I am ready to throttle the dog next door. Actually, I’d love to ask his owner why she thinks it’s ok to have a pet when she has absolutely no interest in meeting his needs. I’ve been working on “Fox & Crow” for a week now and I’m amazed it has taken me this long to write 1300 words! I admit I’m easily distracted, plus my mother had a small stroke last weekend and that threw me off course for a while. Research also forces me to adjust the narrative—Fox can’t wake at dawn and go hunting for breakfast when foxes are nocturnal creatures who largely eat at night. And if Fox has a jar on his head, how much would he really be able to see? Would living near humans enable him to identify musical instruments by sight or sound? I like animal stories and I’m not opposed to anthropomorphism, but I don’t want to strip these creatures of their wild nature.
Right now I’ve got the radio on and our new mayor is holding a press conference on the snowstorm. I thought a snow day would be the perfect occasion to stay in and write, but having a barking dog next door doesn’t help with concentration. I cornered one pet owner in the elevator before Xmas and explained that I worked at home and would appreciate it if she kept her dog away from the front door when she left for work. She replied that she worked at home, which literally knocked me back a step. How could ANYONE work with a little, yippy dog barking all day long?! She insisted that she always made sure her darling didn’t bark and bother others. “But she was barking all morning,” I countered. “Oh,” she replied. “I had to step out for a while.” Now that pet owner has dealt with her dog–I’ve hardly heard a peep out of it since that meeting in the elevator. But the woman next door to me works about 60 hours a week and her dog can’t stand being left alone. He whines when she leaves and then it escalates into full-blown barking. I’m more of a cat person, but I got to like dogs when I lived with my sister for six months in 1999. She had a big, black Lab crossed with a pit bull who used to terrorize passersby and would tear up her apartment every time she dared to leave him alone (which was every day). Then I moved in to write my first novel and Raf was instantly pacified. He didn’t want me to play with him all day or pet him constantly—he just didn’t want to be alone. PBS had a special on recently about the difference between cat lovers and dog lovers and I had to agree with the cat people: dog owners are selfish. They love to come home from work and have a dog jump up and lick their face, but they really don’t want to pay the price for that kind of loyalty. Hiring someone to walk your dog for twenty minutes doesn’t undo the loneliness some dogs experience when they’re left alone for 8-10 hours each day. Whereas cat owners understand that cats have a life of their own—they may greet you when you come home, but they’re just as likely to keep on doing what they were doing (sleeping). Cats aren’t needy. They aren’t loud. They aren’t desperate for attention. Cats are perfect for an apartment—most dogs are not. Cat owners don’t exploit their pet’s loyalty (in part because cats don’t practice loyalty). Writing this story has made me think about what the fox says in The Little Prince: “You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.” I would love to hold a giant bunny or cuddle with a fox, but you know what? That’s not what they’re for. That’s not what they want. And that matters. Ok, end of rant. Back to the story.