Writing Practice

In preparation for NaNo, I am going to give myself specific assignments for my descriptive writing practice.  Tonight the assignment is dogs.

She laughed out loud as the pack came galloping into the room.  They raced a lap around her recliner; the brisk air must have given them a burst of energy.

The four dogs dashing around the room could not have been more different if she’d planned it.  The largest reached just to the arm of her chair, the Lab portion of his lineage evident in his rounded face, short coat and yellow coloration.  He moved in a bounding gait that shouted play.  Two small dogs also pranced about, yipping their joy with every step.  The smallest was white and fluffy, with tiny round ears and a short snout.  She moved her legs twice as fast as the others just to keep up, while her counterpart leapt into the air on every third step.  He was only slightly bigger than her, but his slender legs and delicate build made him appear taller.  His coat was black, and feathering trailed from his tail and ears.  The leader of the race took her running much more seriously, lapping the other dogs as she ran flat-out around the perimeter of the room.  She was nearly all whippet, with skinny legs, a deep chest, and a body so narrow she nearly disappeared when looked at from the front.  The tips of her upright ears tipped down, giving her a ridiculous look, but right now they were pinned back as she bolted around the room in an attempt to show the rest who was fastest.

Fortunately, circling the room several times was enough for the skinny dog.  She quickly gave up and settled into her usual spot on the couch.  The two smaller dogs were happy to find themselves in the recliner with their person; one settled under each arm, between leg and armrest.  The big dog continued to pester her, until he finally chose his ball and brought it to her.  Without getting up, she tossed it down the hall over and over until he, too, had finally had enough.

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Going To the Dogs

Eli made me decide to write a post about dogs tonight, so I started thinking about dog-related idioms.  There are lots of sayings that include dogs, probably because much of human history has included dogs.  They are typically well-used, perhaps even overused, so tread lightly when using them in your writing.  (Having a character use one in conversation is better than using one yourself.)  Many of the sayings are unflattering to the dogs in question, but not all.  Here are some of the phrases I thought of:

Going to the dogs – declining in quality or moving towards chaos

Sick as a dog – really, really sick, usually including vomiting

Dog tired – worn out

Doggone – euphemism used to replace “damn it”

My dogs are tired (or my dogs are barking) – my feet hurt

Dog days – excessively hot and still weather, usually in August or early September (in the US)

Working like a dog – working very hard, usually due to necessity

Dog and pony show – a big production, typically overblown

Dog eat dog world – competitive, cutthroat situation

Do you have any other dog sayings?

Limited Communication

Eli, my dog, stuck his face in mine a few moments ago.  He’s started this habit recently; when whining doesn’t get my attention, putting his head on the arm of my chair, the edge of the bed, or my shoulder is his next effort.

Dogs have detailed, involved communication with each other; they use scent, body positioning, and sound, just to name a few.  But their communication with us is more limited.  I can tell when Eli wants something, but with a few exceptions I can’t usually tell what he wants.  (The exceptions are all related to food.  He is obvious about wanting food, either by carrying his bowl to where I am sitting or banging it around with his foot.)

When he set his chin on my shoulder earlier, I started thinking about things from his point of view.  It must be tough to live in a world where you can’t fully convey your needs.  As a person who makes a living communicating, and makes a hobby of writing, it is such a foreign concept that I simply can’t imagine going through life unable to share more than rudimentary ideas with the person who takes care of me.

Poor Eli.  I wonder if there is some way for me to open up channels of communication through training.  For example, maybe I could teach him to bump a little bell when he needs to go outside.  It would be nice to give him a little more control over his life, even if he is an old dog.

Dog Days, part 4

I’m older now.  I’ve been with Leigh a long time, and since my life’s been happy, much of it blurs in my memory.

I remember friends.  At our first house, I was friends with Radar and Zoey.  Radar’s mom was Leigh’s best friend; she called me Mr. Wrinkles.  Zoey called me skinny dog.  She was a bulldog, and my best friend.  Now I have lots of friends.  Sometimes I go and stay with Illie and Georgia.  We used to live by them, but since we’ve moved I don’t see them as much.  I also like to stay with Duchess, although her mom has cats and I don’t know how I feel about cats.

