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Many people get dogs, especially German Shephards like Cassie, because they want protection. They want a big dog bark when someone comes to the door or they want to know that when they go walking late at night no one is going to bother them. A lot of people attend special training with their dogs to bring out those protective instincts or even send them away to special "guard dog" school. I've always been of the mind that if you train your dog with love, that dog will love you right back and will instinctively learn when you need protecting.

Cassie is spoiled rotten. Some might say that removes her need to guard and protect. She is also a huge people person and loves nothing more than having someone come to visit so she can jump up and down for nose tackles and butt scratches and do the wiggle worm dance. When the doorbell rings and it is someone she knows on the other side, it's like watching a comedy show. She KNOWS she is supposed to go to her rug where she can see the front door but I have enough room to open the door and let the person in before she says hello. She does it, reluctantly, sitting on her rug, wiggling in place, with that little high pitched welcoming sound she makes that gets faster and faster until I release her to say hello.

But when someone comes to the door that she doesn't know, it's different. Before I even open the door she knows there is a stranger there. She barks a lower bark, not alarm bark yet but one that tells me to come check this out. She waits on her rug without wiggling or whining, watching while I open the door. I haven't trained her to do anything but go to her rug when the doorbell rings. The distinctions are hers alone. And I have not trained her to do anything if I were to open the door to a threat but I have no doubt that if I reacted afraid of what was on the other side, she would do something to protect me.

I can fool myself and say that my backyard is for wildlife but really, it's for Cassie. The birds and other critters can do what they want in the front yard but out back Cassie rules and she decides who gets to hang around. Birds and bees and butterflies are all welcome as long as they don't mind her nosing around. The doves can hang out on the log while she is napping, working on her suntan. Even the squirrels are tolerated with little concern. But of late in the evenings around 9pm, there has been a possum popping up over the fence in the corner of the yard. Cassie has charged the fence again and again telling the possum it is not welcome here. On Monday for some reason the possum decided to come out in the daytime. Cassie was in the house but she charged the patio door with an alarm bark so loud I expected to see a hoard of masked criminals with guns waiting under the maple tree.

But no, what I saw was this.

Cassie was doing her job. Her front hackles were raised and she kept moving closer and closer to the fence until I was afraid she was going to jump up and try to do something to the possum. And then I worried what the possum might do to her. I know possums like to play dead but it was unusual for this one to be out in the daytime. I called Cassie off and she returned to my side, reluctantly, while the possum paced back and forth on the fence. When I caught a picture of the possum going in the other direction, I understood. She had something to protect too.

Cassie's job, trained or not, is to make me happy and to protect me. She fulfills both of those jobs wonderfully well.

My job is to write. I have never been formally trained in it (save a few conference classes) but I come to it instinctively, knowing it is what I am meant to do with my life. To tell stories that cut to the heart with emotional honesty. 

Over the years things have happened to make me wonder if I should keep on writing or just give it up. This isn't a plea for sympathy because we have all been there at one time or another. Sometimes a bad critique has made me forget anything good anyone has ever said about my writing. Sometimes someone who supposedly loved me has said something so cutting that I wondered what made me ever think I could write at all. Sometimes it was just the act of getting one more rejection on something that felt so close that made me, for just a moment, wonder if I was doing the right thing with my life. I have had times where I told myself to just go ahead, to just quit and make a new life that meant doing other things, things that were not writing. And whenever I do this I get the biggest pain in my gut and I want to hide in a corner, curled in a ball and just sob.

Because I know I can't quit.

Sometimes I greet writing like an old friend coming to visit. I get so excited that I am dancing in my seat and ready to do a few nose tackles of my own. Sometimes the writing is like a stranger come to call, one I don't know well enough to understand if he is friend or foe until we have wrestled for a while. There are times when writing is so hard that I just sit at my desk and want to cry because toothpicks under my fingernails would hurt less than what I am trying to do and yet . . . and yet, there are times when writing is so easy that I forget it is my job, my business, my only livelihood.

If you are meant to write, if you feel that calling in your bones to tell stories, don't let anyone scare you away from your dream. You will have good days and bad days. You will have sales and rejections. You will have times when you are prolific and times when you are blocked. But if you want to write, then write.

Love the writing, love the work. Then protect what you love.

There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 28 comments — Leave comment )
May 20th, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC)
I love your OF DOG AND WRITING posts.

I would have worried about rabies. We have had a problem with raccoons wandering around during the day, and they have been rabid... good girl Cassie! and I am glad she didn't get hurt.
May 20th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I am really enjoying writing them and finding the connections.

