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Musing: Five Thousand Fluffy Tales
A momentous milestone looms. After sixteen years of sharing stories about my dogs on their own website, I will publish the 5,000th post. Yes, 5,000 original stories about my dogs.
To be clear, I’m not counting re-shares like Way Back Wednesdays. Nor social media posts or even the gratuitous dog photos I’ve shared on my Monday Musings. Not even the sagas posted on Usenet and Listservs before personal websites became a thing. And, yes, I am that old.
Five thousand original website posts on TheThunderingHerd.Com.
Holy cow. Or, maybe I should say holy dog.
If writing that many stories about my dogs sounds frivolous—or obsessive—let me explain why you might find it important. This musing wouldn’t exist without those 5,000 tales. You wouldn’t be reading it, watching it, or listening to it.
I don’t mean just this particular musing. I mean any of the 140 musings I’ve posted on my own, non-canine website, dkwall.com. Or the 70 short stories, 100 photography tales, or 263 other posts I’ve done there.
Even more importantly, I wouldn’t have published any of my novels.
Don’t misunderstand. I would’ve written. Books have fascinated me since I was little. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary. Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. The mesmerizing Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. Stephen King’s scary Salem’s Lot or his epic The Stand. Those books, and so many more, enthralled me as a kid and let me dream.
And, yes, I thought it would be cool to be an author. One of my heroes, S.E. Hinton, published The Outsiders as a teenager, so why couldn’t I?
I wrote my first full-length novel in high school. Not typed. Handwritten. Page after page after page of my ugly scribblings. Even if someone could read that handwriting, the story will never see the light of day. It was an awful, dreadful, wretched narrative filled with teenage angst. I never dared to show it to anyone, much less risked rejection by sending it to an agent or publisher.
After all, I thought, trying to make a living as an author was impractical. Instead, I went to college and earned an accounting degree. Now, that’s practical.
Then, I picked up an M.B.A. and spent a career in finance traveling to the corners of the world. Many, many, many times.
During those thousands of nights in motel rooms, I continued to write. Over the years, I traded my pen and paper for the keyboard of a trusty laptop. Most of the stories were bad. Some were good, but I still didn’t risk sharing them with anyone.
So let’s loop back to those furry tales and how they led to publishing novels.
Along came Nikita, a willful, obstinate Siberian Husky who frustrated me with her delinquency. She escaped from the yard repeatedly and roamed the neighborhood. She counter-surfed meals and destroyed things in the house. She infuriated me… and I loved her like no dog I had ever had up to that point.
Realizing I was way over my head with such a trouble-making breed of dog, I looked for others who could offer me advice. I found them thanks to the relatively new-fangled access to the internet for the average user courtesy of America Online.
Thanks to good ol’ AOL, I discovered people who shared their wisdom and training tips for Siberian Huskies. They freely traded their stories about the antics of the own furry housemates. In the safety of like-minded people, I spun my own yarns of Nikita’s rich criminal history.
Some of the most prolific storytellers started blogs back when they were hosted by emerging internet companies. I tinkered with those, but dreamed of something bigger—a personal website—a rarity back in the day. It remained an elusive dream, too much work, unless I received some sort of push.
The incentive to do it came in the most heart-breaking way. After 13 years of entertaining and frustrating me with her antics, Nikita died of old age. To assuage my grief, I wrote the html code line by line, learning the language as I went, and built a memorial website. When I thought it was ready, I snagged my first domain name, an unimaginative phrase that had no marketing value. I figured it didn’t matter, because I was the only one who would ever visit the website.
Was I ever wrong.
Friends I had met in various Siberian Husky groups came. They mentioned the website to others. Many came to re-read a story I had written in a series of Listserv posts over a decade earlier. Escape Artist explained my battles to control Nikita’s uncanny ability to extricate herself from a fenced yard.
Amused with the attention the website received, I posted fresh stories, but they had to be built piece by piece with html. When I shared the tale—complete with photos—of Frankencouch, it went viral. People I had never heard of flooded the site and crashed my poor little server.
I was hooked, but I needed an easier process. I discovered WordPress, a relatively new software tool that allowed me to create both a website and a blog all in one place without the coding. I rebuilt the old website. I obtained a much better domain name based on a nickname given by my mother to my then five Siberian Huskies. In 2007, a year after losing the great Nikita, TheThunderingHerd.com was born.
The website was a hit. Nikita’s young Siberian Husky protégé, Natasha, became the star of the show as Queen Natasha The Evil, the true leader of The Herd. The Chief of Security, Kiska, kept the house safe. The court jester, Rusty the Rooster, entertained us with his antics. The Big Galoot, Kodi Joe, sauntered through life. The not particularly bright but handsome Qannik the Q-Tip rounded out the party. When Cheoah the Cheesewhiz joined a year later, The Herd had grown to six.
All I had to do was follow their antics with my camera and scribble down their chaos. The stories wrote themselves. I learned to listen to the characters and tell their stories, not try to impose my own ideas on them.
And that’s what I’ve done, come Thursday, five thousand times.
What I never expected when I started was the number of people who enjoyed the stories and suggested I should write a book. Maybe they meant a book about dogs, but their encouragement fanned that long-simmering desire I had buried.
When I’d had enough of business travel, company politics, and Corporate America, I struggled with what to do next, still not sure I could actually publish a book. I aimed my camera at landscapes and wildlife and even sold a few photographs. I learned videography and self-taught the needed editing skills.
But through it all, I continued to write. I shared essays and short stories that didn’t involve the dogs on my own website. I even penned a serial novel about a pandemic. Who knew Covid would take the fun out of that idea?
Then I finally did what I’d privately dreamed about for decades. I published The Lottery in 2019. I thought it might sell a dozen, maybe two dozen copies. It sold 10,000.
So I wrote the next book. And the next. And the next. And, yes, I’m currently writing the next.
So that’s how doing something as frivolous as writing a dog blog, posting 5,000 fluffy tales, led to publishing novels. Like any good story, it meandered along a twisting path, savoring the scenes and moments along the way.
And then we turn the page to discover something unexpected.
Enjoyed the Story? Try a Novel
If you enjoyed today’s musing, please consider reading one of my novels. Each standalone book tells the story of big lives in a small town, ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges.
January 2024 Reader Survey Question
Gratuitous Dog Photo: The Flying Boom Boom
Landon believes walking is for normal dogs, and he’s extraordinary. Boom Boom engages his hover-Sibe mode and floats through the air instead.
Until Next Monday
If you’re quietly chasing a dream, take that first step. You’ll never know if one step will lead to the next, and the next, until you find yourself 5,000 steps later living your dream, but it can happen.
If you have questions or thoughts, drop them in the comments below.
Have a terrific week. See you next Monday.
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