For a while there was a man in our life.  I wasn’t sure about him at first, but he was friendly and nice to me.  I think after he’d been around us for a few years he got tired of me.  I’m glad I stayed with Leigh, but I was sad to leave him behind.  He didn’t even say goodbye.

Leigh also has a bird, now, although I’ve been with her longer.  The bird throws interesting food on the floor, but he also bites really hard and makes loud noises that hurt my ears.  I don’t really like the bird, but Leigh does, so I leave him alone.

I like living with Leigh.  I have soft things to sleep on (she even lets me sleep with her sometimes) and plenty of food.   I’m still nervous about drinking, and thunder makes me scared when she’s not around, but I have a lot less to be afraid of now.  If I could have one wish it would be that Leigh wouldn’t leave so much, but I know she’ll come back.  She wants me, and she loves me.

Unlike other dogs with a beginning like mine, my story has a happy ending.

Dog Days, part 3

I don’t really like to talk about what happened next.

I managed to scrape by, finding food where I could.  I learned to eat fast, so the scraps that I found wouldn’t get stolen.  Water was the hardest.  There were two places where water was always available.  One was the river, a scary place to try to get a drink.  The other was a pool guarded by a nasty mean dog.  Every once in a while, when he was in a good mood, he’d let someone get a drink, but I was always too scared to try.  I made do with puddles, drinking as much as I could.

I’m ashamed to admit that I followed people, hoping for a handout or even a home.  I’m not proud of it, but it was necessary.  It turned out to be for the best, though, because a sweet girl with a little dog finally felt sorry for me and let me come to live with her.  She was the first person to give me a name; she called me Eli.

It was nice, where she lived, and I would have liked to stay, but her dog was mean and didn’t like me.  Because I was scared of him, I never got enough to eat.  The girl wanted to me to stay, but her father convinced her that perhaps I needed a different home.  I don’t know how they knew her, but they introduced me to Leigh.  She had a kind voice and was careful with me, because she knew a little bit about my history.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the best day of my life was when I went to live with Leigh.

Dog Days, part 2

Read part 1 here.

It’s amazing how one traumatic event can etch an entire day into your mind.

The day started out exciting.  It was the first time I had ever been to a park.  I had been outside before, but this was a big outside, with lots of activity.  I remember wanting to run, but I was scared, too, so I would run away just a little and then run right back to my mother.  This was a lot of fun for a while, until I saw the squirrel.

I know what it’s called now, but at that point all I knew was that this fluffy thing was really interesting.  When I tried to get close, it ran away from me.  I had to chase it!  We ran across a big, green lawn and then into some trees.  When the squirrel ran up into one, I stood at the bottom.  I was so excited!  I yelled and yelled, “Look!  Look!!”

It was a few minutes before I realized that no one was around.  I ran back to where everyone had been, as quickly as I could, trying to find my mother.

No one was there.  I looked and looked.  I even cried.  But I couldn’t find them.

They might have left me on purpose, or maybe it was an accident.  Either way, they didn’t come back to look for me.  I know, because I stayed in the park for three days, looking for them.  If they had wanted to find me, it would have been easy.

After three days I realized that they didn’t want me.  I was alone.

Dog Days, part 1

It’s time for some more writing practice.  We’ll do this little story in a few installments.  Enjoy part 1!

I don’t remember much about my mother’s house.  Most of it comes to me in random flashes at odd moments.

I remember having a soft place to sleep, and always being warm.  I had brothers and sisters, although I can’t seem to recall how many.  It felt like there were a lot of us, but I was little, so I could be wrong.

Sometimes I get a scent of something that reminds me of my mother.  I do remember how she smelled, although the words to describe it evade me.  Comfort, warmth, softness, and sweetness; those are the words that come to mind when I think of her scent.

I don’t remember being hungry, so there must have been enough food.  I don’t remember the people, either.  They were there, to be sure, but my world was limited to my mother, my siblings, and the warm place where we slept.  Beyond that, I have no memories.

I do remember being left, though.  You don’t forget something like that.

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