Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How awkward humping can inspire your writing

The advantage of having a dog with extraordinarily high energy is that I have to drag my lazy writer butt out of the house to walk her each day or risk having her explode in a fit of pent-up frustration.

Dog guts are hell to get out of heater vents.

Long walks alone with my dog are a great way to let my brain chew quietly on a plot point or character issue, but there’s also an advantage to skipping the solitude in favor of a more social locale. The dog park is fabulous place for people watching.

For many authors, people watching is a key part of developing strong characters. Here are just a few of the interesting specimens I’ve met on my recent forays into off-leash areas.
  • The TMI dog lady. If you’ve ever been to a dog park, you’ve met this person. You ask her where she got her leash and 20 minutes later, you’re halfway through a detailed story of her dog’s history with gingivitis. I’m pretty sure TMI dog lady actually lives at the dog park and spends her days prowling for someone eager to hear every intimate detail of her canine’s life. I’m also pretty sure I wear an invisible beacon identifying me to TMI dog lady as just that person.  
  • The awkward humper. Though it’s generally the dog doing the humping, the level of shame the owner feels suggests he may as well be the one gyrating awkwardly atop hapless strangers. As the dog frolics about mounting anything that moves, the owner alternates between scolding the dog, apologizing to other dog owners, and nervously explaining to everyone that it’s a sign of dominance and not sexual frustration. Personally, I’m a big fan of both the awkward humper and his enthusiastic charge. Such single-minded devotion to an illicit pursuit is the mark of an excellent romance author.  
  • The foot-in-mouth guy. This is a more rare specimen, which is one reason I love him so much. On a recent dog park visit, I saw a gentleman tossing a ball for his dog. Several other dogs joined in the fun, prompting the owner to give an impromptu talk about the desirability of rubber balls over tennis balls for fetching. “The texture on a tennis ball can wear down a dog’s teeth,” the man explained. The man beside him nodded in agreement. “I know! My dog will sit there all day trying to chew the fuzz off his balls.”  
  • The poop ignorer. If you own a dog, you know it’s your responsibility to pick up when Fido does his duty. But there’s always one person who believes she’s been given a special exception. She stands there feigning intense interest in a rock while Fido hunches up and builds a log cabin. Everyone sees it. The poop ignorer certainly does, but instead of whipping out her little brown bag and doing her part to combat canine landmines, she continues on her merry way. Perhaps she has a severe poo allergy for which she wears a medical alert bracelet. I can truly think of no other explanation, but I do spend an awful lot of time hoping she steps in a pile on her way out.
    Are you a people watcher when you’re writing? Where do you go to catch a glimpse of interesting individuals to inspire you? Please share!

    And please let me know if you happen to be any of the aforementioned characters. If you’re the awkward humper, I’d like to buy you a drink.

    24 comments :

    Izzy G. said...

    I'm afraid I've been the poop ignorer on a couple occasions. I always forget to take a doggie bag on my way out, and these, inevitably, are the walks in which my dog decides it would be really cool if he pooped. After the walk, I always come back to pick it up, but it's very uncomfortable to stand there and stare at a lovely rock while Glares of Shaming descend upon me.

    Shain Brown said...

    Some people call me weird because I have a cat, though I attest and say it's because of their weirdness why I have a cat.

    So, thank you for presenting the evidence.

    I never have to go hang out with those weird dog people. Who knows maybe I am weirder for having a cat.

    Either way in all honesty, all animal lovers have there issues.

    christicorbett said...

    We go to the off-leash dog park at least once a week to let our dog burn off energy.

    He's a Border Collie so all he wants to do is round up the other dogs in a group and then herd them around the park. It's very interesting to watch, but usually leaves us standing awkwardly with the other dog owners and explaining the reason behind our dog's behavior.

    After we've uttered a few sentences about how our dog thinks their dog is a sheep, it's always interesting to see what the other person says...usually a purge of amazingly inappropriate information.

    I've found a smile and a nod while the other person yammers on is very effective while I'm learning all about their life. At the very least, it gives my writer brain lots to process for new storylines :)

    Christi Corbett

    christicorbett said...

    We go to the off-leash dog park at least once a week to let our dog burn off energy.

    He's a Border Collie so all he wants to do is round up the other dogs in a group and then herd them around the park. It's very interesting to watch, but usually leaves us standing awkwardly with the other dog owners and explaining the reason behind our dog's behavior.

    After we've uttered a few sentences about how our dog thinks their dog is a sheep, it's always interesting to see what the other person says...usually a purge of amazingly inappropriate information.

    I've found a smile and a nod while the other person yammers on is very effective while I'm learning all about their life. At the very least, it gives my writer brain lots to process for new storylines :)

    Christi Corbett

    Teri Anne Stanley said...

    This post kind of makes me glad that my dog is so lazy that she whines when we get out the leash...mostly because I am the TMI target everywhere else I land in life...I would get the TMI lady at the dog park, too. I wouldn't mind getting so much intimate information, but it just takes so danged long to listen to!

    Summer Frey said...

    I'm a cat owner too, but having worked in an animal shelter clinic and for a private practice vet for several years, I've been the witness to many hilarious antics. People seem to be even more embarrassed when their dogs "misbehave" at the vet--as if we don't see it all the time OR expect it. :)

    Lori M. Lee said...

    lmao great post! My dogs are both puppies, and they're getting into the humping stage. They sort of trade off... one humps the other and then they switch even though they make quite the ruckus when they're on the receiving end. Weird domination rituals idk.

    Sarah W said...

    We don't own a dog, but there's this Jack Russell terrier who walks himself past our place about the same time every morning and makes a deposit on our lawn.

    He gets a pass because of the opposable thumb thing and because he's just this cheerful little dude going about his business.

