Barry Knister: THE WRITER MUST HAVE A DOG

Barry Knister: THE WRITER MUST HAVE A DOG: THE WRITER MUST HAVE A DOG When I think of the dog at the center of my short novel  JUST BILL , I see him as youthful, vital, the ...

THE WRITER MUST HAVE A DOG



THE WRITER MUST HAVE A DOG

When I think of the dog at the center of my short novel JUST BILL, I see him as youthful, vital, the life force personified. He's up for anything his master wants to do, always alert for a sign that it’s time to jump in the lake, or go for a walk. He eats the same way, gobbling from the bowl before it touches the floor. 

And Bill remembers things: another dog herds lady golfers away from a dangerous patch of jungle; Bill later prevents a small boy from entering the same overgrown area.

That’s art, or so I prefer to think of JUST BILL. Fiction improves on life by organizing it into patterns and plots. It compresses and stylizes, organizes the action to create anticipation and meaning for the reader. If the writer gets it right, the whole equals more than the sum of its parts.

Life isn't like that. It doesn’t really “mean,” or have a plot. Or if it does, you describe the path later. When you win, you explain it in a way that makes you look good. You were responsible for the whole thing, made great choices, knew just what to do. If you lose, the same thing happens in reverse: forces beyond your control screwed up everything.

In other words, life is in many ways inferior to art. In life, plot and structure take the form of routine.

But life's predictability doesn’t seem to be a problem for writers. At least not for me. In my life, routine and predictability are good things. That's how I gain the hours and focused attention I need to write stories. If I lived a life of novelty and change, I wouldn’t write.

But one thing is certain: A life like mine absolutely needs a dog.

It needs that combination of order and routine that my dog Chelsea loves as much as I do, along with a dog’s ability to take people out of themselves. To be a chum-on-demand. 

After almost eight years with her, I can no longer imagine life or writing without Chelsea. By the way, the dog in the photo is not my dog: At the first sign or sound of a camera, Chelsea hides. But I very much like this dog's face. It's full of character.

Although she’s good at it, my wife Barbara doesn’t write. But about Chelsea’s importance we are in total agreement. It makes us both grateful and apprehensive, living with our rescued border collie whose age we can't know, watching her growing gray just like ourselves, but whose days are racing past so much faster than our own.

As I think of what’s to come, the phrase “pay it forward” occurs to me, but I don't know why. Sooner, not later, the balloon payment for all the gratitude we feel for our dog will come due. And there is no way to prepare for it, or to meet the balance due.


PLEASE VISIT ME AT http://www.bwknister.com/

Photo on <a href="https://visualhunt.com/photos/beach/">Visual hunt</a>

MY DOG AND BUDGET PSYCHOTHERAPY




MY DOG AND BUDGET PSYCHOTHERAPY

Ever heard of Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson? Back in the Eighties, he made a name for himself by claiming that Sigmund Freud might have suppressed key research findings, in order to preserve the intellectual purity of his theories.

That may explain why, in his book Dogs Never Lie about Love, Masson questions the supremacy of laboratory research as the way to knowledge. He does so by defending the value of personal, anecdotal evidence about dogs and their feelings:

“Since we can never know for certain what another person is feeling, anything we say about his inner world is, in a sense, pure speculation.” This being the case, Masson tells us, “Why should we not be permitted to similarly speculate about dogs? We watch their eyes and their ears and their tails, we listen for sounds.” Same with humans: we watch their faces, their eyes and mouths, listen for inflection in their voices, etc (p. xxii of the preface).

Those reading this don’t have to be told such things. We know it’s true as certainly as we know anything. Our dogs are not just humble beasts, not organic things among other organic things in the world, like tomatoes or worms. Our dogs are variations on personhood. They are sentient, perceptive beings who look straight at us, and do a remarkably good job of communicating without access to human speech.

What’s also true is that when I stop to reflect on how I respond to my dog, doing so opens a window on me, to me. I consider my border collie mix, Chelsea, to be something like a Freudian psychoanalyst.

I mean “talk” therapy, the kind in which the patient speaks freely, on whatever he chooses. In so doing he reveals information to a person trained to analyze what’s meant but is not being consciously presented in the patient’s monologue.

I talk quite a bit to my dog. This morning, I told her about a couple at dinner last night, people my wife Barbara and I have known for years, but only casually. Last night was different: they were part of a group that went to dinner, and my wife and I sat with them.

The following day, I found myself trashing these people to Chelsea. True, our exchange wasn’t exactly the same as it would be in a Freudian analyst's consulting room. I wasn’t lying down or sitting in an easy chair; my dog was doing the lying down, on an oriental rug. She’s blind in one eye, and when I looked at her, the good eye was trained exactly on me as I talked.

