Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Spoke in the Wheel

So I had considered all kinds of topics for today’s post.  I thought of talking about recreation (besides reading) and how it impacts the writing life.  I thought of discussing the obligation which friends occasionally place upon the writer to leave behind paper and pen and laptop.  Those weren’t all my topics, either.

And doubtless I will discuss them at some future point – probably quite soon.  However, I had something more immediate come up.  A fellow teacher texted me two Mondays ago and asked me if I wanted to take care of her dog and house while she was out of town for a few days.  I’m on summer vacation and I like dogs, so I thought the plan sounded like fun. 

A cute little alien!
Now, I have house-sat before.  I’ve even been a house-and-dog-sitter before.  What I’ve never done, however, is take care of an indoor dog, who basically has to stay inside, because she is a pound rescue who was semi-feral at some point in the not so distant past.  A dog like that needs a lot of attention.  The house-sitting has turned out to be not quite the five days of peace which I anticipated, and I’ve had to adapt my writing schedule accordingly. 

I thought, therefore, that I’d write my blog post about how my life as a writer has progressed, while living in another person’s house and caring for another person’s dog.  It’s been an interesting – and actually a very fun – experience.

Tuesday, June 26

I arrived to let the dog out of her crate at about 10 in the morning.  She was very glad to see me, and excited about her walk – until we opened the front door and found it was pouring rain.  Suddenly she was much more interested in the comfortable indoors.  I persevered though, and once she was out in it, she perked right up and found all the smells of wet grass, etc., most intriguing. 

The face of religious fanaticism!
After that the day turned quite helter-skelter.  Poor doggie only got about thirty minutes out of her crate between 11:30 and 7:30, because I  needed to shop, pack, make beer with friends, and eat.  I did make it up to her with a long walk (luckily the rain had stopped), but even so the hours of being cooped up had left the dog extremely hyper, to say the least. 

I sat down about 9:30 to do some editing, foolishly thinking that my furry charge would be worn out by her walk and by the thirty minutes I’d spent throwing her beloved red toy for her.  I was quite wrong.  About once every two minutes for the next two hours I had to throw the blasted thing, or else she would nudge it into my side, paw at my leg, climb on my back – you get the picture.  She is very insistent.  Needless to say, I did not edit much that night.  I began to despair about getting any work done during the five days.

Wednesday, June 27

I did not wake up with much more hope.  The dog had felt insecure without her real master there in the house, and so had spent the night whining and shaking her collar each hour on the hour, regular as a little clock.  We were both a little tired and grumpy, but staggered around the neighborhood anyway.  Luckily the weather had returned to normal and it was a sunny and invigorating walk, even if the dog did pull on the leash excessively.

Then I went to my parents’ house to celebrate their anniversary, before returning home.  By this time I was desperate to work.  I’m in the process of trimming my second novel down to a reasonable size, and I was determined to finish Chapter 6 this week – dog or no dog.  I let her wander in and out of the porch door, so that she could entertain herself in the back yard and I could keep an eye on her, even while editing.

Much to my relief, the plan worked great.  I edited for two and a half hours total, throwing the inevitable red toy occasionally when the dog insisted (she even barks at you if you don’t throw it fast enough – an extremely cheeky creature).  Mostly, though, she basked in the backyard sun, sniffed at interesting things, or stared out the front door.  To reward her for being such a good dog, I threw the red toy in the backyard for about a half hour.

Refreshment in a glass!
Then I made dinner for my college-age brother, since my parents had gone off gallivanting for their anniversary. My dish was a Greek stew with peppers and sausage called ‘spetzofai’ – delicious!  Once I’d cleaned everything up, it was time for the next walk.  The dog and I trekked single-mindedly through the hot evening and came back panting to slurp down bowls of water in her case and gin-and-tonics in my case.  Nothing more refreshing after a long summer walk than a gin-and-tonic, it turns out.  I congratulate my hostess for keeping the necessary ingredients. 

The evening was spent much like the afternoon – me editing, and throwing the ubiquitous red toy for the dog.  Luckily she was much better exercised than Tuesday, so she was not a pest, and by eleven both she and I felt quite ready for bed.  I slept the sleep of the justified, since I had done right by my canine friend, and also managed to edit no less than nine pages of my chapter.

Thursday, June 28

Today has been the smoothest yet.  We got up at eight, performed our morning ablutions and then walked at high speed around the neighborhood, returning for a much deserved breakfast.  She soaked up some rays on the back deck while I ate and caught up on my emails, then I cleaned up the kitchen, threw the – you guessed it – red toy for her some more in the backyard, before heading home.

Once there I die my laundry, made a delicious coffee and brandy parfait, popped it in the freezer to do its thing for 24 hours, ate lunch and then was reunited with my doggie friend.  She was glad to see me, but the hot day made her willing to take it easy (which in her terms means only throwing the toy once every five minutes), which give me time to edit some more.  You'll all be glad to know that I finished my chapter – actually early, because I would have been happy to be done tomorrow.  It turns out that, even with a bored dog who wants a lot of attention,  progress on writing projects can still be made.  An encouraging thought!

We saw this alley on our walk - isn't it lovely?
I also contributed to another homebrewing session, ate dinner with my parents, and collected the things I’ll need for the rest of my stay, before returning to take the dog for a (long, hot, extremely fast) walk. 

We were both tired and thirsty upon returning (more bowls of water! More gin-and-tonics!) but after a shower for me and a little nap for her, we’re full of energy for the evening.  She’s still pushing the red toy into my thigh just to remind me that I really, really want to throw it for her, and I’m still determined to get some work done.  In fact, I’ve written this whole blog post in about an hour and a quarter, even with momentary pauses to play fetch.  I’d call that a productive evening. 

Anyway, sorry for the rambling , but I thought it might be fun to share what sort of odd challenges I meet in writing.  Even dog-shaped spokes sometimes get stuck into our smoothly rolling creative wheels, it seems.  To be sure, I’ve probably moved a bit slower than I would have if spared the need to throw a red rubber thing of indefinite identity for a brown and white English pointer, but I’m still content.  It’s nice to have the company, to feel needed and responsible.  I feel successful because I've balance her need and my responsibility with some very satisfactory progress in my writing. 


  1. I have house guests...of the turtle kind. At least for another year... - The owners can't have them where they are I feed them twice a day and once or twice a week 'they' come over to clean out the tank. The filter doesn't quite work as it should so the small room they are in tends to fill up with 'their' air - quickly.

    Kudos to you for your continued efforts to write while caring for the four legged friend!

    I just got back from a short walk, grandbabe in the stroller - attempting to stay in shade in high nineties weather. I'm ready to cool off!


    1. I have always loved turtles - I wouldn't mind taking care of some :D Any animal requires a certain commitment, tolerance and patience, though, which can sometimes be hard to come by, especially when you feel the desire to do other things (like write).

      I wish you luck staying cool! There's a heat wave everywhere but where I live, apparently. I feel a little jealous, though I'm sure you'd tell me I've got it better!