Writing Without a Dog

jam227I no longer have to look behind me before I move my writing chair, because my life companion, my dog Lily, died on Friday.

Most of us with a human heart know what it is to love an animal, and the heartsick loss you live with when they die.

She was 14 after all, and I knew it was coming. But you bargain, don’t you? Then she fell down the stairs in the night. When I scrambled down to help her up, Lily slashed out and bit me. Then, darned if ten minutes later, she fell down the same set of stairs. I wrapped her up in a big towel and we were waiting at the vet’s office just after dawn. She made it into the vet’s office by herself, but fell and couldn’t get to her feet again. He picked her up and lay her down on the treatment table.

She never moved again. It was as though she had reached the end of the road. We both knew the time had come.


I scheduled my writing time around Lily. I live in the mountains and before the drought brought the bears and the mountain lions into the village, I felt easy about just opening the door and letting her out to do her business. I write first thing in the morning when my mind is fresh and uncluttered. She’d come right back in, eat her breakfast, and settle down at my feet while I wrote crime fiction.

When my concentration faded in the late morning, we’d go for walks in the forest. There’s dozens of paths along both sides of the main road and we knew them all. When she was young, I’d worry about the rattlesnakes when I would see her charge through the bushes, then stop and sniff. Once coyotes followed us. She was my protector at night. I could tell the difference between Lily’s raccoon bark, and her one-octave higher, “OMG, It’s a bear. It’s a bear outside.”

One of my proofreading disciplines is to read work aloud. You slow down when you read aloud and  catch more errors that way. I would read to Lily. She would be interested at first and look up at me, her head tilted, eyes bright. But crime fiction put her to sleep pretty quickly. I hope it doesn’t have the same effect on my readers.

When your companions are your animals, you talk to them. I have cats as well, but cats have even less interest in crime fiction. Great lines and thrilling chase scenes don’t excite them at all.

Lily liked to go places and pulled me away from the computer, got me out in the forest, and helped me fill in plot holes, and develop characters. I tried out my dialogue on her. We went to meetings and took car trips together.

She was my model for the dogs that always find their way into my novels. If only we were so kind to offer the end of suffering to the beloved humans in our life.

But that day is dawning. Here in California at least.

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21 Responses to Writing Without a Dog

  1. Kate Thornton says:

    Oh, Mar, I am so sorry – they hurt us, but only once. What a lovely tribute to Lily.

  2. Mary Brown says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Animals are so much a part of out families and the loss is overwhelming. It sounds like Lily was your writing partner as well as your friend and companion. Sorry again for your loss.

  3. oh mar ~ i’m so sorry for your loss and my heart goes out to you … lily looked so well a week ago and now this! life is precious and our furry friends make it more so ~ thinking of you at this sad time … mo

  4. Mysti says:

    I’m really sorry for your loss. It’s so hard to say goodbye to a beloved pet.

  5. M.Preston says:

    Thanks, Mo. She really wasn’t well, though. I had to carry her up and down the stairs. I think of her now as a young pup, full of life.

  6. M.Preston says:

    It is indeed. How’s that knee of yours? I’ve been meaning to write.

  7. Mar, we’ve never met but I know you by reputation and I am truly sorry for your loss. I have been there too–far too many times–and there are no words that can comfort but I hope it helps to know that others understand and share your grief.

    • M.Preston says:

      Thank you, Bonnie. It does indeed help. Let’s get to know each other. I’ll friend you on Facebook. Tell me about yourself. I’m interested in animal lovers.

  8. kathy kingston says:

    So sorry for your loss Mar. Dogs are family.

  9. M.Preston says:

    You know it, Kathy. I wish we saw each other more often.

  10. Mar, I am so sorry to hear this news. Our dogs move into our hearts, take root, and thrive. Lily is still rooted in your heart and will be forever. Thinking of you.

  11. Patrice says:

    Lily sweet Lily. One of the smartest dogs I’ve ever known. You both hit the doggie lottery the day you adopted her, and she’s been reciprocating that kindness ever since with her companionship and staunch loyalty. Run free, sweet Lily

  12. Mar, we are so sorry to hear about Lily’s passing. We so enjoyed the company of both of you when we visited in 2012. We have such happy memories of that time and of your love home in the mountains. Remember when we went for the walk on the mountainside one clear morning? And your work at the animal shelter, driving cats for miles to the vets.

    Sending you a big hug from us both 🙂

  13. Bonnie Scali says:

    Dear Mar, What might help is to think with affinity of Lily. I’m sure that she will feel your love and you will feel her response. She is with you still. My good intentions are with you and Lily, too.
    With love,
    Bonnie S.

  14. Oh Mar. Always a heartbreak. They love us so completely and we love them back with that same abandon. Please know I’m thinking of you.

  15. Celia says:

    My condolences in your time of grief

  16. Dan says:

    I know you loved her and miss her now and forever. Your first real dog companion.

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