“Dogs More Human than Humans”

“Dogs More Human than Humans”

Hmmm … so what does the above caption mean, actually?

Mind you, I’m happy with the good review given ARCTIC STORM by the Historical Novel Society, and wholly embrace their comment that, “Huskies, Zellie and Xander, are sometimes more human than the humans.”  I suppose then, it’s possible the caption means I succeeded in creating my dogs as believable characters, apart from how dogs are most often portrayed on the page.

More often than not in books, dogs exhibit dog behavior. They eat, sleep, play, and bark their way into our hearts. They show their love and loyalty through affection and obedience, and sometimes show their lack of the same, through tempers and bared teeth. Simply put, from beginning to end in any story, they are dogs and not humans.

This was my biggest challenge in writing ARCTIC STORM: assigning human behavior to dogs and having readers believe it.  How could I develop the character of my Siberian huskies and show their emotions and instincts and actions—since this is precisely what the story called for—without making them out to appear more caricature than character?  I was nervous Zellie and Xander might come off more like television’s Garfield or Alfie, than Jack London’s quintessential, Buck, from Call of the Wild.  None better or more heartfelt, to my thinking.

But then, when I thought of Buck, I was nervous readers might think I was trying to re-write history and London’s immortal canine character. I couldn’t do that even if I tried. What I could do, was close my eyes and listen to the wisdom on the arctic winds, that already channeled Buck’s spirit from across his time in the wild. . . to Zellie and Xander’s husky spirits, and their time upcoming in that same wild. With this spiritual groundwork set, I readily let go of the leash I had on my dogs, and I was now free to follow their keen instinct and lead, and better pick up their senses, reflexes, thoughts, and emotions.  I no longer channeled Buck, but channeled the spirit of my own Siberian huskies; the huskies I’d raised over a span of forty years.  I knew the unique breed well enough to love the breed and to respect their lead into Watch Eyes Trilogy.

ARCTIC STORM is the first book in the series, and consequently the most important in terms of setting up story and character.  If the first book didn’t realistically portray my dogs as credible characters, able to exhibit a level of human emotion necessary to move the action along, I knew the next two books were not going to work. More nerves set in. A trilogy means three books have to “work,” and not just one, as a stand-alone must.

And so, yet again, I thank you, Historical Novel Society, for your review and opinion that, “Huskies, Zellie and Xander, are sometimes more human than the humans.”

*****

Have any of you faced a similar writing challenge?

I’d love to hear from you 🙂

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