I attended a week-long writing conference in Boston many years ago and an editor from The Atlantic Monthly informed us (as we hung on every word) to never submit a story that wasn’t written in third person and absolutely never send him a story that includes/involves/even hints at a dog. I was young(er) and thought this was just the beginning of many rules I would have to learn. But now when I go into a bookstore it seems every table has at least one book about dogs. Real life dog stories, how dogs show us what’s important in life, chicken soup for your dogs soul, etc. And they are not only selling, they are BEST selling. They are holy-crap-NY Times-best-selling. And, yes, you guessed it, most of them are written in first person.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love dogs. Up until yesterday I had 3 of them. Yesterday I had to put the oldest down. She was 15 and having severe heart failure. She was practically skeletal and her cataract eyes were like two enormous glass moons floating in their sockets. The vet said it was the right thing to do but I don’t know. I felt like a killer. I wanted to rip out the syringe the minute the anesthesia filled her veins and scream the life back into her. I thought, my God, I’ll have to go through this with the other two. Then I thought, my parents are in their seventies and I’m going to have to go through this with them. And someday I was going to be old, with lousy breath and a failing heart and dependent on someone else to help me live or die. Which made me think of that jerky editor and his condescending rules and how even though I am a far cry from a Marley and Me kind of writer and I don’t want a single drop of chicken soup for my soul or anyone elses, I can write about any damn thing in any damn way I want as long as it sears your flesh to the bone and raises up ghosts and dreams and tears and blood and keeps you up through the night reading and falling into worlds upon worlds, and leaves you begging for more.