Elaine discussed trying to outwit her cat Harry. I've been there, with my cats. Suddenly they acquire superpowers when they want/don't want something. I'm used to it, but...
...now I have something to confess.
I'm afraid of dogs.
It's not that I see a dog and start shaking; I'm just very nervous near them, until I get to know them, and I'm still cautious, then. It doesn't help that I'm allergic to some dogs and have to wash my hands if I pat one, or start wheezing and itching.
I've gotten to know a few personally, and have a reasonable relationship, even affection, for friends' dogs. I can admire a great personality, or super athleticism, or antics. I know when a dog is smiling, and it makes me happy to see another creature happy. I have many dogs and wolves as "desk guardians," at the moment.
But it's still an instinct. I hear a jingling collar or barking and my hackles go up. I try to be cool, but...
As far as I knew back then, all collies were Lassie, and Lassie was awesome.
I ran to hug the dog—which wasn't so bright, but you know...excited four-year-old.
'Lassie' lunged and bit me in the face.
It didn't even break the skin, I don't think, but it scared the hell out of me. Freaked me right out.
So, I figure it's understandable if I'm wary today, all these years later.
Which makes it kinda funny when you realize how much time I spend writing and thinking about other canines now. Any documentary about wolves, I'm there. I love going to Wolf Hollow, a wolf sanctuary and educational facility nearby. I have pictures of the pack—collect them all!—and follow them on Facebook; I contribute to the support of the pack. One of my favorite moments in Sweden, was going to a zoo/historical park in the middle of Stockholm. In one of the large wilderness areas, I watched two dark wolves gliding through the underbrush. From my vantage point up high, they were silent, gliding across the forest floor like smoke. It was magic.
And I spend a lot of time thinking of what it's like to be a wolf, so that when my werewolf character Zoe Miller is in her full wolf form, I have a lot of fun adding vulpine behavior to those scenes. It's actually a lot of fun to think about biting the bad guys, worrying them to get information, howling.
So...why not a werecat? I love cats! I've always had cats, and I adore watching shows about big cats, or better, getting to see them in person. My first stop at any zoo. It was a fascinating moment when I realized that, while I was playing with Kaylee and Zoe, Kaylee distracted me while Zoe circled around behind me. Hello, cooperative hunting behavior in housecats! If we'd been on the veldt, I would have been lunch. There are precedents for weretigers, werepanthers, all kindsa felines...
I think for me and wolves, it's like dinosaurs, and how little kids get obsessed at the same time they're scared by them. And they learn all they can about them and even pretend to be them. It's a way of getting past fear. And it's a way to feel powerful.
I'll never stop being allergic to dogs, but I'm hoping that as I study wolves—from a distance, from behind a fence, on a DVD—some of my initial response to seeing their domestic cousins will change, just a little.
At least now I have some of the fun of fictionally biting someone who really deserves it. :-) -v--v-
So folks, tell me: what are you scared of? Writers have you worked it into a story? Readers, will you go out of your way to avoid a book with that scary thing in it, or do you enjoy it from a safe place? Leave a comment between now and 5:00pm EST Sunday night, and I'll send a copy of Pack of Strays to one randomly selected visitor!