Where Readers & Writers Connect
Oh, I’ve been asked that question countless times . . . and I always give the same answer, basically something like this:
“It is a running joke in our family that we just know what a dachshund is thinking by its facial expression and body language. My late father used to tell us what our dachshunds were thinking, and I believe I have inherited that ‘gene’ for doing so. All of this is tongue in cheek, of course—and it makes for many a laugh around our house.”
For example, I watch my dachshund Duke closely if I think he’s up to something. If he’s looking at one of us imploringly, it can mean: (1) he wants to go out; (2) he’s hungry; (3) he wants us to play with him. So I interpret his wishes for my husband: “Daddy, I wish you’d put down that newspaper and throw my ball for me. Mama has been at the computer all day, ignoring me. I need to have some fun around here, you know!” Voila—Duke’s thoughts. It’s not necessarily a talent (maybe even a bit silly to those who are not dog lovers), but we all get a good chuckle out of my interpretations.
In addition, Duke, like most dogs, exhibits traits quite similar to humans. Here are some actual examples of his “people-like” traits:
1) he often tries to annoy Shadow by taking a squeak toy and running with it, growling: “C’mon, boy! See if you can take this away from me!” Duke even flaunts the toy in Shadow’s face, daring him to take it. (Note: Shadow thinks all toys are his).
2) He talks back by barking at me when I tell him he can’t do something (like get on my lap when I’m drinking hot coffee). He also knows when we are making fun of him, and he doesn’t like that, either!
3) He is loving by giving doggie kisses and wanting to be close.
4) But perhaps one of the most endearing traits I’ve found is his playfulness; Duke is downright comical! He has a strong sense of play, including his human companions whenever possible. One night, six of us—four adults and two young children, were flying paper airplanes around the living room, and Duke joined right in, jumping up and trying to snatch one out of the air. He finally succeeded, then ran into another room with it, much to the delight of the grandchildren. He likes to grab balloons when we are batting them around in the air, too, but doesn’t care too much for the noise they make when his sharp teeth cause them to pop.
There are two dachshunds in our family right now: Shadow, our “granddawg,” who belongs to our daughter and son-in-law, and Duke. For the uninitiated, dachshunds can display a myriad of facial expressions and body language—and I proclaim that dogs can smile! When unhappy, Duke’s ears practically drag the floor, along with a somber face and sad eyes (and he knows what he is doing). Shadow soulfully looks up at any human who happens to be eating, imploring with those brown eyes: ”Puleeze give me some.” Duke, on the other hand, doesn’t merely look sad—he would join the food on the plate if he could reach it. He once snatched my piece of toast off my plate—and it was on the kitchen counter, so don’t let those short dachshund legs fool you. Chow hounds extraordinaire, dachshunds have one of the strongest senses of smell in the canine world, according to The American Kennel Club, so food is exceptionally enticing to their noses. Therefore, I also write about food a lot: how it smells, its consistency, and how it tastes, all in great detail, as I imagine that our doxies would do if they could write.
A particularly endearing trait of dogs is their concern for someone who is sick or upset. If one of the grandchildren is crying, both Duke and Shadow want to comfort by giving doggie kisses and lying next to the child. After my week-long stay in the hospital a couple of years ago, Duke stayed right by my side while I recuperated. I appreciate how well he took care of me! I know he would have made me a cup of hot tea if he could have done so, too. I have incorporated that caring attitude into my books, as Shadow (known as Sarge in my books) often relates his feelings about some happening in particular.
My other reasons (besides the “gene” thing) for writing from the dog’s viewpoint are:
1) I enjoy imagining how day-to-day happenings must appear to the family dog;
2) I can shift reality to share with readers what dogs think about life situations;
3) I have a zany sense of humor (my family can attest to that), and can use such humor when incorporating it into the dog’s viewpoint;
4) I love and appreciate dogs as man’s best friend. They show us unconditional love, like God has for us. Papa Duke, one of the characters in THE DACHSHUND ESCAPADES series, so aptly states my feelings about dogs:
“A dawg loves you no matter what. You can be ugly, old, even dumb–but a dawg don’t care. All he wants is your love and some food now and then. I think dawgs represent the unconditional love God has for us–maybe that’s why He created them, to show that to us.”
Papa Duke was my late father, who loved dogs tremendously—and they returned the favor. He was always called “Papa” by his grandchildren, and in my books, he lives on, just like he does in our hearts.
For those of us who love our dogs, my doggie stories give us a glimpse into our dogs’ views on life. Oh, they’re not Shakespeare, but they read just fine for us dog lovers. Or so I’m told.
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In her 21-year career as an English teacher, Mavis Duke Hinton now teaches English online to students across the USA and several foreign countries. She grew up in a military family and lived abroad in Europe during her childhood. She has also been an editor for Christian and secular organizations, including Liberty University, as well as a police officer. She has taught Bible studies to all ages, from preschool children to adult women, and has spoken in educational conferences as well as women’s groups from time to time. Married for forty-one years with two married daughters and three grandchildren, she has written two Christian fiction novels in THE DACHSHUND ESCAPADES series, I AM SARGE and I AM DACHSUND, both published by OakTara.