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Writing About Animals Workshop at MD Anderson

Patricia, Molly, Carol #2
Patricia, Molly J, and Carol Mason

I’ve been an Artist in Residence at MD Anderson Cancer Center for a while now, and my most recent workshop there was so incredibly fun. We had a live model, Molly, and her human, Carole. Molly is a therapy dog who visits patients at MD Anderson and lifts their spirits with her tricks and sweet personality.

During the workshop, we discussed many of the different ways to write about animals, and how to describe them in our stories. Molly modeled for us so we could describe the way she looked, and then went on to explore her behaviors: high fives, dancing, rolling over, and others. She was happy to perform for us, especially because her mom had delicious treats in her pocket.

Workshop attendee Meryl Rachlin was kind enough to share her written description of Molly and a response to one of our writing prompts:

Meryl RachlinMolly stands about ten inches tall and fourteen inches long. Her longish coat of silky fur is black and white, mostly black on top with a pure white underside. All four paws are white which all come up to the same place on her leg making it look like she’s wearing socks.

Her throat and chin and around her nose are also white and a bit of salt and pepper where her ribbon-tied pony tail sits like a fountain of hair atop of her head. Her face fits in my hand, and my hand is small. Her eyes are round dark globes with a bright inquisitive expectation as she looks into your face, waiting for minute signs, verbal or non to inform her next reaction to us.
Molly is a shitsu, smart as a whip, cute as a button and trained as a therapy dog. We met this morning at the Anderson Cancer Center at a class and she gave me a high five. I like her! I think she likes me, but my bet is she likes just about everyone!

This is Meryl’s response to the following prompt:

Imagine having a conversation with an animal, any kind of animal—one you know or don’t know, a wild animal or a domesticated animal. Ask this animal what their life is like, what they do in a day, what bothers them, what worries them.

So I said to my dog, “Tell me Daisy, what is your life like since you’ve lived with us? It’s been 2 years now. You seem happy.”

“Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, am I happy! I am sooo lucky; I cannot believe how lucky I am. Can you rub my belly while we talk? I love love love my belly rubbed. I’ll lay on my back and spread my legs—oh ya, oh you do it soo good Mom. Wait, come closer, you know how I like push off you with my front legs. Hh ya, oh ya… So anyway, yup, love it here, nice house, and I love all my beds; the ones on the floor are nice but I especially like the ones you sit on in the living room at night when you are not watching me…and I love love love our walks together. It’s a bigger job than you think going for a walk, ya know. Trying to keep track of all the other dogs by their smells is quite challenging work, but it brings my joy. I know you get bored when I stop too long at any one smell. I know cause that’s when you say, “Okay, let’s go,” and yank me by my collar. I’m cool with it mostly, but some smells need much more attention than others. I love the geckos, and oh boy, oh boy those squirrels!”

“Oh yes, Daisy, I know how much you love the squirrels. You can jump pretty high!”

“I can jump high but I wish I could climb the trees. Those squirrels make my heart race so, and it makes me whimper with excitement. You’re pretty nice letting me watch them as long as you do Mom, really you’re super-duper. And I love treats; you are really great about all the yummy treats I get. I hate it when you go away, but as much as I hate you leaving, I am never happier than when you come home! It’s the best thing in the world when you come home. I am never ever so happy as that, every time.”

“Well, I kind of get how happy you are, geesh, all the wimpering and funny noises you make, and you wag your tail so fast I think your whole butt is going to fly off! Well, I thought you were happy, and it is nice to have you tell me, but it’s important for me to tell you that you make me extra happy too. I can’t imagine life without you my puppy. I love you more than you will ever know.”

“Me too, Mom. You stopped rubbing my belly, Mom, keep rubbing my belly, Mom.”



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