Yes, I would worry about rabies here too! I'm glad she came back when I called her off because I think she was close to launching herself.
May 20th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
Love the writing, love the work. Then protect what you love.
Thanks for the reminder.

May 20th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Love the writing, love the work. Then protect what you love.
You're welcome, Jo.

I needed to remind myself.
May 20th, 2009 08:15 pm (UTC)
I really needed to read these wise words, Susan. Thank you.

(And those are great action shots!) :)
May 20th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. I got a much needed reminder myself.

And thanks on the pics.
May 20th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
I enjoy reading your blog and keeping up with you, but I must admit, your Of Dogs and Writing posts are my very favorite! xoxo
May 20th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks, Debbi! They are my favorites to do, too.
May 20th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
Love this series!

May 20th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
May 20th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
Susan, I love the story, love the picture, love the dog.

And I know, in my bones, you are a writer. No doubt. And I know how hard that can sometimes be.
May 20th, 2009 08:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jeannine.

We all struggle from time to time but luckily we have friends to rally around us in support.
May 20th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
These are the BEST posts! I hope you are saving these (on real paper and all).
May 20th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Barb. And yes, I am. I hope to be able to deepen them and do something with them someday.
May 20th, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC)
"Sometimes I greet writing like an old friend coming to visit."

SOOOO true!
May 20th, 2009 11:07 pm (UTC)
And treat those nay-sayers like Cassie treats that icky-icky possum. (Thanks SO much for the pic--I hate those things!)

And may I say, as someone who (working for my folks) saw WAY too many people getting dogs for WAY too many bad reasons, I love you and Cassie!
May 20th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
The thing about crowding sixty is my realization that I'm probably a failure in most eyes, that for all my passion I'm not very good at writing. I certainly learned at a criminally late age what others get decades earlier.

But I can't not, so I go back to my teenage defense, when asked, "Why do you waste time on that scribbling?"

"Hey. Cheap hobby."
May 21st, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
Yeah, that's the thing, isn't it? We can't not.

You touch a lot of lives. Not just with your books and stories but also with your blog and the way you create conversations that get people not only talking, but thinking and that's always a good thing.

Eyes that see that as a failure are blind.
May 21st, 2009 01:39 am (UTC)
Alas that those eyes belong to editors! *g*

Well, thank you for a thought provoking post, and images of a loving dog--two pluses!
May 21st, 2009 01:03 am (UTC)
Great wisdom.

And I guess, like dogs, all of us writers have our own way of doing things.

My very (not) protective golden, Gypsy, watched a groundhog waddle across in front of her and into our garage. Two hours later, Gypsy decided it was safe enough to start barking out a warning about the evil groundhog invader.
May 21st, 2009 01:31 am (UTC)
Thanks and funny story about Gypsy. I love all the variety of dog personalities.
May 21st, 2009 03:43 am (UTC)
I think OF DOGS AND WRITING is a manuscript. You might want to lock them.

May 21st, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)
Thanks for the vote of confidence. I would like to think so but even if I lock them now they are all out in the Googlefield.

Plus I remember my adult agent telling me that everything thinks they have a writing book in them....

Shoot...such a hard call.
May 21st, 2009 05:27 am (UTC)
Great posts and love the photos!
May 23rd, 2009 12:09 am (UTC)
Thanks Lorraine!
May 21st, 2009 10:35 pm (UTC)
Protect what you love - yes.

Hi to the possum and baby!

P.S. I posted Poetry Friday early:
May 22nd, 2009 03:14 am (UTC)
So, the little list says you're our host for Poetry Friday this week. And I'm for bed, and maybe not around in the morning (we'll see). So here's my link, okay? http://kellyrfineman.livejournal.com/427330.html
May 27th, 2009 10:31 am (UTC)
"Sometimes someone who supposedly loved me has said something so cutting that I wondered what made me ever think I could write at all."

This reminded me of a recent conversation about editors, mentors, and the people we desire to satisfy, if not impress. I spoke of an old friend who knows my writing. She doesn't know *writing* inasmuch as she isn't well-read or a writer herself. She simply knows my writing.

There's something terrifying about having an avid reader of comic books point to the very spot on a page where I'd lost interest in what I was saying. Her hard-lemonade and ripped jeans reality always found a way to make my words seem overdressed and tacky.

When she told me I was fooling myself to think I knew anything about life or writing, it cut deeply and ached like a bruised bone.

The day I found the grace to understand why she said what she did and accept the applicable parts, I found that words began to flow more easily. Perhaps she knew what would happen all along?
( 28 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."
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