Dog Talk

21 11 2014

Let’s discuss etymology. For those out there challenged by syllables (i.e. certain men), I’m talking words.word

Science tells us that the humble dog is able to recognize more words than ever before thought. Beyond the simple “fetch”, “sit”, “shake”, “ball”, and the proverbial (literally) “no”.no-means-yes

Words like “impossible,” “never”, “stupid”, “stubborn”, and even (cringe) “neutering” have resided in the canine dictionary for centuries. And we didn’t learn them from man, we learned them because of man.caveman

The dog is inherently optimistic. The possibility of the “impossible” is a never-ending focus in our minds. Ever see a dog sitting statue-like at the base of a tree waiting for a squirrel to make a misstep?

Ever watch the canine attempt to bite the mailman through the front-door glass––every day, rain or shine, for a decade. the idea that it will never happen, dare I say “NEVER” occurs to him. Otherwise he would have given it up the second day.

“Stupid?” Not in the Webster’s Canine. Since wolf-times, dog has known that each failure up the ladder of success leads you closer to the prize. What dog is born with the knowledge they need to survive? Try, and try again, does not imply stupidity. It speaks to adaptation.

And “stubborn?” Nay, we use the word persistent. Part of evolution and natural selection. Give up and you die.images

“Neutering?” What self respecting canine would EVER invent the idea let alone the word?

The moral: Man is too easy with his labels, failing century-after-century to understand the root of his words, passing off traits he finds displeasing as failure, in one way or another.

Dog’s message to man: Relax. Take a Milk-bone.milk+bone1 Stretch out in a patch of sunlight pouring through the dining room window. Let your instinct guide you.

Trade your Webster’s for a dog.Dictionary Experiment

Ciao

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A Brief Interview

30 01 2014

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An interview about the writing of my novel, JACK OF HEARTS: A fictionalized account of the mayhem that ensued after I discovered my master’s infidelity.

What are some of the challenges you encountered in writing JACK OF HEARTS?

It was really daunting to contemplate writing about infidelity. I found it to be a vast, complicated topic. I had to muster my courage, I think, to take that on. More than anything I wanted to render it in the right way, and explore it from the standpoint of a dog. I mean, loyalty is everything to the canine, no? That was the other big challenge: writing in the canine voice…inner voice actually. Initially, that was intimidating. I would go to bed at night and wake up worrying about it. What thesaurus translates the wag in its every definition, for instance? But in the end, I felt so compelled to do this. It’s a subject that affects every member of the family, right down to the lowly cat. I think you just have to listen to that place inside yourself as a canine writer. It’s just a creative knowing. Like knowing which piece of undergarment to shred, where to bury a bone, or what part of the garden to ruin. I just took a breath and decided to take it on, write in my imagined voice, and trust it to be authentic.

Where do you like to read?

I have several spots. When I’m in the country, I read usually in the afternoon, under the chestnut tree off the patio – a short reading time, usually poetry. Ogdan Nash, Carl Sandburg, and Robert William Service. I love Mary Oliver’s new book of poetry, DOG SONGS. Who wouldn’t? I read in bed every night. I usually get in bed pretty early with an iPad (with no opposable thumbs, it’s easier to swipe the pages), and I read until the management turns off the light. When in Rome, I sit in a lounge chair on my balcony overlooking the Piazza del Popolo. I love to be outside when the weather’s right. I can stay there pretty much all day––unless the squirrels demand attention.

What is your favorite word?

There are just so many beautiful words. Come, stay, car, park, rat, squirrel. Treat is probably my favorite. In Italian it’s regalo. A little more romantic, don’t you think? And covers so much more than simply the edible. Then there’s Bolognese, spaghetti, fromaggio. But I digress. It’s a shame the book couldn’t be written totally in Italian. Everything sounds better that way. Even veterinario. I think the word “chase” is beautiful, “inseguimento” in Italian. Not so much in its phonics, but just in the power of the word itself.

What is the first book you remember loving?

Go, Dog, Go. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it. I still have the first copy I read (although, somewhat tattered along the binding…). I remember reading it as a pup, outside, under the chestnut tree, just lying in the grass, one eye on a squirrel, the other on those glorious words in large type.

If you could recommend just one book, what would it be?

Travels with Charlie. Probably because I’d love to see America. The Incredible Journey was a great read, too, but a bit unbelievable. I mean, teaming with a cat?

The novel that probably had the most impact on me was, Lad, A Dog. Canine heroism is a huge motif in my  book. It goes back to the roots of what makes up a dog in mind and spirit, and the first sparks that ignited the path for dogs, from the Neanderthal campfire to the service dogs of today. The hero is an extraordinary collie named Lad, “a thoroughbred in spirit as well as in blood.” I like to think of myself in the same way…except the collie part. It’s a period piece, but charming in its language, even if it is written in English.

And I do prefer print books. Hard covers are better for sinking one’s teeth into. Alas, because of my handicap (no thumbs), I am confined to the electronic device. At the end of the day, I would prefer to hold something concrete between my teeth. There’s something about the weight, substance, and concreteness of the words. The taste of the binding, scent of the glue, texture of the paper.

There is an alchemy to books. I mean, how else might dog tell a story?

Chow.

(With apologies to Huffington Post and Sue Monk Kidd.)





Boat Dog

24 09 2013

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I have four paws. I like to keep them on an even keel, generally. So when The Management suggested I come along on the Annual Summer Boat Trip, I’ll admit I balked (not to be confused with barked, although there WAS some confusion).

You guessed it: doggie life-vest, four-footed booties, one canine swim-step later, I was cast adrift.

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IMG_2713IMG_2793Not bad actually. New territory to be conquered; IMG_2675interesting creatures, mostly edible;IMG_2684 IMG_2808a multitude of aromas the likes of which I had never smelled in the Tuscan hills; pleasant salt bathes to keep my pilose body up to par; IMG_2827and a number of napping options.

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The caveat?

A small dog must take flight in order to reach those sacred waters. A trite but true fact: If God had intended the simple dog to fly he would have given it wings. Instead I received headgear obviously not designed in Italy.IMG_2845

Apparently nothing having to do with boat fashion for the water-bound dog ever crossed the mind of an Italian.

I see an opportunity here: “Il Cane Yachtwear–––NOT for the everyday dog.”

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