April 9, 2010
I have this dog. He’s an odd mixture of things—Doberman, Labrador, and maybe part horse. We’re not entirely sure.
Now, I also live in a house that is somewhat of a “fixer-upper”.
It happened that one day my husband was replacing the back door, which opens from the kitchen onto our small back porch. Trim was removed, the old door was taken off, and the new door was set into place. Shims were tapped in to square the door and when—sixteen hours later the door was set—my husband stood back and admired his handiwork. It was a beautiful door.
He had a rapt audience throughout the day. Apollo (the dog I mentioned above) grunted and snorted and watched with avid curiosity, occasionally putting his big, wet nose into the small piles of sawdust that collected on the floor. He’d look up at me, his eyes wide, flecks of white dotting his black face. Sometimes, he’d sneeze in great growling bursts that left him disoriented, wondering where he was afterward.
After the sawdust was cleaned up and the tools were put away, the foaming insulation was brought out to seal the cracks. Once it was dry we could replace the trim and be done with it for good. Apollo was fascinated by the tube of insulation. He sniffed and poked at it and, once he deemed it was safe for us to use, he backed off.
“You know,” my husband said, shaking his head, “that dog is going to stick his nose in this stuff as soon as I fill these cracks.”
So Apollo and I had a talk. We discussed foaming insulation and the havoc it could wreak on the nostrils if inhaled. We talked about looking and not touching. And when he looked depressed I reminded him of the fun he had with the sawdust. That cheered him a little.
In the end I decided to put him in another room just to be safe, but his crying was so pathetic he was allowed to return to the kitchen.
I’ve heard people say, when talking about their children –I’ve said it a few times myself in fact—“I only turned my back for a second.” The words are uttered from disbelieving mouths of people surveying things like ketchup squirted all over the bathtub or baby powder in the toilet or nails in the coffee table.
In our case, it was a pair of giant black nostrils stuffed with bright white foaming insulation. Even now, a year later, I don’t know how he did it. I never left the kitchen, never wandered out of view of that great animal sleeping with one eye open, waiting for his chance. He’s not one to do anything silently. He grunts when he gets into a standing position or when he lays down. His footsteps send off small vibrations through the house.
And yet—and yet – it happened. I saw the dog sitting and watching me. I turned to fill the coffee pot a mere ten feet from where he lay.
I have to give him credit—he tried really hard to look casual and innocent. He tried to look as if it didn’t bother him that great white clouds of foam were growing from his nose, getting larger even as I watched.
He just opened his mouth and began to pant. I could hear his thoughts. “Wow, is it hot in here or is it just me?”
He refused to look guilty, even when we questioned him. He simply looked around, wondering if we were actually speaking to him. “Who me? I don’t know anything.”
We cleaned out his nose. It required a dremel and sculpting tools but we got it done. I think the important thing here is that Apollo learned something. That day Apollo learned that foaming insulation clings to all surfaces.
So why am I telling you this?
Because sometimes inspiration comes from strange places. Weird things happen every day and as writers sometimes we are so busy staring at a screen full of words we neglect to pay attention to what is happening around us. Characters are everywhere. Stories are everywhere.
Inspiration is everywhere—even up a dog’s nose.