Monday, April 08, 2019

Never Hurt a Dog

In the last two John Rebus mysteries written by Ian Rankin, a new recurring character was introduced by the name of Brillo.  A homeless bit of scruff, the curmudgeonly retired detective reluctantly brings the dog into his home.  The book where Brillo makes his first appearance is appropriately named Even Dogs in the Wild. 

In all three of my mysteries, Geneva Chase, my lead character, has a dog named Tucker.  “My Yorkshire terrier, was little more than two bright, shiny eyes tucked into a ball of brown and gray fur.”   For Genie, Tucker is family.  In the beginning, it was the only family Genie had.  Tucker is friendly, loving, playful, and his tail is always wagging.

Tucker is based on a real dog we had for about eleven years until he passed away about four years ago.

The real life Tucker didn't cotton to me much.  He was my wife’s dog and he was extremely protective. Thinking back on it, Tucker didn’t like any men at all.  I don’t know why, I’m not a pet psychologist. Don't get me wrong, I loved the little guy. He just didn’t always make it easy.

Dogs and cats can be instrumental in showing what kind of person a character is.  Geneva Chase drinks too much, makes bad life decisions, and is a hot mess, but she loves her dog and it’s obvious that Tucker loves her back. Deep down, Genie is a sweet lady.

In the very first episode of House of Cards, Congressman Frank Underwood leaves his Washington D.C. flat and observes his neighbor’s dog as it’s struck by a car.  He comforts the dog while addressing the audience.  And then he calmly strangles the animal.  From the outset, you know that this is not a nice guy.

A pet can help set a scene.  In Random Road, Genie lives in an apartment close to the waterfront.  “Tucker likes it because we’re a short walk to the docks. We can be on the waterfront in about seven minutes. Pleasure boats are tied alongside oyster trawlers and the ferry.  There’s the sound of the waves gently slapping against their bows and there’s the smell of the sea in the air and saltwater.  When I let him off his leash during the day, Tucker likes running back and forth on the wooden docks, terrorizing the gulls, who rise up reluctantly into the air and scream shrill epithets at the little dog while wheeling in slow circles, a few yards above his head.”

A pet can help describe a person’s state of mind.  Also in Random Road, a sad Genie Chase has just returned home.  “The depressing weather was lifting and pockets of sunshine struggled to find their way around the dark clouds.  I drove home in a fog, numb and exhausted.  When I got to my apartment, I picked up Tucker and held him so tight he must have thought I meant to crush him. He needed to be walked so I took him down to the waterfront where Kevin and I had been the first night we were together.  That was so long ago and it felt so lonely.”

Circling back around to Ian Rankin, at a recent conference, someone asked him if he regretted anything that he’d ever written.  His answer, “In one of my books, I killed a cat.”  He shook his head.  “I’ve never heard the end of it.”

My long suffering wife has read the drafts of my books where I’ve killed off countless numbers of people in the nastiest ways.  She thinks that’s okay.  Her one admonishment to me is, “Never hurt a dog.”

When Tucker passed away, we waited a few months and then reached out to a friend who rescues dogs to help us locate another fur baby.  She brought over a shit-tzu named Lilly.  She’s a little bit older and when she came into our house, while she was quietly claiming some of Tucker’s old toys as her own, I couldn’t help but notice she was already a little gray.

My heart melted. I’m a little gray. Ah, hell, I’m a lot gray.

We don’t know how old Lilly is but we’ve had her about four years now and she’s family.  She’s a sweetie who has earned a place in a book I have yet to write.

1 comment:

Sailorbuoy said...

From one dog lover to another, loved this!