When I recently received a request to attend a writing workshop, I had to rethink what my writing is to me. If it is a hobby, then how could I justify the near two thousand dollars it would take for me to attend? On the other hand,if I truly intend to be a published writer, don’t I need to get out there and schmooze, a term that makes my skin crawl when I visualize phony people doing whatever it takes to be noticed. I doubt it is like that, really, and from what I have heard, writing conferences are a great way to make contacts, learn and interact with people with similar aspirations. It just doesn’t seem like it should have to be like that. Where are the days when a story would sell itself, and the quality of the written words were the only requirement?

Why there is a dog in the story.

My dog, Grady, is a male Beagle that was given to me as a Christmas present almost eleven years ago. He was too small to be taken in time for Christmas, so in my stocking was a picture of the cutest little tri-colored puppy, totally devoid of any expression. He is my walking companion,and most days, the walks are a fight to keep him from eating other dogs ****, to keep his nose above ground, to keep him moving forward as he stops to mark some clump of grass or random weed. He lunges at other dogs we pass, and when the neighborhood blood hounds come by, he joins them in a howling fest that can probably be heard a mile away. But he’s my little buddy and I love him.

He came to me to fill the emptiness of our home when our previous dog died- Duke. Duke was an exotic mix of something I can never remember, but suffice it to say he could have been part German Shepherd, part lab, part golden retriever, though he was black and frightening looking. He joined us one morning when my kids and I walked to school, followed us home and when I told him to “Git!”, he sat down. He soon was a member of the family and welcome in or out. Our yard in these before Beagle days was not fenced, and he’d often roam across the field to the neighbors to relieve himself or just say hello. He was big and furry and our best friend. He reminded me of my childhood dog, Lassie, a combination of pure-bred Collie and German Shepherd that couldn’t be sold as a thoroughbred, so we got her. Lassie, too,was my best friend: she listened to me when I was sad- which in those prepubescent days was often, and kept me company when no friends could play. She was as much a part of our family as was my sister and my parents.
I hope one day we’ll play together in doggy heaven.Dogs have always been an important part of my life, so I had to add one to my story.

In Johnny and Evie, Martin joins Evie as she shivers on the porch, listening to her, protecting her from Johnny’s advances, and eventually moving to the warmth of Johnny’s home. One woman who critiqued part of my story suggested I leave the dog out. Maybe. But I couldn’t. Dogs keep us sane and grounded and Evelyn teetered between those things. She needed a dog, and so Martin arrived, lured at first by fresh loaves of hot steaming bread.