Tag Archives: dogs

Lessons from a Ten Pound Ruler

Stella HuntingMy mornings used to be kid-centric. Get up. Get ready. Go to school. Simple, as long as Middle would brush his teeth the first time around, Youngest wouldn’t throw a fit about wearing jackets in forty degree weather and Dear Daughter had her morning coffee. Thankfully Eldest is self-sufficient in college…though now that he’s no longer under my direct care, I often wonder if he’s brushing his teeth, wearing his jacket and eating right at all.

Then along came Stella.

Ten pounds of fluff has changed our morning household. I could describe all the cute things Stella does, but it would be worse than describing how wonderful my kids were when they were the cutest babies in the world. All four of them.

You see, we do that, parents and grandparents. We dote on the little things that only we find adorable while everyone else looks on with glazed eyes and gives us bobble-head affirmations.

But this little dog has a trait I admire. Every morning she rides along when I drop the kids off at school.

Big deal, you might say. And, normally I would agree. However, Stella does this despite hating car rides. She despises them so much she shakes the minute we step into the garage. It is clearly painful for her, yet she is compelled to see her kids off each and every day.

I don’t force her to come. I don’t even ask. I simply get my shoes on when it’s time to go, and she stands by my feet until I pick her up and carry her to the car. She refuses to let us leave without her.

She’s dedicated. She’s determined. She’s courageous. I don’t know where she gets the gumption to put herself through this trauma, but I admire it.

As a writer, as a mom, as a human being, I wouldn’t mind ten pounds of dedication, determination and courage to jumpstart my days.

How about you? What would you like in abundance every day to help you accomplish the things you need to get done?

Curious minds want to know.

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Under Attack: Human Interactions

Dear Mr. FedEx:

When you climb out of your truck brandishing a large cardboard tube, my dog will feel attacked. Her hackles will raise, she will bark and she will definitely stand at attention, waiting for your next move.

When that bonehead move happens to be swinging your makeshift weapon and poking it repeatedly in her direction, she will charge you. Hello, she is under attack.

Yes, it is your fault–100%–that she does not like you on her property.

Lest you disagree, let’s look at this from a different angle–that of my garbage man who (questionably) provides a doggie treat to her before stealing my trash. He doesn’t attack, he bribes. She barks when his truck pulls up because she barks at every truck, but she doesn’t face off with the nasty trash man and lunge at him. Why? He doesn’t attack.

Taking this one step further, when the Schwans truck rumbles down the street, she races down the driveway and barks. Sound familiar? Yeah, same pattern. Now pay close attention…he gets out of the truck, meets her on the edge of the property (her collar prohibits her from going further) and coos sweet nothings in her direction while holding his hand down for her to sniff.

End result? She bounds around him, still barking, and escorts him to the door.

Let’s review:

  1. Three men in big, rumbly trucks: FedEx, Garbage, Schwans.
  2. Three different approaches: attack, bribe and befriend.
  3. Two different outcomes: counter attack and acceptance.

Sincerely,

The mother of the Dog Under Attack

Dear readers, how do you respond to events and people in  your life? What is the outcome of your interactions? Would you like to change your modus operandi for a more favorable result?

Curious minds want to know!

 

Licking the Air

I don’t want to say my dog is retarded, but I think she might be. Every morning when Dear Hubby and I enjoy our coffee together, she licks the air. She’s a hunting dog, and her trainer said she has an amazing nose–one of the best he’s ever seen. Apparently, it’s so amazing she can taste our coffee fumes. Someday I’ll capture this on video and amuse the entire world with her quirk.

This morning, I’m sipping vanilla hazelnut coffee, which seems to be her favorite. Tasting the air appears to be a near-super power for her, and she’s been licking so hard for the last ten minutes her nose is starting to chafe.

Lick. Lick. Lick. Lick. Whine.

I think she whines out of frustration over not being able to fully satisfy her desires by tasting the air. I imagine it’s a bit like letting a chocoholic lick a chocolate silk pie and leaving it right in front of him. Unfair and frustrating.

Just like writers can feel when their hard work is denied a place in the publishing realm over and over and over again. We can just barely taste the air, but we can’t quite get full. Ugh.

So, what are your near-super powers when it comes to writing? What aspect of storytelling do you rock at? Is your nose getting chafed yet, or are you still able to stand up against the frustration that is the publishing arena? Are you ready to knock over the coffee mug or dive into the silk pie?

Curious minds want to know!

 

The Last Leg: writing challenges

Chapter 2 of the Skeleton Key can be found at the Inner Owlet.  You won’t be disappointed by the turn of events.  Way to go A.M. Supinger!

