Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Welcome Guest Blogger: Maria Zannini

Dogged Determination
by Maria Zannini

I've been reading the ongoing saga at how Marianne's wily dog, Dakota keeps pulling on her lead. I've come to realize Dakota brings new meaning to the term: dogged determination.

My suggestion was to switch directions on the pooch, forcing her to follow mom or get jerked off her paws.

Marianne said it didn't work.


Obviously, Dakota is a breed of super dog who laughs in the face of frustrated humans and their foibles. I can tell. I had one of those too. But I'd like to think dogs like these uniquely prepare us for a writing career. Stick with me and I'll explain.

My Samoyed, Czarina was such a dog. Like most sammies, she wanted to please, but she also had an independent streak that went miles deep.

The husband and I were young back then and at our wit's end with a dog who could ignore us with regal disdain. With no other options left to us, we took a dog training class.

That morning, Greg washed Her Highness until her long snowy coat gleamed in the sun. She was gorgeous! All white fluff and attitude.

The field where we did our training was muddy, but the trainer found us a decent dry patch where we could run through our paces. Greg walked Czar, and as usual, Highness decided she was too cute to oblige that day.

He tugged on her leash. He ordered her in his best authoritative voice. He finally pleaded with her.


The trainer, watching this, told him. "Drag her! She is testing you."

I think a light bulb snapped in both our heads at the same time. The trainer was right. Czar was going to see who was going to outlast who.

While all the other dogs obediently followed their owners (including my 'saint', Joey), Czar steadfastly refused to budge.

She sparkled in the sunlight, pristine perfection at its peak.

That's when Greg dragged her through the mud. The look on Czar's face was priceless. It was as if she couldn't believe anyone would dare challenge her imperial rule.

She was wrong. She had finally met a man more determined than she was.

By the time it was over, she was one huge mud baby—but she walked on lead, without complaint, as if this whole thing was her idea. I liken it to the Miracle Worker when Anne Sullivan finally taught Helen Keller to understand the word, 'water'.

The trainer later taught us that if we switched direction on the dogs as we walked, it would force them to keep us as the center of attention.

I don't know why it didn't work with Dakota. Methinks, she is an alien dog with super dog powers. Or maybe there was still too much puppy energy in her.

Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer, recommends tiring the dog out first with a long walk or play time before beginning any training. They are more malleable then.

So what does this have to do with writing?

It goes back to dogged determination and learning how to use that immense energy for good instead of evil.

When I first started writing, I had a few bad traits I hung onto because, darn it, I liked them. They identified me. What I didn’t realize at the time is that they didn't work. I didn't understand the rules, and you have to understand the rules before you can break them.

Czar didn't understand that despite her obviously superior dog intellect, she still had to obey the rules, and those rules came from us. But she did cement the concept of dogged determination firmly in my brain. And like Her Highness, I learned from my mistakes.

So what's the moral of this tale?

Never give up, but know when to give in.

As for Dakota…I still think she's an alien dog sent to Earth to test poor Marianne.

Thanks for having me over, Marianne. Do you think I can get my car keys back from Dakota now? I thought I saw her plotting with the voles.


Maria Zannini runs a lively blog here.
You can also catch her at her website
And at MySpace.

Her futuristic fantasy, Touch Of Fire, set on a world that knows only magic, is now available in ebook form from Samhain. To read an excerpt and for buying information go here.


Judy Thomas said...

What a wonderful picture of what we need as writers. Thanks for the look into your life and what a picture that was of your hubs dragging the freshly washed "Queen" through the mud!

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Judy!

The image of Czar being dragged through the mud is indelibly imprinted. LOL! But she taught us a valuable lesson.

While she grew up to be a perfectly well behaved dog, she tested us for quite a while. She was a determined puppy.

If you're a dog person, you can see more pictures of our menagerie on my website, under bio/puppy pictures. There's a story about each of them.

Thanks for stopping in!

Dru said...

I'm laughing because I can visualize this clean white dog being dragged into the mud just to show that you have the dogged determination as well.

Great interview and your words are inspirational.

J.K. Coi said...

Oh that dog is too beautiful, it's hard to believe she was so stubborn! When I was younger, our family dog was named Wolf, and the name was perfectly apropos considering he was the most dominant alpha dog I'd ever seen. Not mean, though he certainly made it known he wasn't taking orders from anyone.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Dru!
Czar was a pistol, but we loved her--haughty ways and all. Thanks for your comment!

Maria Zannini said...

Hi JK!

My dogs have taught me patience, humility, determination and love. They also taught me that it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.

Never give up! Thanks for coming over. :o)

Brandy said...

I like how you related the two ideas. *G* I'm not a writer, but there are so many aspects of life where that advice can be used. Thanks!

Melissa said...

Thanks for the post. The dog is a beauty.

Chris M. said...

First, that is a gorgeous picture. We had a Samoyed growing up named Suki. She was a character who let he CAT chaser her around the house.

I have to agree with what you've said about writing. Here's to making sure that we keep on keepin' on!

Michele said...

What a fun story! Too bad you didn't take pictures. That would have been extra cute.
Like "before and after" pics.

And you put the advice in a very nice way..basically it says: sit your butt down and do it, stay doing it until you do it.
Most times the inner critic is the haughty arrogant one that refuses to budge. But with "dogged determination" and constructive support, the inner critic would learn its place -- it doesn't have one.
Um...mine hasn't learned that yet.
**sheepish grin**

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Brandy!
Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment. You hit it on the money when you said this advice fits a lot of life's issues.

Maria Zannini said...

Melissa: Thank you! She always thought she was way too cute for her fur. LOL! Thanks for the lovely compliment.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Chris!

Sammies are unique, I'll give you that. They are such loving dogs too. Czar was haughty, but she loved with all her heart. I miss that little girl.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Michelle,
We often wondered if we should have taken the "after" picture, but Greg was too embarrassed. I swear she looked like a mud pie.

Ref: constructive support
That is so true! I will not kid you, I had my bad habits. I owe a lot of my success to fantastic crit partners who stuck with me and told me what I needed to hear.

Here's that all of us find such grounding and support. Thanks for dropping in!

Diane Craver said...

I enjoyed your post, Maria! Glad you were the guest blogger and your writing advice is right on target for me at this time.

Beautiful picture of your dog.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Diane!
Fancy meeting you here. *g*

You are one of the everlastings, Diane. I don't doubt for a minute your success.

Thanks for stopping by!