I feel like I’m making good progress on my “wolf book.” It’s actually a memoir, but it will focus heavily on dogs, running, disability, wilderness, and wolves. Thus the shorthand name, wolf book.
I recently submitted a sample (what I think will be the opening chapter) to a local nonfiction writers group for feedback.
Their comments and editing suggestions were positive and helpful.
However, on one issue they split almost evenly: whether I should refer to my two (now deceased) female Malamutes as “the girls.” I also used their names in the piece.
When the girls were alive (and even now, years after they’re gone) I frequently used that shorthand. I do the same today with Finn and Conall, referring to them as “the boys.” When writing about my dogs, it feels natural to use that shorthand. The criticism from some in the writing group was that I was anthropomorphizing them, referring to them as if they were human children.
So. Here’s my question for you, valued readers: how do you feel about a writer referring to their multiple dogs in such shorthand – “the girls,” or, “the boys,” rather than “the dogs,” or always using their names? (A related aside: isn’t giving pets human names also anthropomorphism?)
A couple examples of my writing to illustrate:
Once we settled into a rhythm, the girls were in the lead followed by me, then Mike. He and I both knew I often missed a strip of flagging, eyes intent on the trail surface, so having Mike bring up the rear ensured we got all of them. And I got to watch the girls happily trotting ahead of me, fluffy white tails flying high over their backs, their senses alert to the sounds, sights, and smells we traveled through.
And another, from a different chapter:
Occasionally I broke the quiet by talking to the girls. “Maia, wait!” if she got too far ahead, or, “Come on, Meadow,” to encourage her if she lagged, stuck on an interesting scent. I focused on them most of the time. Their movements and body language were rich with important information: whether they were happy or afraid, curious or concerned, tired, too hot, injured. Most importantly, their body language told me whether there was something out there in the trees I needed to be aware of. I knew I could rely on them.
Please share your thoughts with me in the comments. This has been bugging me!
Also, please share whether you think of yourself as a dog/pet person or not. No judgment either way, but my sense is that one’s answer to the word choice question is partially dependent on that.
As a small gesture of gratitude for your help with my writing dilemma, here are some recent photos of local leaves starting to turn autumn colors here in Vermont.