    His owners . . . not so much.

    Brandi Guthrie said...

    I'm a bit of an overprotective mama to my chihuahua when it comes to dog parks. I have this irrational fear that some other dog is going to try to eat her.

    Luckily, we live in the country so she can frolic as she pleases...as long as we make sure there are no hawks or eagles around.

    Matthew MacNish said...

    Our local dog park is pretty cool, with two large areas. One for dogs over 35 lbs, and one for under.

    I find it's always the people who bring all the awkward. The dogs just have instincts.

    There was an awkward humper there a few weeks ago. Well, that is, the dog didn't seem to feel awkward about it at all. He was having a blast. I wouldn't let him near my girl (dog) but other owners were less vigilant.

    Until some British guy got really pissed and went on a rant about controlling your dog at an off leash park. He was right, but both he and awkward humper ended up embarrassed.

    Steph Schmidt said...

    We went to a dog park exactly once. Never gone back since because my dog will "bully" the others. While other greyhounds understand the chase me chase me game never has a winner...other breeds not so much. The other dogs got really frustrated when they couldn't keep pace with my dog and then wouldn't run for her to just pounce on them. She gave them head starts too!

    My dog prefers the empty field anyway when it comes to running. Now that she's turning 9 a long walk is all she cares for these days.

    ExMagistra said...

    My old dog, may he rest in peace, used to hump anyone and everything despite having been neutered at the earliest possible moment. The best part, though, was that he'd start the humping motion about six feet away from his conquest. He slowly make his way up to his hind legs while working his mojo and working his way over to whatever leg, pillow, or giant stuffed animal had caught his attention.

    I miss that dog.

    Penelope said...

    I'm not a dog owner, but I feel like I will be in the future, thanks so my son and future husband.

    I'll reference this as a guide before my first dog park trip. Thanks!

    Kelcey McKinley said...

    Looks like we'll be clinking glasses, Ms. Fenske. (If you don't take offense, I'll buy the second round.)

    jasm_n7@hotmail.com said...

    I take my gkids and their little Jack Russell Terrier to the dog park occasionally. I've seen all these people. I'm inclined to point out the poop and the doggie bags the park has available to the person trying to ignore their dog's stuff.
    On one occasion - a huge dog jumped on the little JR Terrier. It's owner just stood there. It's all I could do to get the dog off. When I finally did, she just made excuses for her dog. She never apologized even to my gkids who were nearly hysterical. What a bitch. It says clearly that if you can't control your dog, it shouldn't be at the park.
    Most of the time, though, it's pleasant people chatting amiably while their dogs run around.

    Sarah said...

    I'm trying hard to persuade the bloke that we should have a dog. Thanks to you I can tell him it's vital for my research :)

    Neurotic Workaholic said...

    One of my parents' dogs does the awkward humping thing, even though she's been spayed. She does it to other dogs, and then their owners freak out because they don't want the blessing of multiple puppies that will grow up to become awkward humpers too.
    I do like to people-watch, especially on my commute. That's a good place for it because there's always a variety of people to watch (and secretly make fun of) on the bus and train.

    lora96 said...

    Ah, honey, I teach school. Allow me to illustrate:

    The TMI Parent...came for a conference about junior's math grade and instead tells me all about her tubal ligation procedure.

    The Parent Who Believes I am his/her confessor: Comes for a meeting about kid's progress and/or behavior. Tells me about how student's other biological parent is a good for nothing cheater and deadbeat.

    The Traumatized Parent: comes for a meeting about kid's progress/behavior, tells me (with tears) about his/her horrible school experience in which he/she was ridiculed and punished by some "dumbass teacher".

    The Hostile Parent: Their kid could read just fine till he/she was in my class. I must have untaught him somehow.

    Sonia G Medeiros said...

    I'm definitely a cat person...but we have 3 little dogs and a cat. Our youngest dog, a half-chihuahua is a humper. She humps the other dogs. She humps the cat...who doesn't seem as freaked out by as I am *shakes head*. I'm sure the half-chihuahua learned from our eldest dog, a pom who humps stuffed toys. The pom is also a girl dog. I didn't know girl dogs did that. Another reason I'm a cat person. LOL

    WhisperingWriter said...

    I'm a total people watcher. Not in a creepy way, though. But yes, people I've encountered have wound up in my novels.

    Or my blog entries ;)

    Jason said...

    I like the dog walks for letting the brain wander over plot points, almost as much as driving. Wait, I mean, I'm totally paying attention when driving.

    As for people watching, I've noticed as I've gotten deeper and deeper into my novel I'm doing it more and more. Perhaps it's by necessity now. :)

    Simon C. Larter said...

    Bars or airports are my favorite people watching locales. A bar IN an airport? Nirvana.

    Also, if I say I'm an awkward humper, would you buy me a drink? (I really wanted to end that sentence with, "would you hold it against me?" but that would've been mixing metaphors. Or pickup lines. One of those. I think.)

    Liana Brooks said...

    I love to people watch, lately the local teens seem to hold my interest. I see them walking to school, and waiting at the bus stop and I'm fascinated because I remember that age and I wonder if I looked that lost and scared.

    Allie Sanders said...

    I'll admit it. I'm often Foot-in-mouth guy (girl) and always have to take back a statement. Fortunately I am pretty good at recognizing when I say something that could easily be misinterpreted and am able to work my way out of the hole instead of sitting and wondering why people are laughing.

    I people watch everywhere. I walk my dog (and that's a horror in and of itself because he's cute and everyone wants to play with him. He may have a serious anxiety disorder and gets so wound up every time), I go to bars, and last night I discovered casinos. I like to go to different places and watch people in different environments. That way I can see the differences in the girls at the bar dressed to impressed and the ones in the grocery store who look flustered.