She didn’t understand me—not entirely--but she was listening. This fact caused me to stop and think, to analyze why I was going on in such a hostile way about this other couple.

And after I think about it some more, I’ll explain what I’ve come up with.
HERE'S THE BOOK


RETHINKING THE BABY SUBSTITUTE, PART TWO























RETHINKING THE BABY SUBSTITUTE, PART TWO

Today, we consider another of the myriad styles of married life reflected in the man/woman/dog connection.

If you are already married, the ideology of equality has long ago been dismissed as so much hokum. The various grievances large and small that so often lead to waywardness, and ultimately to bitter sessions in a law office are known to you. If they aren’t, and if you are not among the handful of couples blessed by the gods, then you probably live a life of quiet desperation, keeping the lid on to avoid alimony and child support. Even so, you almost certainly hold out hope for some magic elixir, some incantation that will make the road smoother.

You hope, in fact, for a dog mistress/lover.

And don’t forget: with dogs, there’s no need to sort out all the knotty “gender issues” so often coming into play these days. The life companion can be your sex or not, and there’s never any need to anguish over lifestyle options. Whether you are a hard-charging leader or fawning help meet, a dog can measure up.

So, again employing the marriage/extra-marital concept, what can we say about the couple pictured above? I am a dog person, and of course would be interested in what other dog nuts think. But people like us are pretty predictable in the unconditional nature of our love, so I am actually more interested in what non-dog-crazy persons think.

To get the ball rolling, my view is that the couple in the photo appears pretty much agreed on an open marriage of equals. They are together but free to pursue separate interests outside their marriage. The young man is texting, or picking lint out of his navel, maybe even meditating. Possibly, something has made him remember his 401k, or the size of the monthly interest nut he carries on his credit card. Understandably, this has made him for the moment oblivious to all else, including his companion.

The dog? As with his spouse we can’t be sure, but it’s evident he/she is nicely composed, even though interested in something off to the right. Almost certainly it’s another dog: this picture was taken at a Bark in the Park sponsored by the Humane Society of Naples, Florida.

 like the casual naturalness of the dog’s shoulders better than I do the more defeated quality of the man’s. It suggests a tolerant, patient kind of companion, the sort that gives you your space, isn’t too needy, isn’t always dropping balls or food bowls at your feet, demanding to be let in the bathroom when you’re taking a shower, etc.

I have more to say, but a person of interest has just entered my study. Seating herself before my desk, she begins working the magic of her one good eye. It’s noon, the eye says. Someone has to wear the watch in this family. Patiently she continues displaying the quiet confidence of one who knows who will win. The same one who always wins, who knows it’s just a matter of seconds before this particular spouse gets up and follows her out the door.
PLEASE VISIT ME AT 

Barry Knister: RETHINKING THE BABY SUBSTITUTE, PART ONE























RETHINKING THE BABY SUBSTITUTE, PART ONE

Today's post focuses on dog fanciers, and their object of interest. Or, as the FBI might say, their "person of interest."

Often, dogs and cats are thought of as baby substitutes. Those of us suffering from one or more of the diagnosed disorders related to dog obsession would be more comfortable with children classed as puppy substitutes, but we'll leave that alone. The writer wants to avoid a lot of harsh email from parents and grandparents.

What might serve everyone better is to dump the whole baby substitute idea and replace it with marriage. Or, better yet, with extra-marital relations. If you own a dog or cat, you can ponder this idea in terms of your own experience. If not, please consider me a fairly reliable source.

Honest people know the concept of 50/50 marriage is nonsense. It’s the sort of thing dreamed up by counselors, to encourage couples to believe that a few dozen extra sessions at two hundred dollars a pop will lead to a finely tuned, symmetrical equality.

We know better. For those without human mates, dogs can serve very well to solve the equality problem. For instance, if you are a passive person, a carefully chosen dog will provide the sort of strong leadership and authority your style of neurosis calls for.

And if you are a take-charge type, the dog—properly chosen by breed and appropriately trained—will serve in the role of docile, appreciative spouse. I mean the kind traditionalists grow wistful thinking about, with none of this 50/50 nonsense.

In the photo above, a woman is interacting with her companion in a certain way. Again, the concept of marriage, a contract between two people who choose to be connected in legal and other ways should be applied. It isn’t true, of course: the dog is not allowed to agree to or cancel the deal, so think instead of the arranged marriages still common in much of the non-Western world.

The dog, a Yorkshire terrier, is not a male, so this is a same-sex union, a common-law marriage involving a license, but with fewer of the cumbersome legal issues that figure in human-to-human arrangements.