THE LAST LEG

Some of you know my pirate chapter book has a three-legged pooch.  He has a peg leg that meets with mishaps and misfortunes along the way.  At the end of the story, he’s literally on his last leg.

Our geriatric black lab is in a similar situation.  She’s had shoulder problems for years and has struggled to walk well since the last hunting season.  Last night she started limping and refuses to put weight on her back right leg.  We’ve known for a while that she was getting close to the end of her life, as we don’t feel it’s fair to keep her alive and in severe pain.  She, too, is on her last leg.

For both these dogs, their journeys have been a series of ups and downs.  Yappy, my fictional pooch, endured shark attacks and lightning strikes.  Kallie, the seventh member of our family, survived heartworm and a hunting incident that ruined her shoulders.  They’ve also been well-loved and pampered.

It can be hard to contemplate the end, even though we all know that life does, indeed, have a definitive finish.

Just like our stories.

Sometimes we lose track of this and drag our stories out too long.   We love our characters so much that we don’t want to part with them.  We may have unfinished business to settle–one more hunting season–so we feel reassured of a Happily Ever After.

What we don’t realize is that the climax has ended and the pain has set in.  We’ve outlived our time, but don’t know how to say goodbye.

Other times, we finish too early–an unexpected turn for the worse that takes us by surprise and leaves us feeling empty and hopeless.  We lament that we didn’t get to properly cherish the last moments.  We have loose ends that need tied up, but no way to do so.  The purpose for our story–for the dog collars and leashes, food and kennels–has vanished. 

But there is a happy medium where we know the end is near and we can prepare for it.  We can say our goodbyes and feel satisfied that everything is as it should be.  I just hope we can do it gracefully when it comes time to let Kallie go.

How do you know when your story is finished?  What steps do you take to make sure the loose ends are tied up during the last leg so you don’t drag your characters–and readers–through a painful goodbye? 

Bad Dog: train the writer in you.

When Sock-dog gets caught with a Ked in her mouth, we take it away and scold her.  She cowers and slinks away–likely to look for another sock that she’s not quite so willing to give up.  What we should do is scold her WHEN she digs them out of the hamper so the punishment is linked to the behavior we want to change. 

As it is, she associates “Bad Dog.  No.  Naughty.” with giving us the sock.

Hello, yes we’ve raised other dogs, as well as four children.  It’s amazing they all don’t piddle on themselves and have more tic(k)s than a crazed coon hound running through the forest. 

Sometimes parents–and dog trainers–are just dumb about certain things.

Writers, too.

We punish, not reward.  Our consequences rarely fit the crime.  

As a writer, my biggest naughtiness is my desire to write.  I could sit with my manuscript from the second I wake up to the minute I fall asleep and be happy.  Seriously, it’s about as addictive as a tube sock is to our lab.

And so the training begins.  “Self,” I ask.  “What do you need to accomplish today?”

My answer: write, laundry, write, floors, write, work out and WRITE

“Self, what is the least pleasant of these activities?”

*hold on while I change out a load of whites*

And so I play games to reward my good behavior.

HERE’S MY SYSTEM

  •  Throw a load in, blog.
  • When the load is done washing, I will work on housework only until the buzzer announces that my laundry is dry and can be switched out–my cue to take a writing break.
  • During this laundry cycle, I will write.
  • Wash, dry, repeat until there is nothing left to do but write. 

If I don’t vac floors, cook dinner, put away laundry and shape up my tushy with a sweaty work out, I’ll hang my head and slink away when DH comes home.  The guilt will eat me up and I’ll feel crappy.  Then I’ll promise to redeem myself tomorrow by getting above list done, only to write my day away…again.  Because truly, writing is the reward and I got my fix by writing.

 It’s what makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

But I want to feel fuzzy without the guilt.  Just like Sock-dog does.  So today when she gets caught with a sock in her mouth, I’m going to praise her for giving it up, let her follow me into the laundry room where I will put the sock in the basket–deliberately in front of her.  When she leans in to sniff it–cuz that’s what dogs do–I’ll let loose my litany of “Bad dog.  No.  Naughty.”

I vow to be a better trainer from this day forth, whether I’m training my dog, my kids or myself.

I’ll try to reward the good behavior and make sure the punishment fits the crime.  That said, if you don’t see me around for a day or two,  you’ll know that I’ll be wallowing in heaps of unwashed clothes, a dog-hairy floor and a self-imposed punishment. 

How about you?  What stands in your way of writing guilt-free?  How do you plan to curb your inner, naughty-dog?

