Monday, April 22, 2013

Writing Lessons from the Dog

I lay on the red leather couch, reading a book on writing, which always makes me feel Important and Inspired and a Good Writer (or at least a better one). The dog circled around the coffee table to me once, twice, and cycled away. She stood by me and gave me a wet nose poke, then went to stomp a toy.

I moved over a little on the couch and, seeing her chance, Elka came clacking back and jumped up, circled, and lay with her spine against my belly, left paw on my left wrist. I stroked her and turned pages, then reached for teh camera and took a few pictures.

Disturbed that our pact had been broken, she got off the couch and stretched, then grumbled at me to be taken out. Elka cannot read, or write, but can still communicate loud and clear. She talks, with her ears, her bright eyes, the tilt of her head, probing your face to meaning when you talk to her, tension wire of ready for action in her limbs. She tries to talk, but reallly only says the one word.

"Oh, you need to go out?"
A little later: "Out."
"Elka, are you hungry?" She confirms by bringing a Kong.
"Out? Awawawa?"
"Elka, are you thirsty?" She touches her nose to the cup we use to fill her water. She said Hello clearly once to a neighbor, but we haven't really been able to get her to repeat that trick.

She also has the delightful habit of drinking an entire bowl of water and licking our elbows. We call her our Dune dog, wanting to share her water. She breaches from blankets like Shai-Hulud.

Now, I like word. Some of the ones I use, casually, are vocabulary words for those less read. Castigate. Ostensibly. But writers I like are frequently spare with theirs. Hemingway. Steinbeck. Even their names transport me; their books are doors to another time, another world, the same as this one but sharper, dustier, in the palm of my hand. Evocative.

Is it silly to take writing lessons from the dog? I write about her frequently, a whole blog's worth, the topic persistently compelling. My fiction is strewn with dogs, a nascent trilogy full of human wolves and canine body language in jokes that maybe only I'll ever get. But, lick your lips, turn your head and yawn, and a nervous dog knows you get the picture. They speak, too, if you know how to listen.

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