Having a dog will bless you with many of the happiest days of your life, and one of the worst. – Betsy Farrell
By the time you read this, my husband’s hip replacement surgery will be successfully completed and he will be on the road to recovery. When we found out he needed surgery in January, we debated foregoing our month’s stay in Arizona with our friends, Robert and Joyce, and scheduling surgery instead. But my husband desperately wanted to get away from the Wisconsin winter for a while, so we went as planned. Even if he couldn’t hike the mountain trails like in the past, Michael figured he could at least lounge by the pool and walk outside in sunnier weather. He didn’t know he was going to have an adorable, enthusiastic companion on his strolls. Her official name is Emerald Heart. She’s a Cavachon mixed breed, a combination of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Bichon Friese. Emmy provided better emotional therapy for us both than anyone encountered in the Sports Medicine/Orthopedic Clinic.
Even though Michael and I have never owned a dog, I write about a dog detective in my cozy mystery series. Gaston the Poodle is derived from the many pooches of my childhood. My Aunt Dorothy had a mean chihuahua named Pepe that liked to hide under the sofa until I passed by. Then he’d dash out, nip my ankle, and scoot back to safety. His sharp little teeth never broke the skin, thanks to my bobby socks, but walking through the living room was like entering a mine field. I never knew when the wrong step would invite disaster. Uncle Orrin and Aunt Hazel had Honey, a golden cocker spaniel with silky ears, and a tummy that dragged on the ground. Honey’s main talent was snoozing, although eating was a close second. We had a herding dog on the farm, a collie mix we called Boomer. He was very smart. Not only could he bring the cows home from the pasture in record speed, but he learned many tricks, like shake paws, roll over, fetch, speak, dance and whatever stunts my ten-year-old brain could devise. If I could have figured out a way to set my hula hoop on fire and keep it lit, Boomer would have jumped through a burning hoop like Gaston almost did in my first book.
I once read this writing advice: People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story, or in my case, the cozy mystery. Hence, the creation of Gaston. He’s a good antidote to writer’s block. He’s appeared numerous times when I’m stuck for an idea. I think WWGD–what would Gaston do in this scene? His antics usually get the words flowing again. So an imaginary dog is a big part of my books.
A real dog, Emmy, greeted us when we arrived at the condo with happy barks, some friendly jumps, and a few exploratory sniffs. She soon bonded with us enough to deposit her soggy squeak toy on our laps—especially when we were watching Netlix peacefully on the couch. Squeak, squeak. In our ears. Play with me. She gave us a few affectionate licks to show she liked us. She cuddled with us when her owners were not available. And she communicated a LOT.
When Emmy wanted to eat, she had a certain moan. Joyce would fix her supper of dog food, chicken and vegetable broth. When she wanted to go out, at first she’d whimper. Then she’d whine. If her human still ignored her demands, she’d chew on Robert’s computer cord. That usually got the desired results. She’d grab her leash in her mouth and toss it around or pull on it, eager to go outdoors. She started following us around in the condo, even happily loping up the stairs into our bedroom in the hopes we were game for a walk.
Our condo complex in Arizona was next to a lovely little park, with a disc golf course, several lagoons with three bridges, a playground, a splash pad and many birds to chase. Perfect stomping grounds for an active dog. Michael asked if we could take her for a walk in the park. We gave Robert and Joyce a break, and Emmy gave us some much needed exercise. With Michael using a cane, sometimes our progress was slow and she’d stop to take in all the new smells and read her pee-mail.
Emmy soon became our therapy dog. Her joyful encounters with the world and especially other dogs lifted our spirits and chased away the clouds of worry about the upcoming surgery. She had a little fan club. Other dog owners and park walkers recognized her and greeted her. “Hi, Emmy.”
People stopped to pet her and chat. She never failed to respond with a doggy smile. We met several new acquaintances, thanks to her sweet personality.
While on vacation, I worked on my latest book almost every morning for several hours. When Emmy grew bored, deciding I’d spent enough time on the computer, she’d put her paw on the keyboard and grumble, “Walk time, lady.” She was relentless. And so cute. Eventually I couldn’t ignore her appeals and her adorable face. I’d give up writing for some P. E. (Pooch Enjoyment)
One afternoon we dog sat when Robert and Joyce went out to lunch with some old friends. Michael crawled on the bed for a nap and Emmy curled up beside him for a snooze as well, laying on the same side and stretching out her paws in a mirror image of my husband. When I went to get my phone to snap their picture, she saw me move and jumped up to follow me, hoping for another outing in the park. I have no visible proof of how adorable the sleeping twins were. You’ll have to trust me when I say they were as cute as they were comical.
Emmy made the anxious hours fly by with her affection, her genial nature, and her antics. It truly is amazing how much love and laughter (and exercise) she brought into our lives, and how much closer we became to each other and to our friends because of her. A furry head resting on your lap, a squeaky invitation to play keep-away, and a few warm, sloppy licks gladdens your heart.
A little doggy joy goes a long way.
Thank you, Emmy.