I’m at the beach this week, plotting the fourth book in the Welcome to Magnolia Bay Series. I’m also babysitting my granddogters, Juniper and Jules. Juniper is a young mini-dachshund (size XS), and Jules is an old-lady Spitz. On our first morning here, we were walking on the beach when a bad dog ran off its porch in attack mode. I snatched Juniper up, but the bad dog jumped on Jules before I could get between them. I made the dog back off immediately, so Jules is okay, but it was a scary thing.
Jules is Miss Manners at the best of times, but the next day, she was still dealing with a little PTSD. So when the next door neighbors’ new puppy—a big puppy—put her feet up on their porch railing and started barking, Jules barked and growled in response. Then Juniper joined in. Even after I brought the dogs in the house, they continued to bark through the window.
As you might imagine, this sort of drama is not conducive to plotting the world’s Next Great Novel.
Everyone knows that it’s easier to communicate with an animal when they’re not climbing on top of you or barking at the neighbor’s dog. So I put my granddogters in time-out in the bedroom, and once they quieted down, we had a telepathic conversation.
I explained to Jules that it’s wrong to hurl doggie-epithets at the puppy next door. Her response: “Yes, but she started it, and she needs to learn some manners.” Jules was also warning the dog to keep a distance. She’s still traumatized by yesterday’s unfortunate incident.
I explained to Juniper that the puppy next door is an only-dog who misses the company of other dogs and wants to play. Her response: “I want to play with her too. I was telling her that.” But the razorback of mean fur along Juniper’s spine—and the fact that she wouldn’t shut up—belied her claim of innocence.
This brings up the question: Do dogs lie? Rarely, but it does happen—usually when they don’t want to get in trouble. Was Juniper lying though? Not really. She did want to play, but only after laying down some ground rules. She also wanted to comfort Jules with a show of support. If Juniper hadn’t been concerned for Jules, she’d have been wagging her tail at the barky puppy. But the situation and her reaction were complicated.
The moral of the story is that dogs can be just as complicated as people, and their moods and motivations are often multi-layered. As I’m creating the animal characters for the book I’m plotting, I’ll remember this incident and find a way to weave some complex animal behaviors into the story. Because when you’re a writer, every experience eventually becomes an ingredient in one of the stories you’re cooking up.