Last Saturday we took Cassie with us to go visit my kids and my grandson. We met at a local park with a huge pond filled with a great many ducks. Big ducks. Loud ducks. Brave ducks that walked right up to greet us and asked for handouts.
I thought I would have my hands full keeping Cassie from running after the ducks while we ate and played with the kids. I envisioned losing my voice after shouting “Leave it” at least a hundred times. But as usual, Cassie surprised me. No matter how close the ducks came or how much noise they made quacking or splashing or waddling right by her nose, she simply ignored them. I mean the leash never even tightened once. This is the same dog who jumps to attention when she sees horses or chickens on television and puts her nose up on the screen.
There were eleven of us, all told, and Cassie was much more interested in keeping her pack of eleven together. She didn’t have time to worry about ducks. When three people veered off from the pack in search of a soccer ball she went on full alert, unable to relax until they had returned. When two others moved away from the main group to play hide-and-go-seek she moved to face in their direction, again, not letting down her guard until they returned to the group.
Eleven people. Nine of whom she had never met before and yet she pulled them into her pack. She followed a long-bred instinct to shepherd us together. She ignored the ducks and took care of the people. Without ever being told what to do, she did the right thing.
Instincts are hard to ignore.
I’m working on Flyboy. Again. Still. There’s a scene that’s been there in every version of the story for the last twenty plus years. A scene that starts the chain of events that drive the rest of the book. The characters in the scene have changed and the location of the scene has changed but the essence of the scene has always remained the same.
Until now, when someone I respect suggested that maybe I needed to do it differently. I’ve struggled for four days wondering whether my rejection of the idea is just the result of being familiar with the scene for twenty years and not wanting to give it up or whether some deep-seated in-bred instinct is telling me to leave it alone, it is doing what I need it to do.
I still don’t know the answer but for now, I’m leaving it alone.
For now I’m going to trust myself to do the right thing.
Dogs act on instinct, as do we, but we humans/writers operate with the additional benefit (and burden) of reason. Therein lies the crux and crucible of our problems–and celebrations.
Heavy thoughts, and I’m going to ponder them awhile. Thanks for corralling my attention with such a provocative entry-I think it’s intended that I think about this today.
But first–more coffee!! 🙂
These dogs and writing posts always get me thinking, Susan. I’ve been struggling with instinct and trust in my writing lately, so you’ve given me more to ponder. Thank you (and Good dog, Cassie!)
Trust your instinct. It is your book. If ten people you respect had all said the same thing, that would be different.