How many writers depend on solitude for their sanity? And how many of us disturb that solitude by introducing a pet into the scene? Just about every one I know. The advantage, of course, is that a dog doesn't offer his/her opinion on the local news in the middle of a tricky transition or just as the climax of the story finally, after days, occurs to you. Well, my dog doesn't speak in English, but he has a schedule and he expects me to follow it. Duh! I taught him to expect a cookie first thing in the morning, and to expect a walk when I put on my shoes. Duncan the Dog has no concern for my mental activity. As far as he can tell, I'm just sitting still, wiggling my fingers on the desk. So, right now, he has no compunction about patting my leg with his paw, or looking deep into my eyes with his very dark, very beautiful, very intelligent eyes. Elizabeth Barrett Browning had a beloved dog, Flush, who was kidnapped, and the poet almost lost her mind until he was recovered. I understand. Every night when Duncan goes out for the last time before bed, I stand at the door, watching the trajectory of his outdoor leash, hoping no predator decides he would make a great snack. A friend of my daughter's let her beagle out and a mountain lion grabbed it, fortunately, letting go when screams errupted from the frantic woman waving her arms. The dog made it, went on to win in dog shows, his usual job.
Could I write without Duncan curled up beside my chair? Probably, but I wouldn't have any excuse to walk every morning, to admire his gorgeous cream-colored coat, to enoy the fact of having another sentient being near me, one who thinks I'm pretty great, except when I won't let him disembowel his new bed or eat dinner from my plate. Today he is three years old, and I expect--absent coyotes or mountain lions--to have him around for another decade or more. He won't know why he gets an extra treat for lunch, but Happy Birthday, Duncan Dog. And many more.