Last week, when my son accepted a new position in his company, my husband and I sent him a text congratulations and he responded with: “Love you both, and the nine dogs.” To which I responded with, “The 9 dogs say ruff ruff.”
Anyone who reads this blog, or anyone who has met me for 5 minutes, knows I’m an animal lover. So it will probably come as no surprise to you that there’s an animal in every single chapter of my book. My book, that’s not about animals.
Dogs. Horses. Sometimes, even, a cat?
What’s surprising is that the presence of all of these animals came as a surprise to me.
In chapter one, there’s a new yellow puppy we’ve gotten from the pound, the dog I’ve begged and begged for, who dies on the porch while I’m at a new school in the 3rd grade, and whom I find when I come home for lunch. There are the horses, the 2 Tennessee Walkers and the white Quarter Horse, boarded at a house we rent in 6th grade. There’s Candy the cat who delivers her kittens on my bed, and Nikky, my uncle’s Norwegian Elkhound, who hung himself on our carport in a thunderstorm … an event that marked my before-Nikky life and after. And the list, the lists, go on, all of the animals in and around the periphery of my story, telling a parallel story of their own. The golden who desperately needs to be let out, and runs the dark fence-line, while I’m talking to my brother on the phone. The dog who lies upside down in the gravel, afraid. The dog my mother and I return to the Humane Society. The horses who tolerate my existence in their barn and then throw me into the electric fence. The rescues. The dog who becomes our family dog, but is really just … my dog.
All of these animals mirror, unbeknownst to writer-me, what’s going on under the surface of every scene. Every. Single. Chapter.
I recently went back and started re-reading all of the books I read repeatedly as a child. I read BLACK BEAUTY until the start of PART II, and I had to stop. Had to put it, unfinished, back on the shelf by my bed. The chapter I ended with had these lines: “We shall never see her again,” he said — “never.” He took the reins, mounted the box, and with Joe drove slowly home; but it was not our home now. I’m 48 years old, and I can no longer read about the bad things that are going to happen to Black Beauty. Not if I want to sleep at night.
We shall never see her again. Never.
What are you writing about, that you didn’t know you were writing about?