Amy Tan had Bubba Zo. E.B. White had Minnie. Stephen King had Marlowe. And I currently have dogs Reggie and Elmo, successors of Phoebe and Sawyer. While I’ve had a handful of pets that ranged from rambunctious goats to award-winning rats, nothing fuels a writer’s soul like a good ole canine (or two).
Dogs have a special way of weaving themselves into our hearts, filling us with inspiration, and making sure we get out of bed at the earliest of hours so we can head right to the keyboard to write. Right after we feed them, of course.
The intimacy between us writers and our dogs is not just in our imagination, either. When we gaze lovingly into our pooch’s eyes, both our brains and theirs start to pump out the feel-good hormone oxytocin.
Oxytocin is known for strengthening emotional bonds between human moms and babies as well as other pairs of mammals. But the only time this bonding phenomenon takes place between two different species is when it happens with us and our dogs. Whoa is right.
When we’re buoyed by that kind of love, coupled with the two cups of morning coffee we slammed while filling their dog dish, we can whip out a wealth of wondrous words well before noon every day. And when we can’t, our dogs love anyway.
As long as we have enough cash to keep them rolling in Good ‘n’ Fun and fuzzy blue blankets, they don’t care if our writing is good or bad or somewhere in between. Heck, they don’t even care if we can’t write at all.
When writer’s block hits, they are there to soothe us. Comfort us. Turn foul first drafts into chew toys. Give us a meaty dose of inspiration.
Inspiration can come from play break, a treat break, or a break featuring their all-time favorite activity: the afternoon nap.
It can also come from simply looking at the world from their point of view. When dogs need to bark, they bark – the same way we can learn to just write. They don’t first weigh the pros and cons of hitting the exact right bark pitch. They don’t fret about the reaction they may get from the neighbors, the delivery driver or online trolls.
Dogs are also great teachers of how to live in the moment, the only way to get through those 102-page product description projects that require the use of 316 different keywords.
If we look at the seemingly impossible feat in front of us, we plunge deep into overwhelm. Our brain goes shimmying into the future, wondering how we’ll get this done. Or it shoots into the past, beating ourselves up for taking on the assignment in the first place.
But when we tackle the project with a dog’s mindset, one word at a time in the present moment, we’re suddenly done before we know it – with time for that nap, to boot.
The special perks of owning a dog can extend beyond writers to any type of creative, but you don’t get the same level of benefits from any other type of pet.
Sure, certain writers may have argued this point – like Arthur C. Clarke with his monkey or Hemingway with his six-toed cat. Yet I’ll still howl loudest for the dog.
Cats aren’t wont to give us the encouragement we crave. Goats are too busy climbing trees or escaping from the pen to help you get any writing done. Rats are cool, but they’re prone to chewing up journals and pens. And fish are, well, fish. What fun is a pet a you can’t hug when you don’t feel like writing?
Besides, it takes a special breed to celebrate when the writing’s done, with a fuzzy blanket and a Good ‘n’ Fun.
[Editor’s note: no offense to cats or other common pets]