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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Man's best friend

Man’s best friend

Once our son’s grew up and left home, my husband and I got puppies. So now we do agility with our dogs, a Scottish terrier named Smokey and a Pembroke Welsh corgi named Bandit.

So now I’m thinking about how to incorporate dogs into my stories. Since I write (mostly) in the American west, there are plenty of opportunity to have a dog as a character.

In one story the cowboy hero brings his new wife a puppy. Ranches often had dogs, as they were useful in helping drive cattle. My husband’s family had a dog, Buster, that would help is father round up the cattle. Our Welsh corgi would be over the moon if we had some cows so we could tell him to go get and drive them in for milking.

Dogs were also served to hunt vermin, especially terrier type dogs. Cats get mice, but terriers can get rats. And farmers always have grain to protect.

And, of course, all dogs are watch dogs, who bark when something out of the ordinary happens. I was always impressed by Buster, as if you drove up to my in-laws house in the Oklahoma county side, Buster would bark a warning as you drove up the long driveway. If, however, my in-laws were not at home, Buster would just lay on the porch and give you look like ‘nobody home, silly.’

I would assume that most dogs in the American west were not the purebreds we would see today at a dog show. If a hunting dog had a reputation of being a good hunter, people would want puppies from them. Same with herding dogs, or terriers on their ability.

Finally, one of the most common reason for keeping a dog was for companionship the dog provided.

And while our dogs have the run of our house, I’m pretty sure my heroine who runs a boarding house will only allow the dog in the back kitchen. Our dogs don’t know how good they have it.

Does your family have any dog stories- or do you have dogs in your stories?

Blain’s Smokey of Santee, CGC, NA & Blain’s Sundance Bandit, CGC, NA, NJW


Emma said...

I've never used a dog in my stories. Maybe I feel I couldn't do them justice.

We had an unlikely service dog, a terrier-pointer mix named Finn. His brain was pure terrier. His job was to pick up things my sister dropped. (She has MS and has problems with balance.) He was good at it. In fact, he was so enthusiastic he often picked up things that hadn't been dropped just because they looked interesting. Workmen who came to the house would have a tool or a glove lifted out of their stuff and one guest made the mistake of crossing her legs with her foot up--Finn's signal to remove shoes and socks. Anything he took was given to my sister but drop a spoon or fork from the dinner table and he'd return it to directly to you--spotlessly cleaned and ready for use.

My favorite story is that he knew he wasn't allowed to touch my stuff. He sat through the Nisqually quake (6.8) with my sister, not batting an eye, and was delighted to see my room was the hardest hit. While we were still shaking and going "What the---!", he tap danced around that room picking up books, knick-knacks and anything else that had fallen down. His tail was going so fast his butt wiggled. I never saw him so happy. The only reason he didn't grin was because he couldn't. All my stuff was jammed in his mouth. I never saw him so happy!

He never let my sister down. God, I miss him.

Lauri said...

Must be a day to post about dogs, I just posted about our current dog and how he ran away once on my blog this morning. I've had dogs in several of my stories, including the one I'm writing right now. They were definitely a part of the west.

marybelle said...

My neighborhood is full of the best watch dogs. They are quiet until a stranger walks down the street. We all love this.

Terry Blain said...

Emma, great story about Finn.