Friday, February 28, 2014

How a Fearless Possibly Insane Dog Taught Me to Face and Conquer My Own Demons

Every day two battles are fought and won in my house.

Battle # 1 is fierce and loud and stressful and contains lots of slobber and flying hair.

Battle #2 is fought by my dog.

First, a bit about Battle # 2.

So if you have been following my blog for a while, you may recall that after my son went off to college I became a reluctant and later a ridiculously adoring dog owner. My Zooey is the perfect writing companion. She naps by my side for two to three hours at a time, and then she demands a walk, usually at the moment when my eyeballs are burning out of my skull from staring at my computer screen. Zooey is the reason I change out of my pajamas each day. She also has saved me from becoming a sad, partial empty-nester. (I suspect that without Zooey, I would sob every time I walk past my son's empty bedroom.) She has without a doubt saved my daughter from my helicopter mom tendencies. Now those helicopter blades are hovering around Zooey.

How do we keep Zooey from jumping on visitors? How do we teach her not to dig a giant *&^ hole in the center of the backyard? What can we do to keep her from eating sponges and kleenexes and computer mouses/mice? How can we help Zooey and the crochety yet beloved old cat get along better?

And the big one: how do we stop Zooey from losing her freaking mind every single day when the mailman comes to the door?

My son on break from college figured out the answer to this one.

The Zooey vs the Mailman War has been going on for about a year and a half now.

The battle begins when the truck first putters down the street. Zooey is fast asleep, curled beside me.

She recognizes the truck sound--which is somehow different from any other vehicle sounds--and she is UP and ready for battle.

There's five minute tense growly period between when the mailman steps out of the truck and takes his sweet time walking up the street toward our home.

The moments when the guy places his foot on our front porch and passes by the picture window are the heat of the battle, with Zooey in full-blown attack mode, splattering spittle and barking like a wild beast. Time slows. The mail box clicks open. Zooey races to the front door and throws herself against it. The mail box snaps shut. Zooey licks herself furiously, does a victory lap around the house, and jumps back onto the couch to continue her nap.

My son watched this battle take place every day when he was home on break and we'd marvel at the intensity and lunacy of it. On his last day home, we watched the battle unfold again and my son announced that he'd figured it all out.

Zooey is the type of dog who will bark when anyone comes to the door, but as soon as that person steps inside, she sees that the person is a welcome friend and taking a cue from us, she greets them (by jumping on them--I know, not a good dog trait. We're working on it)


In Zooey's mind he truly is the enemy. Every day, however, the man has the audacity to drive down our street and waltz right up to our door. Zooey's barking, her brave counterattack against the window, is the only thing that keeps the enemy from gaining entry.

And it works! She wins the battle every single day. The mailman retreats. Zooey has completed her mission. The only solution, my son said, is to invite the mailman inside. (He may be right, but at this point, I don't know if I want to risk the mailman's life to test this hypothesis.)

Okay, you may be wondering at this point what Battle # 1 is.

If you have been following this blog for a while or even for the past month, you may have noticed that it's a daily struggle for me to sit down each day, open my computer file, and get to work. I've written about my struggle here and here and here, in case you want a recap. Apparently I have to learn over and over again that the only solution is to write. It never gets any easier. Regardless of how long I have been writing, despite the fact that I have learned the lesson, that I know LOGICALLY that each day is difficult, somehow my hesitance to get to work still surprises me.

Writing, many days, feels like a battle. A battle against self doubt. A battle against laziness. Steven Pressfield does a much better job than I talking about this in his brilliant little book The War of Art. (This is a must read for any writer struggling to do the work, by which I mean EVERY writer.) Pressfield calls it the battle against Resistance.

Each day I am surprised by the intensity of Resistance. Each day I am Zooey snoozing along happily and shocked at the sound of the mailman's truck turning down my street. That bastard is here again? But I just fought him yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that! Who the heck does this guy think he is?

But like Zooey I fight my battle every day. I spring onto the back of my couch and hurl myself against the plate glass window, drool and hair flying. And at the end of the day, I snap my laptop shut, secure in the fact that I have chased that demon off.

For today.

For the record, this day I have successfully beaten back Resistance 18 days in a row. I sign off now to fight the battle of DAY NUMBER 19.

Wish me luck.


  1. You scoff at Zooey, assuming that she isn't REALLY saving your family's lives every day, but what evidence do you actually have that the mailman isn't a homicidal maniac and that it isn't only Zooey's valiant efforts that stand between him and you? Exactly. You have NO evidence. So I think you need to change the title of this post from a disparaging comment about your "possibly insane" dog to something more respectful. How about PROFILES IN COURAGE? That would cover you and her both!

  2. I have floated around this idea before with people in my neighborhood. I hate to disparage my mailman, but who knows, one of these days we may all find out the truth, and Zooey will be vindicated. For now, it is all in a day's work for her, It's a thankless job, but she presses on.

  3. P.S. It is 8:16 pm on a Friday night and I am proud to say that I beat Resistance. Day 19.

  4. Go Zooey! Go Jody! You ladies rock!

  5. 1st: I love Zooey. 2nd: Your son is a genius. 3rd: I would LOVE to see the mailman's face when you invite him in to meet the barking, snarling, vicious dog he hears every day. 4th: I wonder how you could INVITE your writing in with the intention of befriending it instead of greeting it as an adversary to battle each day? This makes me think about my own writing resistance and the need to invite my writing in rather than greeting it as a foe. Thanks for a great post!

    1. Marcia, Thank you for numbers 1, 2, and 3. Your number 4 is something to think about. You're right that setting up Resistance as an enemy is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am wondering, though, how to go about accepting the lazy parts of myself, the unwillingness to work each day--without giving into it and slacking off. Thinking of it as a battle, makes me more determined to fight.

      Your metaphor of greeting your day's writing as a friend sounds so lovely though...

    2. Maybe it's about balancing effort with ease. In yoga poses we often identify one area of tension and try to find ease in some way. I think I'll try doing that today with writing Resistance: identify one way I can balance effort with ease--maybe by viewing a problem as a puzzle or game instead of a battle. Maybe ease will come with brainstorming alternate solutions. Or instead of focusing on the Resistance, I could focus on delight in something I LIKE about the writing challenge. Thanks for making me face my own Resistance!

  6. Great post! I definitely am fighting that mailman--why does he show up every. single. day? :) So glad you are winning the battle and glad you are keeping yourself accountable by telling us about it here on your blog! So great to *meet* you! :)

    1. Thanks, Heather, and nice to *meet* you too! Just checked out your blog. Your post about the slow build is spot on: (I wish I could make this a link! Don't know how unfortunately.)