It’s lovely to see that Richard Glover’s dog, Clancy, is making a name for himself in the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s also a relief to learn that I’m not the only person in Australia who can speak dog!
You can read the article here.
I wrote an article on this topic entitled, Learning to Speak Dog, which sadly didn’t find a home with the media.
Here it an extract on the topic:
The Bone Ranger has two narrators: detective constable Rose Sidebottom, and Monty, her adopted golden retriever. My biggest challenge was to make Monty’s voice convincing and lovable. I joked with my husband that I was going to write a book in first person dog. The first thing I did was decide on the tone of Monty’s voice. I wanted the two-year-old dog to be loving and cheerful. He would be inquisitive and yet adorably innocent. He would see the very best in animals and people. And he would want to be a good dog, although food, especially cheese, would be Monty’s kryptonite and land him in trouble.
To write convincingly from a dog’s viewpoint, I wanted to understand how dogs view the world. I talked to animal behaviourists. I read books on the topic, such as How To Speak Dog by Stanley Coren and Inside A Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. We primarily rely on sight. Dogs rely on their sense of smell, which meant that Monty would be using his nose to solve the crime. I observed my dog sniffing a tree trunk in the park after a poodle had just done a wee on it. Pickles then left his own wee. A few seconds later, another dog sniffed the same spot and then left her mark. It occurred to me they were leaving messages for each other. In The Bone Ranger, Monty calls them wee-mails. Wee-mails not only convey a short message, they also convey mood: happy, sad, afraid, and so on. Wee-mails are useful when communicating with the local dog community but what if Monty needed to send a message over a very large distance. That was when the idea of the howl-a-thon popped into my head.
In this story world, animals can communicate cross-species, but they are forbidden to show ‘hoomans’ that they understand them. As Monty explains, ‘Laws were laid down by my wolf forefathers many centuries ago when the wolf nation made a pact to work with hoomans. The wolves who obeyed the Ten Dog Commandments became man’s best friend. Like me. Some wolf tribes refused to bow to hooman governance. They disobeyed the wolf elders and formed new packs. These are the wild wolves of today. Dogs have learned to work with hoomans and we hide our true capabilities so our masters don’t fear us.’
Monty brings humour and pathos to the novel. Much of the comicality is based on Monty’s misunderstanding of hooman behaviour, such as why Rose wants to wash his ‘deliciously manky, doggishy-smelly, yellow toy duck.’ Monty’s biggest bugbear is Rose washing his dog bed. Monty explains that, like all dogs, his long-term memory is poor. His bed is where he stores those memories. ‘When I sniff my bed, all those memories come flooding back. Wash my bed and the result is olfactory amnesia. A terrible affliction.’
Detective Rose Sidebottom is equally quirky. She lives alone in a tumbledown cottage with her dog, a pond full of stroppy ducks, and a super smart rat named Betty Blabble. Rose’s home is based on the wonky house I lived in as a child. Rose has an uncanny ability of knowing when someone is lying, which comes in handy when she’s interviewing a suspect. However, she is suffering from PTSD and unless she can convince her psychiatrist that she no longer suffers from anxiety attacks, she can’t return to work, which she dearly wants to do. Rose’s personal journey is to learn to believe in herself again, and to do this she must solve the murder case, even though she is officially on sick leave. Just like my character, I needed to get back in the saddle after my cancer and start writing again. The process of writing The Bone Ranger lifted my spirits and reminded me of how much fun it is to write novels.
I hope The Bone Ranger makes you smile too. As Monty would say, with his head out of the car window, sniffing the breeze, ‘Life is good! Wooferoo!’