A Fictional Character Inspired by Real Life : Or “I’m Batman”

His milk chocolate eyes were a little on the buggy side. His ears were a tremendous feature, stuck up high on his little head, and he had a mole on his chin. A hair stuck out of that mole. I used to poke it with my fingertip. His hair was so soft.

Budman 1From the start, he was there, when I first got into the writing scene, when it moved beyond keeping a sporadic journal, or writing letters. I would write and he was there, watching me, hoping at some point that I would get tired and peanut butter would eventuate. He liked to sit beside me, and by beside me I mean he got as close to the edge of the mattress as he could because my desk was right next to the bed. Later, when I moved the bed into another room and turned the front bedroom into my study, he’d hop up on the little couch and have a lie down, keeping his slightly buggy eyes on me as I hammered away at a story, hoping for peanut butter. Or a carrot, or cheese, but mostly for peanut butter.

My Little Buddy, my Budman was my companion for every book I have written. Every book. When I wrote him into Next to You he was 3. Caroline, the book’s heroine needed a companion, one who loved her unconditionally and fiercely. I gave her a Rat Terrier–my Rat Terrier. By the time I had three other books published, and Next to You was with my editor, Budman was almost 16, and he’d CHIN NextToYou1920_1920x3022_1024gone grey and blind. But he still sat beside me, his clouded, sightless eyes still set in my direction, hoping I’d break for peanut butter. He’s been gone since last August. I miss him, his warm little black and white body, his erect, bat-like ears, his slightly buggy brown eyes framed by a black mask that made him look like a canine version of Batman.

I didn’t realise that when I wrote him into Next to You, all those years ago, that I’d have such a bittersweet memorial to to my dog now. It’s weirdly fitting that Next to You deals with grief and the expectations that surround all that grief does or doesn’t entail, ideas of how one ought to behave when grieving, what’s considered appropriate, what’s considered crazy. Losing a companion animal, a dog, cat, ferret, whatever animal that was a loved part of your family hurts. A lot. The grief isn’t any different than losing a human family member. There is still an expectation of how one ought to behave when grieving, what’s considered appropriate, what’s considered crazy, yet there is also often an expectation that you only “lost a dog”  and that you should “Get over it” or just “get another dog.”

Expectations blow as much as the asshats who tell you that you should be grateful that you only lost a dog.

Whether it’s for a human friend or a canine companion you lost, grief is different for everyone. It’s a mystery to why there are expectations around how to grieve and how to act when you grieve. I tried to show that as part of Caroline’s story. Part of her grieving process meant having Batman.

This post is part of my grieving process. It’s been nine months and it still hurts. I’m not ‘over’ losing my dog. I’m not done crying about it. I’m ready to get a another dog, but my husband isn’t. You know, in some way I’m grateful that my little peanut butter-loving dog lives on as Batman in Next to You.

I’ve immortalised him.

Next to You Coming July 25th.

A love of ‘70s Bubblegum pop music isn’t the only unusual thing about William Murphy—being a six-foot-three albino tends to make a man stand out. Will’s life is simple and he likes it that way. But when he meets his new next-door neighbor, complicated begins to look mighty attractive.

Caroline’s left the past behind and is trying to grab life by the balls, which means finding new friends besides her dog, Batman. Will offers her neighborly friendship, and as they bond over old movies, Caroline regains her confidence. Unexpected love blooms. But real life’s not like the movies.

Their cute romantic comedy goes all Fatal Attraction and Will learns that nothing about Caroline is quite the way it looks. His simple life turns more complicated than he could ever imagine.

Round Two: The Other Side of the Fence or When Elvie Met Budman

To begin, lemme clear this up. His Royal Schwanschtucker, AKA the new backyard neighbour’s Staffordshire Bull Terrier, AKA the Muscle-bound terror-re-er, AKA Elvin, is actually called ELVIE. I got the hunk o’ canine’s handle wrong because Angela, the new neighbour’s adorable three year old with a pretty mop of golden curls, told me the chained-up, brindle, snorting monster’s name.

