Writers and Their Pets
“Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.”–Emily Dickinson
There is a long and wonderful history of the relationship between writers and their pets. Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf loved their dogs; Ernest Hemingway his cats. Charles Dickens loved his pet cat, Bob, so much he had one of his paws stuffed and turned into a letter opener.
My favorite story about a writer and his pet concerns E.B. White, who once received a letter from the ASPCA accusing him of “harboring” an unlicensed dog. In classic fashion, White responded: “If by ‘harboring’ you mean getting up two or three times every night to pull Minnie’s blanket over her, I am harboring a dog all right.”
My life as a writer has included some wonderful pets. Deputy (pictured above), our beloved Westie, would sit in the well of my desk, curled as close as he could get to my feet, while I pounded away on the keyboard. I might have expressed anger and frustration at times, but Deputy, like Dickinson’s dog, never told. One of my fondest memories of him was his love of popcorn—an evening snack my husband enjoys regularly. Jim would sometimes resort to taking refuge in our bedroom with his popcorn bowl, hoping to avoid sharing with Dep, but it never worked. Deputy would always follow the scent and scratch and whine until Jim finally gave up and let him in.
When Deputy passed, he was replaced by Frankie, a grand-dog. We inherited him from our daughter, who couldn’t, at that time, afford the cost of his dental work. Frankie had been “liberated” by her from a tyrannical owner who left him tied to a stake day and night. The saga of Frankie was told by our daughter in this tragicomic tale that she wrote and produced.
Sadly, there are no pets curled up in the well of my desk right now. Since we moved to a condo, I ply my lonely trade without the comfort of a dog or a cat. But that won’t last, because sometimes, in this business, your pet is your very best friend.