Monday, January 25, 2016

Lawrence M. Schoen & Gej

Who is in the photo at right?

I’m Lawrence M. Schoen. I’m an author, a small press publisher, a psychologist, a hypnotherapist, and a Klingonist. With me is Gej. He’s about six and a half years old. To the best of our knowledge, he was an attempt by a puppy mill to generate a new designer dog — a Maltese/Pug mix. Or as I like to think of it, a “Mug” (not that I’ve ever seen any others).

What's the occasion for Diet Coke with a Canine?

I recently leased a new car, and it’s past time for Gej to get comfortable with it and take it out for a spin. Alas, he cannot drive it, not because of any lack of will, but simply because it’s a manual transmission and he only knows automatics.

What's on tap today?

We’re on our way to a nearby park that was recently renovated. It’s very dog-friendly, and has several miles of walking paths so we can both get some exercise.

Any treats for you or Gej on this occasion?

There is a brand new chew stick with his name on it waiting for us once we return home. He won’t actually chew (or eat) it right away. He’s apt to run around the house with it for an hour, showing it off as he clenches it in his mouth, until he decides where to hide it for a day.

How were you and Gej united?

I went to a puppy rescue to check out the dogs they had. I was sitting with one pup, and he looked up at me with an expression that said, “You, you are the most important thing in the universe.” It was really striking. Then a butterfly went by, and the pup tracked its movement, all the while with an expression that seemed to cry out to the butterfly, “You, you are the most important thing in the universe.” Uh huh. I picked up a pebble and rolled it past his field of vision, and wouldn’t you know it? That pebble was also…

So I left that dog behind and went to look at some others. There was one, a tiny puppy that the older dogs had been picking on; he had been given his own space to keep him safe. My wife and I visited with him, and he came over, stopped shivering, and sat with me a while. That was Gej.

How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?

I don’t believe in giving dogs names that are people names. And I had to explain this to my wife when we went looking for a dog. To say that she disagreed with my way of thinking would be a mild way of stating it, but since this was to be “my” dog, she gave in.

When I looked at him the name popped into my head and I said, “Gej, your name is Gej.”

My wife did not approve. I reminded her that I did not want to burden a dog with a person’s name. She countered with the notion that I name the dog for something else. I remember suggestions that included choices like “doorknob.” In the end, I was able to keep “Gej,” but only after promising not to train him to respond to commands issued in Klingon.

As far as aliases go, now that he’s a respectable and civilized six and a half, I can say that as a pup he was a terror. He had a habit of opening latched handbags and distributing their contents around the house, or pulling my wife’s books (but never mine) off the shelves and chewing on the spines. But that’s all part of the usual rambunctious/destructive nature of puppies. Except, it was also about this time that he crept up behind my wife’s aging and sickly dog, gripped her hind leg (the dog’s, not my wife’s) with his mouth full of needle-like puppy teeth, and attempted to push her down the stairs. For this and a few other reasons, my wife took to calling him “Evil Fuck Dog!” To her credit, she has since forgiven him, and now speaks of Gej only with love and adoration.

I also sometimes call him “Mr. Boy,” though I’m not sure why.

Does Gej do more to help or hinder your writing?

Gej’s involvement is as a reassuring but carefully detached presence. When I’m working from my home office, he will lay on the floor by my feet, keeping me company as I pound away at the keys.

Have any of your actual dogs inspired the creation of fictional canines?

My previous dog was with me for eighteen years. She showed up at my doorstep as a stray puppy. We sat together on the steps awhile and I looked at her and said, “Ghang, your name is Ghang.” And so she was.

Ghang was my constant companion through the end of my college years, all through grad school (my doctoral dissertation was dedicated to her), and through all the colleges that I taught at. Her passing after a long and rich life hit me very hard.

So hard, in fact, that I spent half a million words eulogizing her in fiction without even realizing it. One of my readers (who was also a psychologist) pointed this out to me after reading one of my books in which the protagonist loses his dog, believes him to be dead, but gets the dog back by the novel’s end. That’s when I realized what I’d done, and that if my character could get his dog back, I could move on and have another one in my life. Soon after, I went in search of Gej.

Cat, postman, squirrel...?

Deer. We live out in the exo-burbs, and there are a number of wooded lots near us. It’s not uncommon to come out in the morning and find half a dozen deer milling around on my lawn. Gej is not a fan of them and will rush up to the fence and bark at them. They are generally disinclined to move on.

Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?

Definitely the squeaky. Do you know the toy that’s a long serpent with multiple segments and a different squeaker in each? Yeah, that one. Don’t get that for a dog that likes squeaky toys. The dog will be happy, but trust me, you’ll regret it very quickly.

What is Gej's best quality?

Just being himself and wanting to hang with me. It’s a great thing to just be with a dog. You either completely understand what I mean and are already nodding, or I really doubt I could explain it to you.

If Gej could change one thing about Pennsylvanians, what would it be?

Not surprisingly, given that he lives a privileged and somewhat sheltered life, Gej has never shown any interest in state policy or procedures. I tried to get his input on this question but he just stared at me.

If Gej could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?

Probably, “Gej, what question should I have asked you? Good dog.”

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Gej could speak, who should voice him?

I’ve never really given this question any thought. Huh. Statistically speaking, I suppose it would be Michael Caine, but I don’t think he’d be a good fit. Hmm… maybe Tom Cavanaugh. I know, right? Not what you expected.

What advice would Gej give if asked?

“What is best in life? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!” No, wait, that’s Conan. Sorry.

Visit Lawrence M. Schoen's website and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Lawrence M. Schoen.

--Marshal Zeringue

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