Do you talk to your animals? I mean, really talk to them; engaging conversations where you answer for them in thoughtful responses. No? Just me?
I have two dogs. But one of them, by far, is more talkative. That is to say, Clyde has a very specific voice and character. We discuss the finer points of squirrel chasing, how he lost (and continues to lose on a daily basis) his alpha position to his sister, Bailey. We talk about why the cat’s such a jerk, how angry it makes him when Bailey watches him eat, and the ever-present question…what happened to his nuts?
It’s insane and probably committable. But it also helps create real, flowing dialogue, and allows me insight to character traits that are both endearing and trying.
A typical conversation might go something like this:
“What’s up Clyde-boo?”
“Nothin’, mom…just layin here,” (raises his leg) “Wanna scratch my belly?”
“Mom, remember when I had nuts?”
“Yeah, sorry about that…had to happen. Adoption rules.”
“Can I bite the cat?”
“Um…can you catch the cat?”
“I could…if you’d stop yelling at me when I chase him.”
“I do it for your own good.”
“Yeah, he’s pointy on all ends but the tail…I really want to grab the tail.”
‘You’re a good boy.”
“Wanna scratch my belly again?”
“Yep. Want to go for a walk?”
“Oh God Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh God a walk!!! I haven’t been on a walk in centuries!” (Does an impressive Down Dog stretch in preparation.)
“We went yesterday.”
“Yesterday is centuries ago!” (Continues to bay in his baritone basset voice) “Ah, man, the leash? Can I go without the leash?”
“No, buddy, when have I ever let you walk without it? Same as yesterday.”
“Yesterday is centuries ago.” (Dogs don’t understand tense any more than they understand that 24 hours isn’t the same as 100 years)
“You know the rules.” (He dodges away)
“But mom…I can’t catch the bunnies with the leash on.”
“Clyde, you couldn’t catch the bunnies with a jet pack on.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. Can I have cat food for breakfast?”
“Good, but make sure he watches me eat it.” (licks lips)
“And give me my share first because Bailey’s a pig.”
“Don’t say that too loud.”
“You won’t tell her I said that will you?”
Clyde, with his graying muzzle and expressive brown eyes that stare intently into mine, is a good conversationalist; a loving soundboard who always has an answer, to every question (usually yes to food and walks, no to vets and ear cleaning). He is a character and not just of my own making, who enriches my life and my sense of empathy.
Who are some of your favorite real-life characters?