My Writing Partner

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

While some writers write with friends, other writers, or go to writing groups (according to what I've heard and read), I find myself lucky enough to have a constant writing companion, and by constant, I mean literally: all the time.  Her name is Nika, and she happens to be a twelve-year-old yellow labrador, also my oldest and dearest friend.

We got Nika when she was about four months old, if I recall correctly.  She had been in need of a new home, because the owners she was currently with had a small dog who tended to use Nika--a much larger dog, but of course too much of a pacifist to fight back--as a chew toy, so we gladly took her in. 

Looking back, she was always, and I mean always, the same as she is now, except with more energy back then.  She curled her paws up when she rolled on her back, she refused to let you put your hand in her mouth even to touch her teeth, and she was never much of a dog for rough play, in spite of my dad's attempts at wrestling with her even to this day.  Nika was and still is just a passive, peaceful, careful, and sometimes jealous dog.  And instead of attacking the other dogs on the block when they come to play, she sits down, moans, and barks until we tell her to be quiet...and then still moans and barks.  It used to be that she had enough energy to sprint over and try to keep the other dogs away, but things change with time.

Now, there's one thing you should know about me.  My parents might hate it, but I sleep on the floor of my own bedroom every night.  They offer to get me a better bed, a cott, basically anything other than what I'm doing right now, but the truth is, I'm just more comfortable on the floor of my room, sleeping in a sleeping-bag, with good old Nika right beside me.  At this very moment, she's staring at me accusingly from my "bed" on the floor, as though she knows that I'm talking about her and wondering why I'm not paying attention to her. 

So, in addition to sleeping on the floor, I naturally do a reasonable amount of my writing there as well, since I use my notebook more often than the computer.  And guess who enjoys staring me down while I'm writing? Nika.  Sometimes she resorts to getting up and laying down right on top of my notebook and giving me a look that seems to say "That's right, I'm here, now pay attention to me."

Sometimes I'll wake up in the middle of the night, look over to my right and see Nika looking at me, or sometimes fast asleep with her head taking up half of my pillow.  The funny thing about a dog, is that you can give them a memory-foam bed, or an entire room to themselves while you're in the corner, but they will always want more than any of those things to be as close to you as they can possibly get. 

On sunny afternoons, when I let her outside the back slider-door because she stands by it with a look that says "Can I go outside please?" I'll see her go out into the sun, and just lay down and stare off into the backyard.  I remember thinking, the last time she did this, how funny it was.  It really shows that dogs, Nika at least, have more in mind than going to the bathroom and coming right on back.  All she wanted to do was enjoy the sun, which is something I haven't done just for the sake of doing in a long, long time.  Sure, she has more time to do things like that, but in a way, Nika's taught me more about life than school or any person ever has.  Why not go out and enjoy the sun? Why not go for a stroll? Why not do something just for the sake of doing it every now and then? Why spend too much time doing the things you don't want to, as long as you don't have to? Why not love unconditionally and try to spend as much time with those you love as often as possible? Life is short, so live it while you can.  Or, on a slightly darker but funny note: live life thinking you're going to die tomorrow, because someday you'll be right.

So she might not have any great advice when I turn to her while writing and ask her what should happen next, or ask her what she thinks of a certain idea, but she's almost always right there, just watching, being happy and needy at the same time.  I couldn't ask for a better writing partner or a better companion to have grown up with.  I can look into her eyes and think, and half believe that, deep down, she's a lot smarter than me or most of the people in the world.  Scientists might say different, that dogs have the minds of five-year-olds or something along those lines, but really, Nika knows more about living life than I do or probably ever will, and she knows more about love than most people, so far as I know. Why? Well, if Nika has taught me any prominent thing, it's that things--life, love--are simpler than they seem.  Sometimes it's just about chasing sticks and being happy about it, and sometimes it's about nothing more than a pat on the head and a "good girl" to go along with it.