Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Great Dane...A Great First Memory

As many of you know, my books all have a Great Dane named Spot, who belongs to Tahoe Detective Owen McKenna. I thought I would mention how I know about Great Danes.
My earliest memory is sitting on the floor underneath Thunder, the family Great Dane. I was three years old.
Photo from akc .org

While some people can remember back to when they were two, three ain't bad. Of course, my memory was of a dog. It doesn't demonstrate a particular aptitude in the literary arts. I imagine that the first memories of Hammett and Chandler and John D. MacDonald featured Underwoods and the New York Times Book Review.
But I took that early dog memory, used it in acquiring my first dog as an adult, and I eventually used the breed in my books, to much appreciation from my readers. Can James M. Cain claim as much?
Probably more.
But I still like to think that there is a connection between that first memory and my life as a mystery novelist.
I still recall a sense of comfort and safety that came from having that giant black dog standing over me when I was a toddler. (I realize that recent research shows that memory is a malleable and creative thing, and that there is no such thing as hard facts in memory. Nonetheless, that is my memory.)
Twenty-some years later, my wife and I acquired the first major addition to our family when we purchased a Great Dane puppy, the first of three Great Danes we had over the years. As our first Dane grew she began to demonstrate the same stand-over-you behavior.
Is it protective? Or is it yet another manifestation of how Danes really just want to be as close to you as they can get?
If my wife and I sat on the floor, leaning against the couch to watch TV, our Dane would step over our outstretched legs, blocking our view. (Yes, we had a 13-inch black-and-white TV back then, but when it died, we never replaced it – a great boon to finding time to write.) If we sat cross-legged, facing each other to play Scrabble on the floor, our dog would step over my wife's legs, massive dog chest in front of my wife's face. When my wife coaxed her into moving, often as not she would sit next to one of us and then flop over sideways halfway onto our laps, scattering the Scrabble pieces across the room.
“C'mon, you gotta move,” became a common request. (When a dog weighs 150 pounds, commands are merely requests. You can't pick them up and set them down elsewhere. They have to want to do your bidding.)
Often at book signings, my readers will bring their Great Danes. It has been one of the great surprising joys of this business, something that I never anticipated. And every single Dane that I've met does these same things. If you're sitting, they'll try to stand over your lap. Or they'll lower their head way down so they can rest it on your lap. If you're standing, they lean against your leg with increasing pressure by the minute.

Danes are lovers, and they just want to be in your lap like one of the micro-breeds.

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