Now I have you.
Cute baby animals are a guaranteed attention grabber, especially if they’re in danger.
“Don’t play with me,” you say. “Are there really baby animals in danger?”
No. Not in this blog post. But yes. Just ask the Animal Cops.
I’m not allowed to pick TV shows in my household anymore. My privileges were removed due to poor choices. I was just watching Animal Cops and Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making the Team. Every movie I selected was so bad, it was almost good, like Rhinestone Cowboy. No one was happy with my viewing selections, not even me. So, for the benefit of myself and mankind, I released the remote.
I couldn’t help it – Animal Cops had me hooked. I’d keep it playing in the background all day, every day. Will that dog be ok? How about the pig with the limp? The cat in the bottom of the well? And look how cute that stray dog is now! It’s the hardluck stories turned happy ending that kept me coming back for more. I love a happy ending.
A few weeks ago, my friend Emily Carter rescued a young cat on the Atlantic Beach bridge. Perhaps the cat wandered up there on its own. More likely, it was left on purpose. I went all Animal Cops on her and demanded to see an “after” picture of the happy cat. Now I want weekly updates on its condition, with a video of it smiling and enjoying its new life.
I have lived with pets my entire life up to this point – mostly dogs. Here are their names in chronological order; omitting any animals smaller than a rabbit (sorry, Dish the hamster):
Misty, Sprite, Max, Bracken, Mattie, Mutley, Trixie, Squirrely, Poo-Bunny, Sunni, Dixie, Triton, Sebastian, Honey.
But I haven’t had a pet in six years, unless you count some hermit crabs and tadpoles. And those didn’t end well. We want a dog, soon. Life is not complete without one.
Sean of the South wrote recently about how everyone talks to you when you have dog. He’s right.
I’ve been typing this at a coffee shop, where an elderly couple have been sitting beside me, enjoying caffeine, conversation, and overpriced pastries. I’ve barely noticed them. When I’m writing, the world around is only tiny specks flitting at the corners of my vision, like those floaters in my vitreous humor. Still, I thought I saw a teddy bear walk by.
As the couple left, there it was in full view – a shaggy Lhasa Apso, a toy breed made of more fur than dog. It had been silently sleeping on the floor the whole time.
I baby-talked the dog, and it’s owner lit up. “Isn’t she just the most well behaved thing? We got her as a rescue; she was used for breeding. She hadn’t been socialized at all, and now I take her everywhere with me – to the store, in the car, around people, and she’s so good!”
“Lucky lady,” I said, of the dog, and of its owner.
I also rescued a dog that had been used for breeding, a senior beagle of the smallest size, whose belly almost grazed the ground. She had second stage heartworms. I put her through the poison injections to kill them, knowing there was a chance it could kill her, too. She survived. I don’t know exactly what her life was like before that, but her later years were all couch cushions, beach walks, and snuggles.
Currently, I’m re-reading The Best of James Herriot. I first read his stories when I was in middle school. I can clearly remember sitting on the carpeted library floor, in front of low wooden bookshelves stained a light oak color, with a James Herriot book in hand, and deciding I would be a veterinarian. There’s a reason they’re classics – his writing is relatable, funny, and features cute animals.
In the story I just finished, Herriot comes across a dog kept chained in a shed without light or room to move for the entire first year of its life. It has sores and feces covering its frail body; its bones shown through. He considers euthanizing it.
But a lady is standing nearby, and she takes the dog home, nurturing it into a full grown, healthy golden retriever. She takes that dog everywhere, brushes its coat to sparkling, feeds it the choicest of morsels, and makes the remainder or its life atone for that first year.
A few months ago, I participated in Fantasy Week from ProWriting Aid. One presentation by Jessica Brody was on using the “Saves the Cat” method to revise your work. Saves the Cat is a tool for outlining and plotting a story; I am currently using it to revise my magical realism novelette, “Immortal Medusa.”
Saves the Cat is named for the plot point at the beginning of your story when your character should do something memorable and likeable – something heroic, like saving a cat, so the reader likes them.
It doesn’t hurt if you save a cat in real life, too, or a dog. Others may like you, but the pet will love you.