You may recall that Elvie has a deathly fear of crying babies. You may also recall that, two days ago, when Angela’s baby brother was crying, Elvie’s fight or flight response kicked in and Elvie took off like a rocket to escape the noise. Escaping for Elvie means pulling at the chain that keeps him in yard and launching himself, repeatedly, at the fence between my yard and his. Elvie throws himself at the fence until he gets his paws over hooked on the top of the cyclone fencing and then pulls himself over. Then, busted chain trailing behind him, he’s in my backyard and still desperate to get out, to run free, to flee from sound of shrieking baby.

Friday morning, while my li’l Rat Terrier, Budman, was inside going bonkers, Elvie was outside going bonkers, snorting, panicking, leaping like a clumsy weightlifter doing ballet. When Elvie did an impressive Houdini and snapped his chain, vaulted over the fence into my yard, and then managed to get over my side gate, Budman went into hackles-up mode. His territory was being invaded and, dammit, he was going to protect it. Unfortunately, his fear makes him aggressive. And my fear makes me stupid. Without thinking of my own safety, and ignoring the fact Elvie might bite the shit out of me, I decided to be protective AND save the day. Budman may have been safely inside, but images of my dog being torn apart by Mr Dog Muscle meant I went out to grab Elvie. Before I could, he took off over the gate and ran to freedom.

This morning was a little different. My fear was nearly realised. Budman was in the yard takin’ care of some naturely business when the baby started crying. Within a few seconds, Elvie went nutso. Budman went nutso. Elvie was over the fence. Shrinky was down the back stairs and I…was in the shower. Once I made it outside, in a towel, the new neighbour was yelling, Shrinky was shouting, and Budman was barking like a good little faker who’s all noise and no action, just before shooting up the back stairs between my dripping wet legs. Elvie had his rump balanced on top of the gate when Shrinky grabbed him. In my saturated state, and full o’ blood-soaked fear fantasies, I expected snarling dog, snapping jaw, teeth clamping down on my husband’s arms, but Elvie didn’t struggle. In fact, he sort of, well, snuggled up in Shrinky’s arms.

And what a good place to be. I know what snuggled up with Shrinky is like. While’s he not a facial-hair sculpted Hispanic Dog Whisperer, and Budman pays very little attention to him when I’m around, Shrinky’s arms can have a calming effect. That’s Shrinky, that’s the nature of his cuddle power. But you know I’m biased when it comes to my Shrinky.

Anyhow, things did not go as I had feared. Elvie was not interested in Budman. At all. The Staffy was completely focused on escaping. He had tuned out everything but his freedom and getting over that gate. I think we were lucky this time. Despite a decidedly non-bloody outcome, the next Elvie in the backyard dog match might not turn out that way.
My writer’s mind will continue to churn out vivid scenes of vicious dog fights and painful bites.

Even though Elvie’s quite the Steve McQueen of backyard escapes, and my new neighbour continues to chain him up in The Cooler, instead of the theme from the Great Escape playing in my ears, I keep hearing the word mauled.

When Dogfish Go Bad

Thanks to new motherhood, my dear Canadian friend was up late-ish waiting for her sprogette to waken for a feed. During that pre-feed time Katie-Sue kept busy by reading the wikipedia page on Unprovoked Shark Attacks. 

As if one would WANT to provoke a shark attack?

In case you were wondering, instead of the word squalo, some Italians use the expression pesci di cane, or pesci cane for shark. Pesci cane translastes to dog fish. Now, you may ask, "Yo, Oldbitey, where are you goin’ wit dis?"  Bear with me and you’ll see because I was curious enough to have a look at what was keeping Katie-Sue occupied. You might be too.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal,_unprovoked_shark_attacks_in_the_United_States 

If you’re not game to check out the link, what you’re missing are documented reports of people who met their fate thanks to a really big fish with really big teeth.  Really. Big. Teeth.

Some reports are more gruesome than others. There were words and phrases like, pieces, and washed up on the shore, and eaten feet first.

I could not stop reading.

After a few minutes of morbid, can’t-look-away-from-the-train-wreck-osity of it all, the fish-eating-man stories led me back to my earlier fear of the day; the Bull Terrier eating Rat Terrier terror (See yesterday’s blog post for details, Kids!).  As I brushed my teeth and washed my face, I vacillated between picturing Jaws and Bull Terriers, Sharks that turned into Bull Terriers, and Elvin Elvie, my neighbour’s muscled-up Bull Terrier, as a Bull shark zipping after a scrawny snack in the form of my widdle dawg, Budman. I went to bed convinced of nightmares to come. I prepared myself for a dream onslaught of Great Whites, Tigers, Bulls, Oceanic White Tips, and Budman-eating Elvies.