Curious minds want to know.

Free does not mean without a price.

So we got a new dog.  We didn’t pay for her because she was free.  Kind of.  DH was the middle man between his dad and the breeder.  You see, DH and his dad are hunters.  Pheasants are popular in our frying pan.

A few years back, Father-In-Law’s hunting dog passed away.  He’s not done hunting, so he borrows our lab for his trips to the South Dakota corn fields.

Sadly, our geriatric canine made her last trip in November.  So, my ever-generous and not-quite-done-hunting FIL offered to buy our next dog.  Alas, Dear Hubby took him up on it so they may continue the annual hunts. 

But she wasn’t really free.  We’ve bought a kennel, a pillow, chew toys, new socks, peroxide to vomit up the old socks, vet bills, worm medicine and special dog food.  We’ve cleaned carpets, chased her around fences, vacuumed daily and put our home into lock-down mode.  We spend hours taking her potty when she doesn’t have to go and even more time watching her roam the house in case she actually does.  Free, is an illusion.

Especially in the writing world.

Your education is not free.  Whether you earned an MFA or barely eked out your GED, the price of learning to write is time and effort.

There is not short cut.  No magic wand.  No miracle pill.  Rather, getting published is hard work.  

Nothing is free.  Not in life and not in writing. 

What does writing cost you?  Is it worth the price?  Do you have a set cap on how much you’re willing to spend before you hang up the hunting gear?

Me?  It costs sleep, time away from my kids, hours in the car to attend conferences, fewer lazy evenings with DH and less time to housebreak the new pooch. 

You know what I’ve learned?  Guilt is damn expensive.

P.S. My dog hates your manuscript.

As a whole, our geriatric black lab is so friendly she would lead a robber to the jewelry box.  You could probably strap a harness on her and she’d pull the tv up the stairs and send you on your way with a parting lick.

Unless, of course, you wore a UPS uniform and arrived when we were home.

Then she would hate you.  As soon as your truck rumbled down the street, she would stand, stiff-legged, at the end of the driveway with her hackles raised.  Geriatric Lab, who never barks, would growl deep in her throat and bare what’s left of her teeth.  You would then pass by the driveway without slowing down and take my much anticipated book with you. 

If, on the other hand, you arrived when our little fam was gone, she’d welcome you with a wag.  Garbage men leave empty-handed, but the recycling guys are adored.  Apparently she hates when the trash dudes steal our rubbish, but knows the value of a green world.   She also despises the friendly neighbor who jogs by daily and offers her doggie treats, but can’t wait for a visit from traveling salesmen.

She’s rather eccentric in what she likes and doesn’t.  For example, if you were a pheasant, she’d snatch you out of the air as you tried to flee.  Troublesome rabbits that eat my flowers, however, are as safe as a baby in the nursery.  Tennis balls she’ll chase.  Sticks, not a chance.  She’ll even pick her pills out of her food and eat those, leaving her kibbles for another time.

There is no rhyme or reason to what floats her boat, and I thank God she’s not an agent.

Her profile would look something like this:

I love food, except when I can eat medicine.  Thieves can take whatever they want, unless it’s the trash.  Don’t suck up with treats if you jog by everyday.  Random strangers are welcome to visit sans biscuits.  I’m a ferocious predator and quite talented at nabbing pheasants on the fly, but turn my nose up at robins, rabbits and red-winged black birds.  Fetch is okay as long you throw the right toy.  Please recycle when possible unless you’re peddling a new set of encyclopedias.

No wonder the UPS man only delivers when Geriatric Lab is not outside.

And yet, there are agents exactly like her.  Their sites invite us to indulge in their submission buffet policy.  “We’ll look at anything.”  Or, “If in doubt, send.”  Or, “The only thing we look for is good story-telling.”  We assume this means they are open to anything.

We happily bundle up our middle grade novel, The Fantastic Felines  Outer Space Adventures.  The one with endorsements from fourteen award-winning authors.  The one we interviewed Neil Armstrong for. 

Two days later, we get a rejection.  

Duh, Newbie.  I don’t rep middle grade, and sci-fi was so yesterday.  Please, don’t waste my time submitting a book outside my area of expertise. 

They might as well send a post script with their rejection.

P.S.  My dog hates you.

Have you run across obscure preference lists on agent’s websites?  How does this open door policy appeal to you?  Have you submitted to agencies like this only to be rebuffed for indulging in their hospitality?  Or, do you submit to agents with clear likes and dislikes to avoid wasting everybody’s time?

What do you look for when checking out an agent’s website or blog?  How far do you research before submitting? 

My dog wants to know.