Patience may be a virtue, but….

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It was nearing dinnertime, at least for our Labrador. Hubby and I wanted to get the Christmas tree up first, so we ignored the blatant hints. Tynan’s a patient dog and finally lay down to wait.

 

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That was hard to ignore! As soon as the tree was secure and before any decorating was begun, his patience was rewarded with his nightly bowl of kibble. Afterwards, in the first bin of ornaments, a bag of old Christmas dog toys was unearthed and he was ecstatic. Dinner and long lost stuffies! Life was good.

Patience may be considered a virtue, but passive patience doesn’t achieve much.  It needs to be accompanied by some kind of purposeful action. If Tynan had settled into an unobtrusive corner to wait, he might be waiting still. Instead, while he didn’t beg, agitate or annoy, he made his presence something we couldn’t ignore for very long. He was just too appealing.

We aspiring authors could learn a lesson from him.

What do you do while you wait for a response to your query letters or submissions?

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The example of a dog’s devotion

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Fencing is happening around here this month – the backyard kind with boards, not the kind with swords. When we first moved here we realized fencing the entire acreage was not an option, so we had a 30’ x 50’ dog yard created at one side of the house to contain the canine horde of the day, three Shelties and one Labrador.

Fifteen years later posts are rotting and panels are wobbly. Since we can’t manage without a secure fence, Dear Hubby has started replacing it, one section at a time. It’s a slow process, but he putters at it whenever he has an hour or two to spare. As you can see, he has a faithful companion. Our current Labrador, Tynan, loves to snooze on a comfortable carpet indoors as much as any dog, but when his best human friend is outside, rough uneven gravel in the construction zone is an acceptable alternative as long as his friend is near.

Of all the dogs we’ve owned through the decades, this is the only one that has claimed DH as his own. Tynan follows him everywhere. He’s right on his heels going down the hall, or curled up under the desk, even laying outside the bathroom door, or sleeping cuddled against feet during TV viewing in the family room, and, of course, leaping alongside when the leash is produced for a walk or the opportunity for a ride in the car. There’s no question about it… he loves his master. They’re inseparable.

It brings to mind the question of our relationship with our Master. How often do we stray out of His sight… wander in search of passing interests that take us out of touch with God? Those are the times we abandon the security of following in His footsteps, miss being close enough to discern His help and guidance when it’s given.

If distance has developed, we know it isn’t God who has moved away! The onus is on us to encircle our lives with a protective fence of prayer and study and meditation that will strengthen our devotion and discipleship, and keep us close to the Master at all times – within arm’s reach when a little heavenly reassurance is needed.

We joke about a dog’s life, but dogs can teach us a lot about devotion.

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The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
[Psalm 145:18]
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
[Isaiah 55:6]

 

Reaching, Stretching… Beyond the Limits of Our Comfort Zone

Zeke

Today I’m introducing Zeke, the one feline in the family that has escaped my camera until recently.  Whenever we would visit she (yes, Zeke is female) put herself into hiding. She managed very well in her slightly chaotic household until additional people and another canine upset her norm.

It wasn’t until our last visit that she allowed me to photograph her with glass doors safely between us.

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Then, on the last morning, as we were readying to leave, Zeke spied something that brought her out of hiding despite the turmoil of our impending departure. I still don’t know what it was on that hall table that enticed her out of her comfort zone, but she wanted it enough to ignore all of us and the camera. She stretched up and hovered there, examining new heights.

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She reminded me of our other family’s youngest canine, Cooper, who wondered for weeks why the Labradors often stood peering at a sheet of glass in the living room.

Then one day he ventured to leave the comfort of his four-on-the-floor existence and stretch up to discover a fascinating new world to watch beyond the window.

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I think Zeke and Cooper have something to teach us as writers.

Does our best writing come from the safe confines of the familiar? Or might there be new worlds waiting for us if we will but stretch beyond the limits of our comfort zone?

Photo Memories of a Special Companion

In Thursday’s comments I promised a few more pictures of Ebby.

Now that I am better able to look through her photos without teary eyes, I notice something. From the very beginning she was a “people dog”.  There are very few pictures of her alone, except when the person accompanying her took the photo. Ebby was devoted to our daughter, Heather, and went with her everywhere. In later years she adopted Heather’s husband, and as each of their children arrived Ebby’s devotion didn’t shift, it just expanded to include them. No matter where they were, Ebby was always within arm’s reach.

If she wasn’t giving the tiniest of permissible kisses,

she was receiving them.

If she wasn’t snuggled up to them,

they were cuddling her.

I suppose that’s part of why we miss her so much. She wasn’t just a dog, she was a constant companion. She loved as only a special friend can… unconditionally… and asked nothing in return except the joy of being near her family.

Where did those twelve precious years go?

Nine weeks old

Twelve years old

“Just a Dog”

People might say she was “just a dog”, but in our family that phrase raises people hackles.  To all of us she was so much more.  Today our family circle is suddenly smaller by one and we are bereft.

