hours or so to check up on Izzy, more relaxed, not stressed like during the week.

By the end of this little stay-cation we’re about to start, I will have let loose of the anxiety. I will write and read.  I will see friends and family.  Izzy and I will have walked long walks at least twice a day.  He will have visited the groomer and will have shed at least five pounds of fur.  He will have cuddled with me on the couch for hours.  He will have greeted some of my friends who will visit.  He will have taught me the meaning of vacationing.  He will have simply enjoyed being with me.  Living.

Izzy’s Summer Vacation

Why haven’t I written lately?  Because Izzy and I went to the beach with our good friends Ron and Alfie.

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Unfortunately it rained almost the whole time we were there! We spent time in the little house we rented.  The dogs cuddled while I wrote.  Ron took his writing to the local coffee shop.

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I definitely want to get to the ocean again, particularly because Izzy seemed to enjoy it much more so this year than he did when we went over my birthday last year. It’s also great for me to get there because it frees up my mind. The salt air clears out cobwebs and inspires me to write what I haven’t been able to write at home. I have the philosophy that breathing deeply of air that is not perfumed with car exhaust and not hindered by the sounds of industry and humans helps me access the creative genes I know exist deep inside of me.

Izzy and Alfie had many walks along the coast, and I think the air worked on them, too, but all it did was make them sleep more soundly.

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Now that summer’s over, more time to keep up with my blogs!

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

Beginnings and Endings and New Car Seat and the Holiday Dog Spirit

Grades were due yesterday, but some of my faculty didn’t get them in until the last minute — always a nail biter.  But they’re done now and we’re all heaving a huge sigh of relief.  Today is our holiday lunch, and when it’s over, I’m going to pick up a new desk for myself.  I’ve been writing on my dining room table, which means the center of the house is a disaster area.  Not that anyone sees it except for Izzy and me, but I would love to be able to sit in front of a window where I can daydream and write and have space rather than sitting where I eat.  And I’m loving this new desk . . . .

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During the holidays, I’ll be seeing my friends and family, which means Izzy’s going to see some of his friends, too.  Unfortunately, that means traveling.  Not one of Izzy’s favorite things to do.  BUT he now has a new car seat, and I tested it out last week when we went to my daughter’s house.  He still shivered during the whole hour and fifteen minute trip, but at least he wasn’t sliding all over the place, and I think that, with time, he’ll feel better about the traveling . . . especially if the end of the trip means he gets to run around with two other dogs in an enclosed backyard sans leashes.  Nothing better than seeing dogs running around free!

 

Izzy’s getting into the holiday spirit, too 🙂

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