One Author's Life


Edith Wharton and Her Dogs

March 22, 2014

Did you know that the great American author Edith Wharton adored dogs, and typically had several at a time? She was unapologetically sentimental when it came to the subject. My little dog a heartbeat at my feet, she once wrote. At her estate in Lenox, Mass., one can even visit the pet cemetery, complete with headstones, where she buried her much-loved canine friends.

I am grateful to Edith Wharton. Not only did she leave behind an astonishing literary legacy but her unabashed love of canines allows me to claim that it is normal in fact, literary tradition! for a woman writer to be a little loopy about dogs.

There is something about having a little canine critter in my home that makes my life better. Yes, dogs are a distraction but nothing compared to, say, husbands. Human companions are notoriously annoying when one is trying to write but a dog tends to improve writing karma, not detract from it. The reason is simple: A dog, unlike a person, does not talk.

Another advantage is that dogs, unlike many humans, are excellent listeners and sounding-boards. When I read a passage aloud to my Boston Terrier, Miss Dot, she wakes up and listens intently.

Most people assume that the first person to read my work when Ive been writing something new is either my husband, my agent, or my editor. In reality, a pint-sized Boston Terrier with an outsized personality is the first to hear portions of my latest creation. And, so far, Im pleased to say that she is giving my sequel a thumbs-up.