Enjoy romping with all your Sheltie pals from years gone by,

dear old friend.

"Ebby"

CAREANN’S EBONY OF CEDARWOOD, C.D., C.G.C.

December 10, 1998 – March 4, 2010

Co-owners: Heather J. (Garvin) Wik and Carol J. Garvin

The Canine Crowd

Tynan

Ebony

I was asked about the various pet members in our extended family. I don’t seem to have a picture of our son’s cat, but here are all the others:

  • three Labrador Retrievers
  • a Brittany Spaniel
  • an Australian Shepherd puppy

Cooper

Java

Mac

There’s always a little canine chaos when any of them get together — running, cavorting, playing with each other’s toys (yes, they all have lots of toys; some of them even know how to put their toys away when asked), and eventually collapsing into various corners of the room when their energy runs out. (Check out the picture of one of their ‘collapsed’ moments in this earlier post.)

Right now “Ebby” is the distinguished one in the crowd — a venerable twelve years old and holder of both an obedience trial C.D. degree and a ‘Canine Good Citizen’ title. “Java” is the only chocolate among the Labs and is the only one who coexists with a feline friend. “Mac” gets to go jogging most days with his mistress, often along the ocean shore. You don’t want to know about his fascination with starfish! “Cooper” is the newest member of the clan… barely five months old and already intimidating the other dogs with his penetrating crystal blue eyes. And our “Tynan”, well, I’ve mentioned him before… alternately a gazelle and a couch potato, always a helpful companion, and an avid swimmer just like “Mac”.

That’s all of them… for now. I keep telling my DH that I miss the Shelties we had for 35 years, but he keeps saying that “one is enough” at this point in our lives. We’ll see.

Portraying Pets With Personality

Have you ever considered that animals have personalities?

We’re on the move this week, visiting some of our family in BC’s Okanagan and Kootenays. All our families include dogs (although there is one cat among the canine crowd), and all of them get along well with each other. They may not tolerate the intrusion of a neighbour’s dog but a family member’s is welcomed with enthusiasm, and remembered by name between visits. It’s as though they understand they’re part of an extended family.

Each one has its distinct characteristics and that started me thinking about how we depict pets in our novels. Unless the story focuses on an animal, such as in Marley and Me, it seems like they are a presence without personality. They exist for the children to play with, as company for the protagonist, or as a threat to the antagonist. They’re just there. They are little more than “set dec”.

What a missed opportunity! Different breeds have different characteristics and the canny writer will research these and choose one that fits the character’s lifestyle, or create tension with one that is totally unsuitable. Just as a healthy plant enhances the hominess of a living room, so the right pet can complement a scene, offer comic relief or perhaps help reveal character flaws.

Have you included pets in your stories? What purpose have they served? Consider doing a short writing exercise that features an in-depth look at your favourite animal.

Everyone Can Use a Bit of Help Once in a While

SnowDamageLast winter’s snowstorms played havoc with several of our garden shrubs. In the spring we cleared away broken branches and propped up damaged ones, and now that fall is under way we’re finally finishing the last of the pruning.

Help1It’s a big job but my DH does most of it on his own… except for some unsolicited help with the cleanup.

Our Lab’s assistance is given with enthusiasm. He grabs an available branch and joyfully races through the yard with it, discarding it in the allotted location, only to tear back for another one. The job gives him such pleasure!

Help2

There’s a lesson to be learned here. Human nature being what it is, we hate to admit we need help and are often reluctant to accept any. By refusing an offer of assistance, however, we deprive the other person of a gift – the gift of giving.

Allowing someone the opportunity to provide a service blesses him with a sense of usefulness, of purpose and participation. There is joy in giving just as there is in receiving.

Everyone needs a hand once in a while. As a writer, in what areas could you use a little help and who might benefit from being asked? Conversely, taking into account your level of writing expertise, how might you “pay it forward” to help other writers?

Boundless (Bouncing) Joy!

I say it frequently — “such boundless joy” — but that’s not totally accurate. What I should say is, “such bounding joy” or maybe, “such bouncing joy.” Our Labrador Retriever morphs into a gazelle the instant we ask if he’d like to go for a walk.

HappyTynan

“Go? Really? Oh, bliss! Oh, rapture! Oh, yesssss!” To use a cliché, he’s beside himself with joy. In fact, in multiple leaps he’s alternately beside me, my husband, the door and all over the room during his ecstasy of anticipation.

I could use a little of his energy and enthusiasm today. Now that September is past its mid point I’m beginning to recognize that it’s time to put summer’s leisurely pace aside. My mind agrees but my body is oh so reluctant. This has been such a happy summer and I’m not ready to let it slip away quite yet.

But wait! Autumn doesn’t officially arrive until next week. Ah, wonderful procrastination. It’s time to head out into the almost-autumn sunshine for that walk.

I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

[Habakkuk 3:18]