52 Pickup 2.0, #21, 5/19/2020
Marnie Patterson Leonard: “Craig, I am crazy about Dog. This may sound like a 7-year-old writing to Santa, but would you consider a Christmas story featuring this much loved and oh so wise character?”
I get a lot of requests from folks who lobby for their favorite characters in the books and Dog isn’t much of an exception… I remember when I was a young, cub novelist (yes, Virginia, there was such a day) and the advice I got from other, more established authors was no sex and no pets in the books. Well, I pretty much threw that out the window… Basically they said you could have sexual tension but no sex for the first fifteen books, and all I could think was—what kind of women are you dating that would wait fifteen years for something to ‘happen’? The other was not giving your protagonist any pets because eventually you’ll forget where they are or leave them someplace in the book, and all I could think was that I’ve got an entire ranch full of animals, why shouldn’t Walt be able to take care of one dog?
As my many mistakes go, it’s one of my best, giving Walt somebody to talk to and interact with even when nobody else is around. That and the few times Dog has been able to save Walt’s bacon, or ham, if you will…
Dog is based on a dog I had, a rescue from the Sheridan, WY shelter. I was building the ranch out in Ucross on my own, pretty much stacking logs twelve hours a day, and decided I needed some companionship. Since the majority of my young adulthood was spent traveling all over the country doing whatever jobs I could anywhere I could, I never had any pets, so I guess I decided it was time. I picked Max out and took him to the Vet, who informed me that the dog was at least half St. Bernard. He grew, and grew, and grew…
By the time my wife moved onto the ranch, she was sure that Max and I had had a mind meld; the dog knew everything I was thinking before I thought it. He also became the lord protectorate of Judy. There was one time this drunk cowboy came into our store when I wasn’t around, trying to get some money and got a little too aggressive about it until Max came around the counter with his hundred- and forty-pound hackles raised and started that bass, motorboat growl… Reportedly, the guy backed out with due speed and never returned.
He does strike me too as an old soul, and just the kind of pal that Walt needed by the time we got to the end of The Cold Dish. I figure he knows Walt the way Max knew me and provides a solace that the sheriff needs along with somebody to look out for—another thing I think we all need.
More to your point, it’s totally possible that I’ll do a Christmas story with Dog or even one with more of a starring role for him in some future book, it’s just a question of finding the right message/plot where that will work. I once threatened to write a novel where Dog got abducted by a dog-fighting ring and Walt and Henry had to go rescue him, but Judy said she’d leave me if I wrote it… She’s kind of tender-hearted that way, but I may still write it, though… Anybody got a doghouse I can sleep in?
See you on the trail,