Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

A Pet Story, and Mission Accomplished


Happy March 1st! Three weeks and counting until the spring equinox and the official start of a warmer season. More daylight, though warmer is a relative term. Typical high temps are close to freezing. In reality, we’ve been seeing teens above zero–maybe. But, on the brighter side, I saw the sky begin to lighten at the horizon for the first time this year. I’ve been commuting in total darkness in the mornings since, well, since sunrise has been after 6:30am. Just a great reminder Spring is coming!

A bit of a story day today. As anyone with beloved pet(s) knows, they can be as much a part of your family as your own children. A writer friend of mine lost a second cat in a month, and she was devastated. We have two outside dogs, i.e. farm dogs, a lab mix and an Australian shepherd mix, who love to roam the neighboring (and not so neighboring) fields, drainage ditches, and sloughs. They are a couple of the happiest dogs I’ve ever seen, despite our frustration when we see them far beyond our territory. They disappear for hours on their “patrol”, and later, once home, sleep for hours. It’s a dog’s life!

Also, as anyone with a 14-yr-old  daughter knows, these pets are more than pets to a young teen. Often pets are emotional anchors, because you can tell a pet anything, and they listen, and won’t lecture, and will still snuggle in for a petting session even if that cute (now stupid) boy totally ignored you today and you’re positive it had to do with the ugly zit that erupted on your face and if he’s that shallow then … You get the picture.

Had a bit of a scare yesterday. Typically, the dogs are home at night, and my hubby feeds them after the rest of us head to bed. Always. Except for the night before last. No dogs. In fact, the dogs didn’t greet the kids when they got home from school, nor did they greet us before we headed to the library yesterday morning. And no one saw them by lunchtime. My hubby and my daughter, who was quite worried, drove around to look for them (remember, they love to roam). Nothing. My hubby’s and my first thoughts were the dogs got hit by a car. Second thoughts, one of the neighbors got tired of four-legged trespassers. (For those now horrified by the thought someone would shoot someone else’s pets, remember, we’re in farm country. Ask a farmer what he’d do if stray dogs wandered in on a regular basis. And if dogs start to pack (like a gang, but with dogs instead of inner city youths), all bets are off.

As the day wore on with no sign of the dogs, my daughter became more distraught. What do you do for a teen whose emotional anchors go AWOL? Remember, the operative word is “teen”. She’s been known to sit for an hour in the dogs’ “hideout” with them when she needs the support. Trust me, it isn’t comfortable wondering how she’ll react if we never find the dogs, or we find their bodies. She called for them. walked our property (8 acres) looking for them, and my hubby and I tried to come up with a contingency plan for the worst case scenario.

My son returned from his lifeguard job at the pool, and announced the shepherd had returned. My daughter rushed outside and gave that dog one of the best petting/hugging sessions ever. But we have two dogs, and she likes one more than the other. Guess which one was still missing. But, there was hope. We waited, watched, called, searched, and waited some more. And when the other still didn’t show, we thought maybe she was the one who was hit by the car, and the shepherd waited with her partner-in-crime until she died.

At our daughter’s insistence, after supper we started calling the neighbors. We live outside of town, and our closest neighbor is a half-mile away across a field. We called the first neighbor, the one we know is on the dogs’ patrol route. Nope, no sign of the lab. Called the second neighbor, the one a half-mile away. Nope, hadn’t seen her, but they’d keep an eye out. Looked up the number for the next neighbor.

Then my daughter noticed the lab outside on the deck. The prodigal pet returned! After hugs and tears and an even better petting session than the shepherd had gotten, we saw her paw, swollen to twice its normal size. Next call was to the veterinarian to schedule an appointment as soon as possible on Monday to check the paw. We’d just had the lab in for a checkup and shots, so the vet remembered her. And we found out the rest of the story.

An hour(!) before we called, someone else called the vet and told her about the lab they found caught in a trap. Because the vet’s number was on the vaccination tag, the rescuers called the vet to report the injured dog. Of course, by the time they finished talking to the vet, our lab had already disappeared. It sounded like the trap was a spring-trap, similar to a bear trap but smaller and without teeth.

We have coyotes (who doesn’t?), raccoons, and muskrats around, so we presume someone was targeting one of them, and our pet got caught by mistake. I shudder to think what would have happened if those people hadn’t freed our lab. We want to thank them, but don’t know who they are, so a letter to the editor of the local paper is in order. Our pets have returned, even if a bit worse for wear.

Thanks for reading this far–sorry, it’s longer than my usual posts. To tie in with writing, remember that pets can be powerful supports for your characters. The one that comes to mind is Mouse, from Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series. Awesome dog. Harry has a cat, too, named Mister, but Mouse has a much larger role. Think about how a pet could enhance your character’s story. Or, like the guy who created Toothless for the “How to Train Your Dragon” movies, base a character on a pet. There’s a reason Toothless has some cat characteristics.

And finally, word count for yesterday: 51,234  Woo-hoo! Did it in 28 days! The story isn’t quite finished, so I’ll be continuing the NaNo process until I finish the story. Should be done by the end of the week. But, I’ve got that much written. Needs mucho work–it’s a craptastic draft, but that’s the first step, getting the story out of your mind and onto paper, electronic or otherwise.

Write on!


Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, seven chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

2 thoughts on “A Pet Story, and Mission Accomplished

  1. So glad both dogs made it home. Very scary, especially the one that got caught in the trap. Like you said, pets are part of the family (I’m a sap about them). And congrats on the word count progress. RAH! 🙂


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