Monday, 23 February 2009

A Writer's Bestfriend

(Donna Tartt's little friend.)

I'm rarely home these days. In fact, tonight I dined on takeout from a sandwich chain after a long day of running between campus and home. I envisioned living out my last days in Oxford cocooned in the place I created in which to nest, and instead, I am spending my time on the streets. Not Slum Dog Millionaire-style, but it does have to do with a dog.

Instead of the pink light inside my house that filters through my curtains, it's the blossoms of Japanese magnolias I see -- a first sign of spring -- every morning. I didn't realize what little time I spent outdoors until I got Em. Now, it's at least an hour, often more, that I am truly present in the world (when not telling Em "No" as she sniffs some unpleasant object, poised to dine on it.) I wonder how people can have dogs in big cities paved with cement when I delight in seeing Em's nose half buried in dirt.

Now that I have a dog, it seems that everyone does. I'm also learning dog introduction etiquette (which is that I learn the dog's name but not the owner's) and still get embarrassed when Em uses the front yard of a fancy mansion to relieve herself. Even still, with her in my life, I am in good company. I Google my favorite writers and I've found that dogs are common companions in this field. In fact, Em was a rescue from a group named for Willie Morris's beloved canine Pete.

Then there is the famous Faulkner portrait by Henri Cartier-Bresson with Faulkner looking out in repose with his animated "fyce" or rat terriers . Faulkner had this to say about dog ownership: "Every boy should have a dog. He should be ashamed not to own a dog, and so should everybody else who didn't own a dog." Over at The Valve, they've posted a link to pictures of esteemed writers and their dogs. There's Amy Hempill (Wanita), Donna Tartt (Pongo), and Robert Penn Warren (Frodo). The number of southern writers with dogs outnumbers the others, which is interesting considering that the post was on the New York Social Diary.

I can understand the way in which a dog fits into a writer's life, especially in the South where being outside is a way of life most months out of the year. Contemplation is the writer's best friend, too, and walking a dog provides an instant scenario in which to follow your instinct.

(Faulkner's decisive dogs.)

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