What I dreamed of instead, were Zombies.
 

All The Bull With No Horns

Last week we bid farewell to our backyard neighbours and their skittish German Shepard, Lucy. The funny thing about Lucy was how she was afraid of Budman. Lean Lucy was three times Budman’s size and, despite her girlish figure, had, I’m guessing, 60 pounds to his measly 11. Image is everything. Faking it is a key factor in life. My dog seems to understand this. Fear-aggression is all about being a fake. The l’il rat terrier thinks he’s 7 feet tall and 200 pounds of rippling muscle. It’s all in how you fake it. I know I’m to blame for that because, as the adage goes, it’s like person like doggie. I pretend to be a five-foot-six blonde goddess with a shapely ass that puts Sting’s tight little Yoga naked butt to shame.

Thanks for that pic Annie Leibovitz!

Mmmm Sting…Sigh….

Um…what was I about to say?

Oh, yes. Faking it. Budman’s all front. All noise. All darting quick movement and flashing teeth. This is especially so now since my new backyard neighbour’s have a dog. His name is Elvin Elvie.  A new dog, one who is not timid Lucy, means Budman has now become the size of Optimus Prime in his own mind.

The thing is, where Lucy was lean, Elvin Elvie is a muscled mass of dog bodybuilder and he has, I’m sorry, I have to say this because it’s just so OUT THERE, an enormous schwanzschtucker. I’m talking the biggest I’ve ever seen on a dog his size. Of course there was Walter the Basset hound who possessed a set of the most impressive dogie nuts I’ve ever seen, but this is about Elvie.  I estimate this Bull Terrier weighs more that I do. Like Lucy, he’s also skittish and afraid, but not of Budman the Not-so-Big Fat Faker.

Elvie is terrified of crying babies. Our new neighbours have two children, one 15 months, the other 3. When the wee one cries. Elvie runs.

Well, Elvie barrels really.

Barreling Elvie whimpers and leaps at the cyclone fence that divides our properties. Elvie, snorting like a asthmatic pig, keeps whimpering and leaping at the fence until he’s made it over the metal structure. Then, in the next moment, while Budman is doing his best impersonation of a 11 pound, tri colour, Raging Rhino–from the safety of inside the house–Elvie is snorting and whimpering and leaping at my side gate. Before I can make it down the back steps to grab his harness, the one I see has a length of broken chain hanging from it, he’s hauled his muscled frame over the gate and run off down the street.

You may wonder what all of this has to do with writing. Really. It’s not hard to make this con
nection. As a writer I have quite a vivid imagination, or as Shirky puts it, "a rich inner world." To be honest, for the past 10 years the two things I have worried about when it comes to my dinky 11 pound dog are carpet pythons and cane toads because both creatures could kill Budman in just a couple of minutes. I’ve had those awful imaginings that my Little Wind-up dog would wind up…do ya really need me to go into detail? Now, thanks to Shrinky and Elvie, I get to add Budman’s biting it by Bull Terrier (
Staffordshire Bull Terrier that is) to my occasional flights into my rich inner world. My writer’s mind goes into overdrive on this one. I was home today when Elvie launched himself over the fence, but what if I hadn’t been? Crying baby = fear for Elvie. Foreign dog in his backyard = fear-aggression for Budman. Oh, the scenes my writerly brain has come up with are just too horrible–and that’s not including the scenes where I step in to save Napoleon Budman and wind up with my throat torn out by Elvie.

You see, not only does Elvie out-weigh me, he out-muscles me too. I’m no match for him anymore than Budman is. It’d be chomp, chomp, chomp for Oldbitey. Still, if something happened, if babies cried and Elvie vaulted the fence again when Budman was in the backyard, I know my inner Napoleon would rise up. I’d move my bony anti-ass to come to the rescue. I’d dive right into the frightened dogfight…

And then, as my new neighbours put up a higher, Elvie vaulting-proof fence, Sting would visit me in the hospital as I recuperate.

P. S. Thanks, Swellanor, for letting me Gloom & Doom all over you today about Budman.