Love is a four-legged word
I look at my dogs differently these days.
It would be bad form not to. I owe them.
For a long time, the relationship mainly went one way. I fed them, walked them, brushed them, patted them, loved them, made sure they had their shots, begged the butcher for bones. I gave them the best place by the fire. Mopped up their muddy paw prints. Followed them around the park with poo bags.
They loved me back, and that was amazing. But still, they owed me.
The thing about dogs is that, unlike children, they never grow up. They never go to university, they never go off for a festival week with their friends, they never ask for an inter-rail ticket and say they’ll be back in a few weeks.
They’re a little relentless, in other words. A little needy. For instance, I’ve often wondered why my dogs can’t find their own way to the park. I’ve taken them every day for ten years. They know the way. But they still want to go with me, even when they know I have a deadline.
I’m very attached to my husband. But I don’t howl like a banshee when he arrives home from the shops, nor do I stare at the wall for days or declare a hunger strike when he goes away. It’s nice that my dogs love me, but sometimes I wish they’d develop other interests.
Now, however, I’m stuck. It all started with my second book, when an invisible greyhound made his way into the story and the terrible tangle of plot magically resolved. From then on, it was open season. Lurchers in one book, cleverly disguised lurchers in another, dogs here, dogs there, dogs in every subplot. I’m convinced it happened whenever I went to the kitchen for a cup of tea. I’d come back upstairs, the dogs would still be asleep under my desk, but the book would be full of dogs.
So naturally they’ve made their way into my latest book. But they’re getting bolder. No longer satisfied with secondary or co-starring roles, they’ve gone for top billing. Top dogs.
There’s kind of an unspoken rule in writing that if you use your friends and family in your books, you pretty much have to be grateful to them. So these days, I try not to shout when I come in and find them lolling on the furniture. If one of them finds a steak and kidney pie in a hedge, I try to admire his tracking skills. All and all, it’s a bit less of “would you like to explain why there are muddy paw prints all over the duvet?” and more, “how about a nice shoulder of lamb for supper?”
Of course I try not to leave them (even to go to the shops), because I know it makes them sad. Which means I’ll have to take them on my next book tour.
This is, of course, what they wanted all along.
Jonathan Unleashed is available in hardback now.