“C’mon, Max. Time for a walk!”
“Max! Max! I’m not Max, Missy! I’m Wilbur your pet dog. The one you took in from the cold almost eight years ago. The one who has stayed by your side, loyally, and has supported you through your ten break ups, fights with your mum, job losses, and the one who puts up with listening to your current work in progress, or WIP as you writers call it, for the one hundredth time! And to set the record straight, it is lousy and badly written but have I ever hurt your feelings by telling you so, have I?
So, why are you insulting me by calling me Max? Helloooooo! Max is your protagonist, an imaginary figure you give life to through your writing. Wilbur, i.e. me, is your dog. A real live creature who gives you life through its undying loyalty, even when those reading groups of yours come to tea to discuss your latest WIP – a romance of all things. The one you read aloud almost every second of the day.
Have I ever told you that sloppy romances are NOT my thing as in the dog world things aren’t that complicated? Can’t you just write that the hero loved the way the heroine smelt, got on with it and after a few minutes of delight, it was back to normal business? But no, you and your girlfriends want the works! You want the candlelit dinners, the passionate lines and the great hook at the end of every chapter to make your book a page turner. Why a page turner, when most books end up as doormats anyway? And what’s all this reference to books as being ‘dog eared’? What’s wrong with our ears?
And why are you reading the manuscript to me when you don’t take my opinions into account? When I wag my tail it means ‘pathetic line’, drooping my ears means ‘even more pathetic line’, salivating means ‘make the scene hotter’, one bark ‘good attempt’, two barks ‘ POV has been mixed up’, three barks ‘ where’s my dinner?’ Going into hiding means LEAVE ME ALONE! I’m a dog, not a sounding board!
Have I ever told you that you are not only killing me every time you read that boring WIP to me but also the environment with all the printing up of your draft copies you do! And how many draft copies do you need! Keep the sloppy story simple, a few sentences, tiny dialogue, and hot scenes and get on with it. What is it with you and your elaborating? Why are you bothering with it when you end up cutting it all out? Why are you bothering all those lovely people on forums with silly questions concerning commas and word lengths?
How many times have I told you to make life easy – rewrite Austen in your own words? Plot and characters ready, what is all the fuss about? What’s all this about being unique, a classic, a new voice? The classics are still selling well, in universities, stacked on library shelves and read in formal reading groups – copy them and leave me alone!
All this support from me for a few lousy dog crackers, a short walk and you dare humiliate me by calling me MAX? I should have you reported to the RSPCA! Cruel woman. A warm bed and thirty minute walk will get you nowhere! Nor will your allowing me on your sofa, bed and in the kitchen. And I don’t give a woof if you shampoo me with Baby Shampoo; I end up smelling like a pansy anyway.”
“Sorry, Wilbur. I’m so tired after all this writing. C’mon love, let’s go get some fresh air. The park should be quiet now. Maybe we can sit by the lake and you can run around a bit. Here, I’ve got your favourite biscuit. There’s a boy. God, I love you to bits. What would I do without you?”
“Probably commit suicide. Oh, you lovely woman. Yes, these dog biscuits are my favourite – pork and chicken. Wonderful, crunchy, fulfilling. Ah, just you and me. Quality time. No girlfriends, boyfriend, children. Just you and me and lots of love.”
“One moment, I forgot something. Back in a minute.”
“Oh, probably a ball or umbrella. Maybe her purse.”
“There. I may as well read this in the park. It’s the final draft of chapter one.”
“WHAT? No way! I am not going anywhere! I am staying here. Not budging! That’s it! Relationship over! I demand you take me to the dog pound where a really loving person, one that has a normal day job, one that doesn’t write will love me and me only! Boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, children, rejection slips I can deal with but not chapters and drafts especially during our time!”
“Wilbur. What is the matter with you? Get moving! I don’t have all day, you know. C’mon boy!”
“No! I am not going anywhere with that pile of slush in your hands. It’s either me or the slush. Your choice. Stop dragging me. It hurts. I’m not going anywhere! Oh, yeah, got me out have you? Well, goodbye, Missy! Thanks for nothing!”
“Wilbur! Where are you going? Swear to God, I’m going to kill that mutt one day. Crap! Have to get those damn ‘Lost Dog’ flyers out again. What is it with that schizophrenic of a dog? What is it with my life? Can’t write, can’t get an agent to read my previous work, chapters one and two need to be rewritten, tired, boring day job and a psycho mutt on top of it all!”
“I’m off, fair lady. And just for the record I’m the one that trampled all over the keyboard and deleted your last edit, the brown rings on page 254 of your final copy of novel number one aren’t tea stains. They’re my pee! And your external hard disc with all your back ups is in the washing machine! Good luck finding it!”
“God! I’m exhausted. Oh, well, Chapter One, let’s go to the park.”
Three long rainy nights later.
“It’s me! Wonderful Wilbur! Woof! Woof! I’m back. C’mon open the door, my nails are about to fall apart after all this scratching. I’ve thought about it and am willing to put up with the Baby Shampoo and being your sounding board. Taking drafts on walks, we’ll have to discuss.”
“Crickey, Wilbur! It’s three in the morning! Where have you been and look at the state you’re in – what a mess! Quick, get into the bath. I swear, if dog psychiatric hospitals existed, you’d be on the A list of patients.”
“Oh, hi Daniel. Don’t mind me, I’m just the mutt that’s been dragged in from the cold. How are you getting on with Missy, here. How’s your WIP coming along. What do you call it? Non – fiction. Why don’t you just call it ‘facts’? ”
“Why, Wilbur! Good to see you mate. What a clever dog you are, finding your way home. Don’t know how you do it all the time.”
“Yeah, those flyers are useless, you dumb clout. We dogs have great instinct.”
“Must be in your genes. I mean cross over German Shepherd, Labrador, Terrier and Mutt.”
“Hey, that’s personal information. I would sue you for invasion of privacy, if I were human.”
“What a great combination. You’re running off for days and getting back with no signs of being hurt. Mmmm, what a great story that’ll make. Elizabeth, where’s your pad and pen.”
“Oh, great, now Missy’s lover boy is going to write about me. Hey, I’m going to be famous, rich, on TV even. Lassie and Scooby Doo, move over! Wilbur the Wonder dog is in town! Now, Daniel, my fine friend, let me start by telling you all about my great, great grandfather. The greatest Shepherd’s dog ...”
* * *
Thank you Catherine for sharing Wilbur's tale, rather than tail with us, translating it from canine into human language, and also for being honest enough to include his complaints.
Catherine Zgouras is an ELT teacher, trainer and owner of Zgouras Foreign Language School in Patras, Greece.She has eight ELT stories for children coming out in December under Compass Publishing and is currently working on course books for junior ELT for a major publisher.She also writes fiction for adults which will be coming out in anthologies this winter and children's fiction.She doesn't have a dog because she was devastated when Omar, her mutt, died a few years ago but has a Canary called Eugene, who thinks he is a soprano.