Here I am, playing with the puppy after my writing time. He’s learning that if he hangs out with me while I write, we’ll play after I’m done. He may look little…but he’s got very sharp teeth. As he lay on his back today, biting at his nylabone as I teased it in and out the reach of those teeth, I had a thought. I thought of all the people who had done the same thing, over the years, with their puppies. And then I thought back, to what it must have been like when dogs were new things, and it was a bit of a chance to try and domesticate them.
I imagined a young man, teasing a bone in and out of his wolfish puppy’s mouth and looking, as I did, at those strong jaws and long canines. I thought of how valuable a dog would be to him, as a hunting aid and as protection. But what a gamble it must have been…with wolf packs waiting to welcome the dog back, it was a huge investment of time and trouble for what could turn into either a waste or a danger.
And I thought, too, of how soppy my Labrador will probably grow to be. He’s not going to do much hunting – we’re vegetarians. Will he even be able to recognise when we need protection? It’s a delicate balance, wanting a wolf-like creature, but not wanting them too wolf-like…just wolf-like enough.
Inside me, too, is a hungry wild thing. It is intensely ambitious. It burns in my stomach and beats on my heart. It wants to explode stories into being, it wants to hurl them at the stars. It’s not easy, sometimes, to do the crafting of the work, to make it fetch and carry the reader through, to make it polite and follow the rules.
I don’t want it to be wild, and go off into the woods and be useless. But I don’t want to civilise it too much, either. When no one is looking, I sharpen its teeth.