I’m working on my dissertation for my MSc in Creative Writing. It’s a novella called “The Days of the Flood”, and it’s about a division of a company that gets flooded as a corporate disciplinary measure. Don’t worry, nobody’s died or anything.
There’s a dog in the office. His name is Sterlington. He’s a golden lab (those exist, right?) and he is afraid of the water.
Now, the problem is that I’ve never actually met a dog.
I mean, I’ve seen dogs in parks. I’ve petted a great number of them. One time, at my boyfriend’s house, I played with his uncle’s dog for 20 minutes. But I’ve never owned a dog, or spent an extended period with one, or had any actual emotional connection with one. So all I have to go by is shared cultural knowledge of what dogs are supposed to be like.
Sterlington whined in the corner, his blonde hair sticking up on his head.
My dog, apparently, is just like a human. I feel like that’s a cheat, like I’m not actually addressing the issue of not knowing dogs by anthropomorphising him. But people treat their dogs like other people sometimes, don’t they?
My main character, Rose, works in a small office with her colleague Siobhan. Sterlington is Siobhan’s dog. They don’t really know each other that well, Siobhan and Rose, because Siobhan normally tends to work “in the field” (whatever that means).
When I spoke to my dissertation supervisor about the story idea, he felt that Rose might use Sterlington as a means of getting to know Siobhan a little bit more. The social conventions of personal space seem to disappear when it comes to dogs; I know I’ve certainly touched many a stranger’s dog, after asking permission and cooing from a distance for an appropriate amount of time.
Sterlington looked heavy, but Siobhan’s face didn’t betray any signs of strain.
That’s what love looks like, Rose thought.
But how do you become friends with an acquaintance’s dog? It’s not like you can build up a set of in-jokes with him, or develop a special handshake. I want Rose to become friends with Sterlington as a way of becoming friends with Siobhan; Sterlington could act as a neutral zone, a common interest. But without ever really having met a dog, this is proving to be a bit more difficult that I had anticipated.
I mean, most of my second-hand experience comes from watching “7th Heaven” in the early 2000s and seeing Happy, a long-haired friendly terrier mix, and Simon, a blonde boy with a Nick Carter bowl cut, become THE BEST OF FRIENDS. How? Simon feeds her. Could Rose feed Sterlington? He might have special dietary restrictions that she doesn’t know about.
Simon plays with Happy. They could play fetch in the office, I guess, but he’s afraid of the water, and she can’t reason with him, because he’s a dog.
Maybe she could get him a toy? What toys do dogs have? (I feel like I’m going to jump down a Google rabbit hole this afternoon…)
I think I’ll just have to watch more films about dogs, and talk to people who have dogs, and maybe meet another dog or two. For research.