59: Wayward Setter

59: Wayward Setter

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Wayward Setter

Thorns may hurt you, men desert you, sunlight turn to fog; but you’re never friendless ever, if you have a dog.

~Douglas Mallock

After many years of being without a dog, and at my daughter’s request, I scanned the newspaper looking for one. I had raised Irish Setters for many years, so I thought that another one would fill the empty spot in our lives. I also was married at the time to a man who never seemed to take any joy in anything that I did. Surely, I thought, another Setter would bring him to his senses. In my mind, he’d be so happy that I came up with the idea, this would certainly bring the happiness back into our marriage!

I saw an ad for an English Setter from a breeder not two miles away! I knew it! This was meant to be. My daughter and I picked out an adorable puppy that was all white, except for an endearing spot of brown around one eye. Taking the wriggly pup home, we waited for my husband’s approval.

Unfortunately, we were met with disapproval. Despite my best training efforts, in his eyes the puppy could do nothing right. He chewed on shoes; he jumped on furniture; he howled when left alone. Despite crate training, several long walks per day, as well as obedience training, Patrick, as we called him, was a very wayward Setter. I could handle the puppy being, well, a puppy, but what I couldn’t handle was my husband’s growing discontent and his conversations that began and ended with, “Get rid of THAT dog!”

My daughter was beside herself. She too had tried, but Patrick weighed fifty pounds now and he still hadn’t turned into the beloved family member we had hoped. The strain on the family was ridiculous!

Then, one after another, small miracles happened. My daughter, out of the blue one day, inquired, “Mom, why don’t you write a book about Patrick?”

I chuckled. “A book? Why would I write a book about Patrick? What would I say?”

She knew that I had been doing small writing jobs, but never anything big and certainly not a book. My inner fear took over. Who would want to read a book about a wayward Setter anyway? Hmm, a wayward Setter . . .

I sat at the computer, pulled up a blank page, and began: “Patrick was born one fine day in January, just before the coldest weather set in . . ..” I kept writing until I had what I thought was a good, rough draft of chapter one. My daughter eagerly read it. “Yup, this is good! Now, keep going!”

Again I chuckled. Only twelve years old, she had such faith in me . . . and in our puppy.

Two weeks later, while gathered at a Fourth of July fireworks show, we discussed the plot of the story. Curious, my husband asked what we were talking about.

“The book that Mom is writing. It’s about Patrick!” she said.

“Hmmph! Your mom can’t write a book!” His lack of faith in me was so disappointing.

“She is too, and it’s going to make money and then you’ll see just how valuable that dog is to us!” she exclaimed.

“I doubt it. He’s just a dumb dog that you just HAD to have!”

I looked at my daughter—her crestfallen face said enough. That was all the motivation that I needed. I said no more about it to him, but used every chance I had in between my jobs and caring for my kids to write. Early mornings turned into late nights, then, finally, I submitted the idea to several publishers. Within three weeks, one wrote back, asking to see my manuscript, which I sent in. The response made me cheer! It was accepted! Patrick the Wayward Setter would be published within nine months!

It was followed by three sequels. As I gained a following of readers, more ideas for book submissions came. Soon I was writing Western fiction, then nonfiction books. My marriage, however, took the hit. My husband, jealous of the attention, decided that I needed to make a choice: my writing or him. Our marriage had not been anything more than a piece of paper for many years. I made my choice.

In 2012, at age nine, Patrick’s health took a turn for the worse. This dog, whose loyalty was proven through my book signings, where he sat patiently as readers oohed and aahed over this canine hero of stories, who saw me through a difficult divorce and the aftereffects of rebuilding my life, was now leaving me. I was heartbroken. How does one repay a dog’s devotion? I stayed with him until the very end. When the injection put him to sleep for the last time, I finally broke down.

Today, I look back at how much this dog influenced my life. If not for Patrick, I would never have had the courage to write, not professionally anyway. I would not have had the chance to meet so many people who have told me what a difference my words have made in their lives. It was through this animal that I found the courage to leave a sad relationship and to love again.

~Diane Ganzer Baum

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners