Chick Wit: Cutting those puppy apron strings

Posted: July 15, 2013

People say it's a dog's life, but it's not.

I learned as much last week.

From my dogs.

We begin with some background. As you know, I'm a writer. I've been writing these columns for almost six years, and for 20-some years I've been writing novels, one a year.

I love my job.

And I love working at home, which has lots of advantages, like proximity to the refrigerator and the ability to wear elastic waistbands.

Yes, not unrelated.

But writing requires a lot of solitude. In fact, the short-story writer Alice Munro recently retired at 81, because she said she finally got tired of telling people to go away.

To be a full-time writer, you have to like being alone, and not leaving your chair for 12 hours at a stretch, days after day.

And believe it or not, I like that part.

This I can't explain, because I like people, too. I have a great circle of friends, and we see each other when we can, but they're all busy, too. And I get to see other people at speaking events or on book tour. They always look nice and smell good, and we all laugh and have a great time.

But I don't mind being by myself at all.

Now fast-forward to last year, when I realize I can write two novels year, if I really work hard. This appeals to me because I have plenty more stories to tell before I die. In fact, I'd been getting a lot of e-mail asking when I was going to write another book in the Bennie Rosato series, set in South Philly. I'd been missing those characters myself, and I've found that the only way to visit them is to write about them.

Which might go to show I'm alone too much?

Anyway, I set out to write two novels a year.

And this had an immediate effect on my life. In relevant part, I started going out even less.

I simply keep my butt affixed to my chair.

I run fewer errands. I buy more stuff online. I hired a great assistant to do stuff I couldn't.

Bottom line, I never leave the house.

Ever.

And I got to write a Rosato book.

Yay!

But it's having an effect on the kids, er, I mean the dogs. In particular the puppies, Boone and Kit.

I didn't notice it at first, because how would you? They're happy at home and they play together a lot. They hang with the older dogs and even bother the cats. We go for a daily walk, and they have a great, fun life, like me.

At home.

But then I noticed on the walk that they began to react strangely to other people, barking hysterically or cowering from them, especially men.

Uh-oh.

I realized my dogs needed a social life, even if I didn't.

Solitary confinement is good for writers and other prisoners.

But not puppies.

So long story short, I found a place that has doggie day care, and I considered sending them once a week, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

I felt guilty.

Why should my babies go to day care if I'm home?

And bottom line, I'd miss them.

But I did it anyway, for their own good. I don't want my kids to grow up as weird as I am.

They hated every minute. They had to be dragged inside. They barked and barked. They threw up in the car, both ways. I'm pretty sure they tried to call Child Protective Services.

While they were at day care, I got nothing done. I wrote the same paragraphs over and over, worrying about them. They were gone for two hours, and I would watch the clock, wondering how they were.

I was in suspended animation for my animals.

But last week, things started to turn around. They wanted to go. They stopped barking. They started to play well with others. Now they go to day care happily, once a week.

But they still throw up in the car.

And I still miss them, and feel guilty.

It's not a dog's life.

It's a mom's life.


Look for Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's columns collected in their newest book, "Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim." Also, look for Lisa's new novel, "Don't Go," in stores now. You can write to Lisa at lisa@scottoline.com.

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