Obviously, this duo can’t be called a union of equals. The dog is asserting her right to be “in your face” with her mistress (“mistress” in this instance being an obvious misnomer). Even so, the master/slave connection, usually thought of in terms of abusive men and denounced by feminists, is here being played out femo a femo.

In her human marriage, the woman is in fact a strong, assertive person. But with her Yorkie lover, we see her happy to drop the burdens of command. At last, she is free to give herself over to the guilty pleasures of the love slave.
PLEASE VISIT ME AT 

RETHINKING THE BABY SUBSTITUTE, PART ONE























RETHINKING THE BABY SUBSTITUTE, PART ONE

Today's post focuses on dog fanciers, and their object of interest. Or, as the FBI might say, their "person of interest."

Often, dogs and cats are thought of as baby substitutes. Those of us suffering from one or more of the diagnosed disorders related to dog obsession would be more comfortable with children classed as puppy substitutes, but we'll leave that alone. The writer wants to avoid a lot of harsh email from parents and grandparents.

What might serve everyone better is to dump the whole baby substitute idea and replace it with marriage. Or, better yet, with extra-marital relations. If you own a dog or cat, you can ponder this idea in terms of your own experience. If not, please consider me a fairly reliable source.

Honest people know the concept of 50/50 marriage is nonsense. It’s the sort of thing dreamed up by counselors, to encourage couples to believe that a few dozen extra sessions at two hundred dollars a pop will lead to a finely tuned, symmetrical equality.

We know better. For those without human mates, dogs can serve very well to solve the equality problem. For instance, if you are a passive person, a carefully chosen dog will provide the sort of strong leadership and authority your style of neurosis calls for.

And if you are a take-charge type, the dog—properly chosen by breed and appropriately trained—will serve in the role of docile, appreciative spouse. I mean the kind traditionalists grow wistful thinking about, with none of this 50/50 nonsense.

In the photo above, a woman is interacting with her companion in a certain way. Again, the concept of marriage, a contract between two people who choose to be connected in legal and other ways should be applied. It isn’t true, of course: the dog is not allowed to agree to or cancel the deal, so think instead of the arranged marriages still common in much of the non-Western world.

The dog, a Yorkshire terrier, is not a male, so this is a same-sex union, a common-law marriage involving a license, but with fewer of the cumbersome legal issues that figure in human-to-human arrangements.

Obviously, this duo can’t be called a union of equals. The dog is asserting her right to be “in your face” with her mistress (“mistress” in this instance being an obvious misnomer). Even so, the master/slave connection, usually thought of in terms of abusive men and denounced by feminists, is here being played out femo a femo.

In her human marriage, the woman is in fact a strong, assertive person. But with her Yorkie lover, we see her happy to drop the burdens of command. At last, she is free to give herself over to the guilty pleasures of the love slave.
PLEASE VISIT ME AT 

DOGSANON, A SUPPORT GROUP








      DOGSANON

During walks, is it possible that bending down to examine fecal matter from your pet, on a daily basis, is strange?

Instead of trying to fall asleep, do you lie awake watching and listening to your sleeping dog, to learn whether he or she is coming down with a bronchial infection?

When your dog hesitates to eat, do you wonder whether you’re offering enough variety? Could the problem be texture? Aroma? Could there be something off-putting about the presentation?

Hello! This is an invitation to join a new online support group for those suffering from Dog Dependency.

Problems stemming from DD are similar to those related to OCD. People afflicted with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are not able to leave the object of their obsession alone. With DD, the object—the dog—is in charge, not the person.

Does this idea speak to you?  You are not alone. You might also think of DD in terms of people who catch themselves organizing their afternoons around thoughts of Happy Hour. Is it a problem, they wonder, to be calling clients or tweaking the corporate website, and all the while hearing ice tinkling into a lowball glass?

Similarly, someone with DD sits working at her desk, hearing her dog starting to bark as she turns up the driveway, this followed by the dog going berserk on the other side of the door as she readies her key. 

When you see your dog staring at nothing, do you assume he or she is just experiencing a blank patch in the day? Or: could the vacant expression signal the onset of clinical depression? God forbid, could it be an early symptom of dementia?

Relax. The approach at DOGSANON is strictly supportive: You’re not wrong! Anyone who thinks you’re over the top about your dog is wrong! Anyone who questions your passion for your dog is wrong!

Come back, and bring your DD with you. We’ll tackle this thing together!

DOGS AND CULTURE WARS IN PARADISE

DOGS AND CULTURE WARS IN PARADISE This photo of two cocker spaniels makes me think of an old saying: "Let sleeping dogs lie.&qu...