‘Harry!’ At my suggestion PL was all surprise. ‘You can write?’
‘What do you think us dogs do all day while you’re staring at the screen?’ I responded, trying not to take offence. ‘Sleep or something?’
‘OK dude, you got the job,’ PL said, or words to that effect. ‘Get it done by the deadline and there might be a Schmacko in it.’
One lousy Schmacko? I’d hoped for better. But since the Other Dog was at my shoulder hanging on every word – she does that – it was a matter of pride to go ahead.
‘I’ll help,’ yipped the Other Dog when PL had retreated to her laptop. ‘What’s it about? Treats? Walkies? Cats? Put some cats in it, please, please, pretty please!’ Did I mention the Other Dog’s a Miniature Pinscher and excitable?
‘The column’s not for dogs, it’s for writers,’ I explained.
‘Great Dogs in Literature?’ the Other Dog piped up. ‘Critiquing for Canines? Best Dog Blogs?’
‘None of those,’ I said. ‘I have a much better idea. Why Every Writer Needs a Dog.’
The Other Dog just looked at me with her big, bulgy eyes. ‘Isn’t that kind of obvious?’ she asked.
She was right. We came up with a list of 2,769 reasons. We took it to PL and she freaked out.
‘Haven’t you dogs ever heard of a word count?’ she shrieked.
The Other Dog made her silly chirruping noise while I maintained a dignified silence. Word count? What the heck was that?
‘No more than 800 words,’ said PL. ‘Edit, dogs, edit. Less is more. Verbosity won’t win you followers.’ She told us to cut the list down to ten.
A measly ten? I tell you, I was disturbed. Seriously disturbed.
‘This is hopeless!’ I growled. ‘We’ll never do it!’
‘Get a grip,’ said the Other Dog, so I did. ‘Not that kind of grip!’ the Other Dog yapped. ‘When she said cut the list down, she didn’t mean shred it. Don’t you understand the difference between figurative and literal modes of expression?’
Min Pins spout a lot of crazy stuff.
My head buzzing, I clamped the red pencil between my teeth and began the editorial process.
‘Kill your darlings,’ the Other Dog suggested.
We culled to 1,000. Then to 100. And finally, after lengthy discussion punctuated by regular snack and nap breaks – see attached image – we were down to the top 10. And since the word count is already 452 excluding the title, here they are:
- 1. A dog makes you take breaks. Breaks are good for your health.
- 2. A dog makes you take exercise. Ditto. And it’s fun!
- 3. A dog loves you even when the whole world hates you. A dog loves your book even if it’s a heap of poo. If there’s anyone who understands poo, it’s a dog.
- 3b. A dog loves you even when you hate yourself.
- 4. One look into a dog’s eyes, and the world seems a better place. (I should get a job with Hallmark Cards.)
- 5. Living with a dog teaches you about love, loss, forgiveness, generosity, loyalty, courage and a lot of other things, including sausages.
- 6. In the company of a dog, you can enjoy being ridiculous. You should hear the little ditties PL sings to us when no other humans are within earshot.
- 7. A dog is a reminder that being rich and famous is not everything.
- 8. A dog gives your day structure: up, walk, feed, write, nap, walk, feed, write, sleep.
- 9. Walking with your dog refreshes your brain. PL gets some of her best ideas while walking us. It’s about time she put us in the Acknowledgements.
- 10. Dogs are an endless source of inspiration. Except for Min Pins. (Joke.)
Footnote: We’ve heard some writers prefer cats. We just don’t get it.
Photo © Juliet Marillier May 2011