You can spend many years with a dog and never get to tell it your thoughts. Well, you can sit with it and run through the day's events, and open your heart to it as it gazes into your eyes with apparent understanding, but the dog won't actually catch any of your actual nuances. So what if you could write your dog a letter?
This letter could tell your dog about its good points and bad points. It could let your dog know which of its habits you disapprove of and which of its traits endear it to you. It could inform it of its genealogy or the circumstances of its adoption.
It could tell your dog what you really think and feel about it - if you can find the words.
There's a book called A Letter to my Dog in which American dog owners (celebrities, naturally) try to find words to let their dogs know how they feel. And now there's a Kiwi edition of the book, which adds letters-to-my-dog written by New Zealanders. It's a feel-good book that sometimes puts a lump in your throat.
I have two copies of the NZ edition of A Letter to My Dog to give away (thank you, Hachette). You can be in to win the book by leaving a comment here containing your own "letter to your dog". I'll choose two that stand out to me in some way - they might be funny or they might be throat-lumpy, or they might be plain-spokenly sincere.
So you might get to win the book, or you might just take this chance to say what's in your heart about your dog. Or you might just take pleasure in reading what other people have to say - if so, do feel free to let them know, with a comment, that you like their letter.
I'm the blogger so I can't pike out of this. Here's a letter I'd send to my dear little dog pal Connor (if I thought he'd be able to read it).
Don't get vain because I chose you and not Phoebe to write to! I just, somehow, feel as though I have more to say to you than to her.
She's a terrific dog, mind you. But she seems to possess some gifts that you, Connor, missed out on. Phoebe is a diva, a beauty, an attention magnet. She gets on in the world by charming people and daring them not to love her. She's smart, too - one of those dogs who's hard to trick.
You, though. Even your biggest fan (me) wouldn't call you smart - and I say that only because I know that you won't have the foggiest idea what I'm going on about. Your breed is said to be "a born clown", and it's true. As I type this, there's a little round apple sticker adhering to your whiskers; it's been there since last night but are you bothered? No.
It's not as easy for you to get on in the world as it is for Phoebe. I know how sweet and sociable you are, but others, when they meet you, may get a different impression. Especially other dogs, who often make you tense. It's because, as tiny and vulnerable as you are, you want to protect your space and your family. It's because your breed is "bold to the point of rashness", and it's in your genes to run towards any threat or kerfuffle, not away from it.
Life has been harder for you than it has for Phoebe. You've needed more time, more training, more socialising. But all that work and energy has been worth it, to see you now engaging with the world and its people and dogs in a nearly peaceful way.
I can't say I like your occasionally undisciplined pooing. And when I'm listening to a podcast and you're snuggled up to the side of my head, I could live without the silent, toxic farts. But there's a lot about you that I love - so much, I need a separate paragraph for them.
Your sharp, sharky face. Your metronomic twig tail. Your little-boy eyes in the middle of a whiskered old-man face. The way you bow submissively whenever you see that I want to put your collar on. The way you sit in the splits, with one foot pointing out the back. Your mastery of the "roll over" command. The way you look at me that tells me you want your throat tickled. The way you give 100 per cent to everything. Your strange, settled friendship with the cat. That thing you do with your ears, so you look like Jar Jar Binks.
I think of you as a bold little soldier, marching out and checking out the world, making sure it's safe, investigating the new and piddling on the familiar, just to be sure.
March on, little soldier, I'm right behind.
Your friend, Nick.
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Photo of Connor: Erin McNulty
A Letter to My Dog is available at Whitcoulls, $29.99.