On Dogs, Villain Motivation, and Inspiration

Inspiration can come from the strangest places. Trust me on this.

I started praying for a dog when I was 3 years old. But, in the words of one of my favorite children’s books at the time: My mother said a dog was too much trouble. (See Any Kind of Dog by Lynn Reiser.) So like any child who hasn’t yet gotten what they want, I kept asking.

For five years.

During that time, I satisfied my desire for a puppy by reading and watching everything I could about dogs. My favorite movies? Homeward Bound, Milo and Otis, and Lady and the Tramp. My favorite toys? The Puppy-in-my-Pockets I collected for memorizing Bible verses. Favorite books? James Herriot’s Favorite Dog Stories and the dog guide book that sat on my bookshelf. I poured over its pictures of dogs and picked out my favorites according to their recorded intelligence, loyalty, and, of course, the cuteness factor.

By 2nd grade, I’d more or less given up. But then on the evening of my 8th birthday party, after I’d opened all of my presents – the last of which was a bike that required a trip to our front porch to find – I returned to the living room to find a huge package had appeared out of nowhere. Inside was every kind of doggy item you could imagine – collar, leash, food, hot water bottle, tug-a-war rope, etc.

I was so confused that I didn’t even notice the dog kennel sitting in the corner of the room until my dad pointed it out to me.

My younger brother was pretty excited too - can you tell?

My younger brother was pretty excited too – can you tell?

Meet Penny, a Sheltie mix puppy, destined to be my companion for the next 12 years. Shortly after I received her, I wrote my first story: “Love for a Puppy,” the riveting tale of a little girl named Annie (my middle name is Anne) who receives a puppy for her 8th birthday. (At least I followed the old advice to write what I knew, even if my originality was a bit lacking.)

That was followed by another story, and another, and here I am today, still writing stories. Granted, there are far fewer dogs in my stories now, but I had to start somewhere.

And because it’s still to this day probably the funniest thing I’ve ever written, I’m going to include the original ending to my second “puppy” story. This one was titled “Lost Puppy” and involved Annie and her cousin solving the mystery of who stole Perky (Penny’s alias in my stories…for the record, Penny was never stolen or lost. I think this particular story originated more from the Nancy Drew books I’d been reading than from any real life incident.)

The next morning Annie got in the car with Perky. When the vet saw Perky, he said, “Well, what’s wrong with her?”

Annie told him the story from beginning to end. Suddenly, a man burst into the room. When Annie saw him, she whispered, “The man from my dream.”

[Author comment: Earlier in the story Annie had a dream about an ugly man stealing Perky. I’m not sure where I got the idea for a vision come true – maybe I’d heard the Bible story of Joseph one too many times?]

“I’m Derrick Greenfield, and I’m sorry, but I’m the one who stole your puppy. I only did it because for some reason I just wanted to do it suddenly,” stated the man.

[This is what I knew of evil deeds and villain motivation at age 9.]

“That’s quite a confession,” said the vet. By this time Annie was giggling.

“What’s so funny?” asked the man.

“You never took a breath,” Annie explained.

“Oh,” said the man. “Will you forgive me?”

“O.K,” Annie said.

“It feels good to be forgiven,” said the man.

Annie didn’t say anything, but she was glad to find Perky. So happy she thought she would burst.


There you have it. Isn’t that a nice little moral about forgiveness? Also, I’m pretty sure half my stories at the time ended with someone being so happy they “might burst.” Glad no one implodes with overwhelming happiness in real life.

Were you ever inspired by something that happened when you were a kid?


  1. Will never forget the wonderous look on that lilttle girl’s face. Utter amazement!

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