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  • Author Darci Hannah

Writing With Dogs

Updated: May 9, 2018


Ripley hanging out on top of Finn. It's her favorite place. Finn, not so much.

Writing with Dogs

#dailyhabitsofwritersandauthors #writingwithdogs #theadventuresofripleyandfinn

It’s hardly a secret that to be a successful novelist you must write that novel. Yet as obvious as this sounds it’s still one of those seemingly insurmountable hurdles that separates the novelist from the Oh, oh, I’ve got the best idea for a novel! writer. It’s that plaguing problem of wrangling enough time out of our busy days to actually harness that giant swirl of ideas floating around in our heads and start hammering them down on paper—hopefully in a logical and entertaining fashion. That’s where routine comes in. After all, a novel is simply a byproduct of inspiration, routine and dogged determination.


I never realized it, not until the day my faithful companion and all-around awesome springer spaniel Barkley (aka yard panda) passed away, but my writing routine was heavily intertwined with my dog.


Barkley reading The Angel of Blythe Hall. He encouraged me to add a dog to the story, and so I did. Good call, yard panda!

You see, like many aspiring novelists, I’ve always had a lot of stories swirling around in my head, but I could never find the time to pick up a pen and write them down. When the urge to write finally hit me I was a mother of three sons all under the age of five. I was surrounded by kids all day. We had play groups, and parties, preschool and family events. I gardened and cooked a lot and was always trying to manage the compounding clutter of toys. My life was chaotic and crazy, and by the end of the day I was too exhausted to stand let alone write. Then Barkley came along, and things started to change.


It wasn’t that Barkley was a perfect puppy. He wasn’t. He was just as crazy as my little boys and raced around the house with them, chewing everything in sight. I soon realized that if I didn’t want everything in the house destroyed by teeth or three pairs of curious hands, I was going to have to do something. My answer to this was getting everyone out of the house for a long, long walk.


Amazingly, those walks started to work. Everyone seemed calmer, especially Barkley. There was even a little peace in the house, which was nothing short of miraculous. One day I was so inspired by it that I took out a notebook and pen and began to write. The peace didn’t last long. But it was enough to give me the courage to believe that I just might, perhaps one day, eek out enough time to write a novel.


I began looking forward to our daily walks. The boys did too, mostly because it was an opportunity for them to ride their bikes. And Barkley? The mere sight of his leash threw him into a frenzy. After our walk, the boys would settle down with a snack and some TV time. Barkley would get a snack too, then curl up at my feet as I pulled out my notebook and pen.

As the kids grew older my writing time grew longer. Once the boys were at school, Barkley and I would go for our walk. It became my creative thinking time. For Barkley it was all about chasing squirrels and geese. Truthfully, we both needed that walk for our own reasons. Sure, I was still crazy-busy with the kids’ schedules, sports, a part-time job and a full-time husband, but that hour of writing was sacred time; it was mine, and I didn’t want to waste it. And that was my writing routine for thirteen years. I wrote a lot of novels with Barkley beside me and was even lucky enough to sell two of them.


Barkley drinking a cup of coffee after a little dip in the lake.

When Barkley was gone I fell into a slump. I continued to walk every day, but it wasn’t the same. The house felt empty, but it was nothing compared to how it felt sitting at my desk without my buddy beside me. My dear husband realized it before I did. He knew that I needed another writing companion. He also knew that he could never replace Barkley but did his best to find a dog remarkably similar. I was skeptical, until five months later when we took home another black- and-white male springer spaniel puppy named Finley.

Puppies don’t like writing schedules, but eventually, after months and months of house training and chew control, Finn finally caught on. I can honestly say that he is now every bit Barkley’s equal.


The noble Sir Finley MacDuff! His hobbies include squirrels, waterfowl, and running on sandy beaches.

I find inspiration writing with dogs, but instead of the historical fiction that I wrote with Barkley, with Finn beside me I decided to write something different. The result was a cozy mystery, Cherry Pies & Deadly Lies. Even more exciting, I was able to get another publishing contract.

In order to be a successful novelist, good writing habits are essential. You don’t have to write with dogs, like I do. You might want to try a cat, or a hot cup of coffee instead. Whatever it is that inspires you to write, grab hold of it and don’t let it go.


I now have Finn, and more novels to write. In fact, Finn and I were really beginning to hit our stride when another wrench was thrown into our perfect trifecta of walking, caffeinating and writing. Her name is Ripley, and she’s a golden retriever puppy.

Ripley’s a little hellion, but we adore her. Oh sure, she’ll settle down soon, but until she does every day’s a lesson in patience. It’s also an adventure, my adventure with Ripley and Finn.


Ripley learning how to be the perfect writing buddy. She's off to a great start!

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