My Buddy and Me

So, I’m not your average guy. Not “easily categorized or referenced,” to quote Moulder from the X-Files. An introvert and somewhat geekish former metal head who has never naturally fit in anywhere, who now works in a field where he must talk and teach and interact with students all the time. But it’s a skill based environment, and I have skills. Mad, high level skills. Plus my job is super freakin’ cool, so it’s easy to break the ice and bridge the gap.

I put three students in a car with me, then drive fast as hell around a track, taking corners like a race car driver, weaving in and out of cones, avoiding obstacles and bring the vehicle to a stop in crazy short distances, demonstrating what I’m going to teach them to do mere minutes away. Then I drift the vehicle around a wet skid pad circle showing them how to fix things when the rear end of the car kicks out. Once I pull back into the staging area, I’ve sold myself in about two or three minutes as an expert who cannot just talk the talk but can walk the walk, too. Ice broken, introvert status now opened up because everyone’s having a good time and I don’t have to worry about what people are thinking about the guy who, physically and personality wise, doesn’t fit the normal mold for what I do.

I was a cop for almost twelve years. Now I work in the training industry for military, law enforcement and bodyguards, mostly.

And I write horror fiction. Some supernatural, some thriller and other stuff more in line with the weird fiction sub-genre.

It’s a daunting ambition, trying to break into the horror writer community and market, but it also feels very much like my job, in a way. Though networking and getting your work in front of people, and sometimes, the right people, is crucial, once it’s in a person’s hands it’s all about skill and the quality of one’s writing. I’m fairly confident that my work will speak for itself.

It seems to be working so far.

At the same time, it is an environment that can fill a little fish’s head with great anxiety when trying to swim in a big sea with lots of really big fish. If you want to draw a reader’s attention you better be pushing the top of your game in everything you put out.

That means keeping your head screwed on straight and staying focused on what you need to do.

And that’s a problem. Because there’s plenty of things to take me out of that good place and toss a monkey wrench in the machine. And it can happen often, even daily at times. Finances. Relationships. Family conflicts. Health and injuries. Stress to succeed. You name it. Any of these could result in a downswing.

How to deal? That was the dilemma. And I didn’t really know what the answer was to all that. I mean, of course, there is the “it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it” advice. And when something really bad is happening you generally want to punch the people who say that right in the face, even if, technically, it may be true. Cause it is NOT easy to do.

So, what did I do? What was my solution? Part of it was learning to respond better to situations in general and not let them stay under my skin as long. But what really helped me, I didn’t even notice at first. Didn’t connect the dots till much later.

I’ve always been a dog lover. Then in 1999 I got my first German Shepherd. His name was Zeus and I rescued him from a pound. He wasn’t friendly at first but I visited him a few times and won him over. He became my best friend. We were damn near inseparable when I was home. And when I started writing my first story since high school in 2009, a story that would eventually be developed into my novel Low, Zeus was always there. Sitting nearby. Coming over to nudge and nuzzle and want some loving. It helped keep me in a good mindset.

In August of 2010, Zeus was almost 14 years of age and fighting serious health problems. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him. I knew I didn’t want to be without a companion when he passed but I also recognized that if I waited till he was gone I wouldn’t want to go get another dog in the midst of my grief. So my wife decided we would get a German Shepherd puppy and it would give Zeus company in his final days while we were at work and also allow him to train in the newbie in the guard dog duties.

My wife hunted online, checking out a lot of different kennels. She finally chose a place in SC. Our puppy was an 8 week old spitfire. Sweet as could be. We named her Ziva, after the Israeli agent lady on NCIS. Zeus took to her fairly quickly after he got the old man grumbles out of his system.

Over the next 5 months before the vet recommended it was time to put him down, I think Zeus did more than train Ziva on guard dog duties. I think he taught her to be a Daddy’s dog as well. We developed a wonderful bond and she came to stick to me like glue. Just like Zeus did. When he passed she was the greatest comfort I could have asked for. She was there every time I stepped foot in the house. Always so incredibly happy to see me, to play, to show her affection and seek it and to just stay close. When I needed cheering up, she was there. When relationships were strained and the kids were in their teenage years, Ziva was always there for me. When, for a time, I felt like the dog was the only one who was actually glad to see me arrive home, I still had a loved one to embrace.

Ziva was my best buddy. She was my comfort and companion. She was a sense of belonging that kept my spirits up in the midst of depressing and challenging times. At 6 years old now, she still is. I can count on her to hang out with me when I’m writing, content to spend hours just laying about in between coming over and nudging and nuzzling and wanting to get some lovin’ or to throw a ball or squeak a toy or to play tug of war for a few minutes. She keeps me in my feel good zone when I’m writing. I can write for hours like that. All day even sometimes. Those little breaks with her, the relationship and bond that we have is unbelievably special to me, invaluable, even. It doesn’t fluctuate like a relationship with people. There’s absolutely zero stress attached to it. No conflicts. No disappointments. Just loyalty and love. Wherever she is, I know I belong there. Period.

I didn’t really set out looking for a solution to my problems other than trying to respond better. But along the way, I just found a wonderful friend. Man’s best friend. A Godsend. And that friendship is powerful enough to make me feel good even in tough times.

And when I feel good…I can write some stories.

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1 thought on “My Buddy and Me”

  1. Love this, Mike! People take animals for granted & abuse them in so many ways, not realizing what a diamond mine they have! Dogs never judge you. All they want is to be loved & to BELONG since they are naturally pack animals. I wouldn’t trade my memories of the dogs that have been a part of my life for anything. I don’t have a dog of my own now, but because I stay with my daughter so often, I get to enjoy a great relationship with her two dogs☺️

    Like

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