Saturday, June 16, 2018

How Writer Dogs Can Add Dimension to our Stories

by Emme Gannon @GannonEmme

I’ve been looking for a dog. Not just any dog. A writer dog—a well-behaved pooch who will follow me into my writing room and lay at my feet until I’ve written my word count for the day. 

My sweet shih tzu Evie, who entered into this writing life with me over twelve years ago, is my inspiration. She glided effortlessly into the solitude that I took on when she was into her middle years. I can’t imagine what registered in her doggy brain as I lead her to our new writing spot, a tiny closet outfitted with a desk, printer, computer, and chair. The only thing the space had going for it was one window that, when opened, delivered fragrant whiffs of sage from the lavender-blue flowers on the vitex tree just outside the window.

As loyal dogs do, Evie immediately settled under my desk, close enough to my feet to sense any tension that she’d need to respond to. An occasional swipe of her tongue on my foot sent a message of encouragement and when I’d read her the day’s work, she’d look up at me with round, wide grey eyes and wag her tail as if to say, “Bravo, Mom.”

Spending so much time in one space with Evie allowed me to witness how she’d read my body language and respond accordingly. I googled “Animal Behavior” to see if my wild imagination was at play. Sure enough, research showed that my canine friend had the ability to not only read my body language but know when I was experiencing certain emotions by the odor emitted by sweat glands. Her sense of smell was one million times more sensitive than any human. Body language, however, was her strongest signal. 

When I read aloud an especially poignant scene, she’d respond to my weeping with submissive behavior, as tears have been shown to carry a greater emotional meaning to dogs. They not only smell our emotional state but adapt our emotions to their own. 

After bonding with my dog in this way, it was only natural that I give her a prominent role in my story. Her feisty but loyal personality transferred as a furry anchor to my main character’s life of one crisis after another. 

In my story, Evie knew before my main character Jaci that she had chosen the wrong man to marry. The dog would respond to Jaci’s fiancĂ©’s unfriendly glare with a low growl, trying to warn of the disaster that would surely come if she chose this man. When the relationship ended, my furry hero also recognized when Jaci met “the one.” His gentle voice and soft strokes to her fur encouraged the dog to do all she could to bring him into her family. She was also there to celebrate the triumph that occurred at the end.   

One of my favorite canine characters is Bailey, Joe Fox’s golden retriever in You Got Mail. Not only did Bailey wait with Joe for the sound of Joe’s computer that signaled an e-mail from Shopgirl, but he showed up again in the last scene and enthusiastically welcomed Kathleen into his and Joe’s world.

Dogs both steal and ground a scene by their sacrificial loyalty and unencumbered love, as well as add a deeper dimension to the main characters by giving us an early insight into the character clashes in our story. 

Sad to say, in life our dogs grow old and leave us all too soon. I recently visited Evie’s grave next to the hydrangeas in the courtyard. She’d picked the spot long ago, when she claimed it as a favorite place to rest while I gardened. “So, what do you think, sweet girl, is it time for another dog?” As a cool breeze dried my tears, I seemed to feel her approval. 

As I write this, I’m happy to say that God has brought a new shih tzu into my life. She just turned six and will retire from breeding in December. Once she’s mine, she’ll have a new role in life. She’ll be a writer dog. I’ve named her Grace and will call her Gracie. Grace, for God’s grace—His unmerited favor and desire that we be so filled with His Spirit, that the overflowing wash over family, friends, neighbors, and, yes, the furry pets He knows some of us love to have in our lives. 

My new girl will not take Evie’s place. It’s impossible to replace something as sacred as another’s love. Gracie will have her very own special place in my heart. One thing for sure. She’ll be a writer dog, with her unique ways of encouraging her human mom. She’ll be given lots of love and, who knows, she might even have a role in my next story.

How writer dogs can add dimension to our stories - @GannonEmme on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Do you have a faithful canine companion in your writing life? @GannonEmme on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Emme Gannon is a wife, mother, and grandmother who loves to write stories that stir the heart. Her award-winning writing has appeared in Focus on the Family magazine, several anthologies, and numerous newsletters. She just completed her first novel.


  1. Aww Ms. Emme. I pray Gracie comes to understand how very lucky she is to find a home with you and Evie. Our Emma Rose rests nearby in her urn, which gets spoken too more often than it should perhaps. As for my current buddy, Bubba the chocolate lab, as long as he gives me a "Bubba smile" when I rub his tummy and rides with me as I do my chores each day, he's all the inspiration I need for my funny, quirky characters. God's blessings ma'am...

  2. Thanks for sharing, Jim. I can picture Bubba’s sweet smile. Blessings on your writing and a pat on the head to Bubba.

  3. Thank you for sharing those thoughts...I've not heard them before, but share them. I have a hideous looking little mutt that adores me and sits at my feet wherever I am, especially under my writing desk. She is glad to do so, and usually has one of her stuffed, half-eaten bunnies under there with her in case she gets bored. But she would never think of leaving me alone in my writing room. :)

  4. What dedicated furry friend you have, and a “writer dog” to be sure. Blessings on your writing and a special hug to your sweet girl. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Since our Zeus grew old and went the way of all the world I've found it difficult to find another dog that fills that spot. We've had a couple of Border collies and last we had a stray pit bull. Not any of them has had the personality of Zeus. He wasn't a 'writer' dog, but I've written about him, his wisdom and humor, but I still miss that pooch. I've decided I need to be patient, when it's time God will send the next one.

  6. You are right, Donevy. God will give you the dog He has for you at just the right time. It has been three years since I lost my Evie. I tried to find another but doors kept closing. At last, God led me to Gracie. I know she’ll be unique and precious in her own way. When your heart heals just enough, I believe that new dog will come into your life. They won’t be like Zeus, but special and just what you need for this stage of your life. God cares about everything that pertains to His children, even our choice of pets. Don’t forget to let us know when that new dog arrives. Blessings to you.