News from Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Friday, April 29, 2011

A little howling couldn't hurt

I was reading a post on my Facebook page by Amy Shojai, our resident animal behavior expert, about why dogs howl. In my book, the Alien, I have a scene where Daniel, the Alien, learns to howl from a dog he's befriended. Let me post a bit of the scene here, because we've all had those days when a little howling would help.
The scene: Nightime, on the steps outside a camper trailer. Daniel now knows how to move in his body and how to speak, but he's alone and lost. His only friend is a Basset Hound, Buford.
There was no hope for it. He'd never go home. He was being hunted by one of his own species sent to destroy him. Buford, lying in his usual place by the steps, wagged his tail in greeting as Daniel approached and sat beside him.
From a distance, a coyote, searching for a kindred spirit, howled his loneliness, the sound drifting across the hills. The plaintive notes settled in Daniel's bones. Emotion caught in his voice. "Yeah, I know how he feels."
Rousing, Buford gave an answering call, his ululating bugle floating on the night air. With a satisfied grunt, he shook himself, and leaned against Daniel's shoulder, tilting his head to invite an ear scratching.
Daniel obliged him. "Howling feels good, huh? I could try that. I might feel better." He gathered his thoughts, centering in his gut, all his fear of abandonment and the pain of his loss. The ache grew into a black hole, churning until it welled up into his throat. His head thrown back, he let go with a long, loud howl, pulsing with grief, prolonging it until there was no more breath.
Buford howled in sympathy, the sound resonating with Daniel, where it hung in the air. In the distance, the coyote answered. Daniel tried again; this time he was louder and more heart-felt. Buford added his voice in dissonant harmony--a couple of kindred spirits in tune.
Inside the trailer, Ed looked at John. "What's all that racket?"
"Buford and Daniel are howling at the moon."
"You know, when that young man told us he wasn't from around here, Ithink that might a been a big understatement."
"I heard that."

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