I’ve never had a pet. I won a goldfish at the fair when I was four, and once I looked after the school gerbil for the holidays, but that’s my limit. As newlyweds, my parents had an English bull terrier who was essentially their first child, and who died horribly in a freak traffic accident. They adored him, and they were so devastated by his death that they flatly refused to consider getting another dog, no matter how my brother and I pleaded. At eighteen, I moved to London. After university we lived in a tiny attic flat and I got a job that required me to work ridiculous hours. It was a challenge to make time to eat, sleep and occasionally catch up with my husband. A pet would have been out of the question.
Fast-forward to 2015. I’m working on Cam and Mary’s story, and I’m in the first draft discovery phase. I’m letting the story unfold as it will and as I left for RWA, out of the blue my Girls (mustn’t call them Muses!) sent up a new, important secondary character. Let’s call him Starman, because that’s the placeholder name I gave him to begin with. Starman is English, in his late 20s, a fashion designer who’s been living and working in Switzerland with his older, richer (male) lover for the past six years. They have a terrible falling-out, and Starman finds himself back in London with no job, no money, nowhere to live and worst of all, he has to leave his dog behind.
Starman is shell-shocked at the break-up of his relationship and white-hot furious at being cut out of a business built on his talent and hard work, but he’s heart-broken about losing his dog.
I may have mentioned that I know nothing about dogs, but I’m sure some doggy love is what the story needs, and I want what I write to be credible to the many people who do have dogs. Here’s what I’m wrestling with right now:
What breed is Starman’s dog?
Starman is in the fashion business, and his lover is older, aristocratic and reserved. I don’t want the dog to be an uber-stylish fashionista dog like a Chihuahua or a poodle. I don’t want it to be a snobbish pedigree pooch either. I’d like it to be small(ish) and full of energy, a squirming, bouncing bundle of love and an emotional outlet for Starman. A dog that would launch itself at him, furry-missile style, if he’d been away for a few days.
I picked Kat’s brains briefly in NY, and she said (I think) maybe a Jack Russell? And Justine has a mini-Schnauzer puppy (check out Chewy here) who’s a total bundle of energy. Would he be right when he’s grown to about four or five years old?
Is it a dog or a bitch?
Apart from the obvious difference, is it important?
Why did Starman have to leave his dog behind?
Starman adores his dog, and there’s no way he’d have left without his dog if he had a choice about it. So what happened? I know dogs can travel with their owners, provided they have a passport, microchip, and vaccinations. Would it work if Starman isn’t the legal owner of the dog? If the dog was originally a gift from the lover, perhaps the lover would be listed on the paperwork as the owner? Then Starman would have assumed he could take his dog with him, only to discover at the last minute that he didn’t have the right to do so?
What does he especially miss?
Would his dog have sat on his feet while he worked?
Would the dog have chewed Starman’s shoes given half a chance, or shed hairs on all his clothes?
Would Starman have allowed the dog on his bed, or is that not a good thing to do?
Starman misses his dog terribly. How would he behave?
I think he’d carry a photo of his dog with him in his wallet. Maybe keep the name-tag from the dog’s collar on his key-ring?
I don’t think he’d bottle it up. I think he’d talk about his dog to any and all other dog-lovers.
I wonder if he’d go for a walk in the park every morning, just to be around other dogs and their owners?
How would he feel if he sees an owner with the same breed as his missing dog? Would he talk to the owner and ask if he could pet the dog, or would that be too painful?
I can find plenty of dog training books and videos, but they don’t give the insights I’m looking for – the many tiny emotional details that demonstrate a strong, loving bond between owner and pet.
If you have any comments or insights, on the questions I’ve raised above or on the ones I should have raised, I’d appreciate your help.