On May 6, 2019, I welcomed an 8-week old springer spaniel pup, Maggie, to my home. It was important to me that it was a springer with a docked tail and that he or she would pick me. I wanted a puppy, not a rescue, so that I could bond early, using my training tactics.
It was good, I thought when Maggie picked me, that she was female and tri-colored. I wouldn’t constantly compare her to my Pete, who crossed the rainbow bridge in March of 2017.
Still, it’s only natural, I suppose, to expect similar traits between two pure-bred springer spaniels, especially since they were born in the same geographical vicinity. How wrong I was! Maggie and Pete are somewhat the same, but simply different.
Springers are smart and loving. I learned early on that Pete spoke with his tail and Maggie is following suit. Their vocabulary is remarkable, even at a very young age. They’re not called velcro-doggies for nothing. They will lie at your feet or on your lap, and follow you from room to room, including the bathroom. You won’t find a more loyal dog. Maggie and Pete both shared those characteristics.
But, my-oh-my, Maggie’s personality is totally different from Pete’s. She’s feisty, independent, headstrong, adventurous, and afraid of nothing. She has yet to bark at a storm or fireworks or a vacuum. But she’ll bark if I move a toy to a different location from where she left it or if a drop of water from her water bowl got into her food.
When I told Pete that I was the boss, he’d settle down immediately. Not Maggie. She’d go into attack mode, nipping or clawing me. Of course, that wasn’t acceptable behavior. I’d react in anger, voice raised, which only escalated the situation. With feisty Maggie, I’ve learned to redirect and give the silent treatment. When she calms down, I can softly say “You have a screw loose, but I love you.” She wags her little tail, probably saying “You’re the one with the loose screw, but I love you too.”
I can compare this experience of Maggie and Pete’s similarities and differences with my writing. I’ve just completed a manuscript for Murder in Aspen Notch, a sequel to No Gifts to Bring. It surprises me that my style is the same in all of my books. There’s always an element of history and mystery, regardless of the genre. There’s always a feel-good aspect with likeable characters, even though the story is different from the one before. These things aren’t planned. They just happen. I think that’s cool.
You can’t change the stripes on a zebra, they say. But patterns can vary. So it is with my books. Somewhat the same, but simply different.