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But the greatest inspiration for some writers, myself included, are the living beings that can't speak our language, have a limited amount of facial expressions, and sleep most of their lives away. They're those furry felines and canines that conjure up in us expressions of love, caring, and a deep-seated fear that they will be gone too soon. They have a knack for creating intense feelings, tears, and laughter without saying a word – emotions that we can transfer into our writing of fiction and personal essays. But these companions can also help create a writing niche.
I had been writing professionally for several years before our adorable West Highland terrier, Willy, came into our lives. Don't get scared. He's still with us, a spry and precocious 7-year-old with an old soul, who knows every trick in the book from the cute stare that cops that piece of cheese, to the wagging tail that greets each and every stranger.
Before he became a member of the family, I considered my writing niches to be the arts, decor, food, a travel piece here and there, and profiles of interesting people. Once that fluffy white creature entered our home, he also entered my heart and added another writing specialty to my list. I began by writing an essay about our (tormented) puppy kindergarten experience and getting that published. Soon the pet store where I got his food and other supplies had a story to tell me. I queried a magazine on that idea and got an assignment. I then signed Willy up at a nearby agility training center and got several ideas from the center's owner, including a story I did on dog dancing.
At the pet park, where Willy preferred hanging out with the humans rather than those of his own kind, I met dog owners who had stories that I turned into articles and essays. The editors at the regional magazine where I regularly contribute began to think of me instantly whenever a dog or cat story crossed their desks. I wrote about service dogs, dog treats, the grand opening of a doggy café, and even a cat hospice whose story eventually made its way to a national publication. Sure people I meet still talk to me about the arts, decor, food, travel, or some unforgettable character as fodder for magazine articles. But I'm now also the "dog writer" who produces prose about the Rovers of the world.
I must admit that I am wholly responsible for my Westie's more than 15 minutes of fame. Willy is quite well known in dog circles as well as being the hound about town as we walk through the neighbourhood. He must sense all of this. Why else would he be quiet and serene all day as he listens to the click-click of my computer keys. Perhaps he's hoping that the words I am writing were inspired by him.
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