Watching Our Westie Watch TV

 

Rudi enjoying the evening’s entertainment

People are surprised when I tell them that our older West Highland White Terrier loves watching TV.  He even watched almost all of Babe, and when it was done, he looked at us and started moving his lips like the dogs and sheep in the film.  True story.

He’s doing more viewing than ever as the summer’s gotten hotter, since he likes staying inside an air-conditioned home and it’s much less taxing than keeping an eye out from the entryway windows for anyone who dares to walk down our street. He enjoys TV in different ways. People running or chasing one another alert and intrigue him. He’ll bark at animals of all kinds or try to chase them across the large screen, though sometimes he’ll just peer at them.  If he observes a critter he’s never seen before, like a giraffe or rhino, he always turns around and looks at us as if asking for a name or explanation. Unless he’s just saying, “Dude, did you see that?”

We’ve named certain common animals for him and if you mention them away from the TV in casual conversation (cow, camel, horse, etc.), he’s likely to run into the living room and wait for one to appear, whether the TV is on or not.

He seems to appreciate dramatic emotional confrontations between people that involve close-ups.  I’ve watched his eyes dart back and forth, his ears twitch, and he’ll either sit close to the screen and follow every twist and turn, or jump up on an ottoman about six feet away and watch in more comfort.  Occasionally he perches on the end of the couch or in a cozy small leather chair.  He’s clearly fascinated.  What does he make of these moments? I can’t imagine.  But the intensity is what seems to hold him riveted.

Booming sound tracks and massive explosions in thrillers bore him, while car chases don’t.  If he is bored, he just curls up and falls quickly asleep wherever he is, though sometimes he does that right in front of the main speaker of our home theater system, which seems a quirky choice.

I’d love to be able to talk to him about his favorites types of scenes of just see inside his mind for a little while and experience a movie through his eyes.  But watching him is entertaining enough.

We didn’t realize that he was such a TV fan until we noticed that after our dinner and his, we’d find him in the living room staring at the blank screen from one perch or another.  If we’re busy, now we put on Netflix’s soothing footage of coral reefs called  Ocean Wonders to keep him entertained until we’re ready to tune into something we’ve already DVR’d or a movie we’re renting for the night.

He does not like the news at all, and these days, neither do we.

Lev Raphael is the author of The Vampyre of Gotham and 24 other books in genres from memoir to mystery.  He teaches creative writing online at writewithoutborders.com.“Studying creative writing with Lev Raphael was like seeing Blade Runner for the first time: simply incredible.”
—Kyle Roberts, MSU Class of 2016

I Survived a London Heat Wave

Temps in London have been off the charts for weeks, and that’s reminded me of a six-week stay there when the unexpected heat felt like my nemesis.

I was teaching creative writing in a summer program where I had amazingly productive and fun students, as well as superb guest speakers like authors Miranda Seymour and Val McDermid.  I was subbing for someone and the flat he had arranged for was in Pimlico, which was away from the crazier parts of the city, quiet, scenic, and filled with terrific restaurants and pubs.

But the heat that summer was fiendish, sometimes passing 90 degrees.  My flat was on the top floor of a small building and hotter than that because it had no air conditioning and heat rises.  It got so hot there that I had to point a small fan at my iPhone which kept overheating. Opening windows for cross ventilation was not a good idea because for some bizarre reason the gusts were so strong they blew everything off the table I worked at, and the wind was so strong it even unrolled the paper towels in the kitchen from their rack.  The room looked like some poltergeist had paid me a visit.

I had arrived in London with a knee injury and had to stay off public transport, but I found car service drivers reluctant to turn on their AC or turn it up.  I explained over and over that I was prone to migraines and that usually did it, but stepping into a black car at midday was highly unpleasant anyway.  They’d comply and leave their driver side windows open or cracked, evidently afraid of getting a chill.

And then there was Regents University where I taught, which was un-airconditioned.  My afternoon classes got way too much sun and sometimes my students looked on the verge of passing out. When I appealed to the powers-that-be for a fan, we got one.  For just a day.  And I was made to feel that I had overstepped some invisible boundary by even asking for it.

People kept telling me everywhere I went that “It never gets this hot,” but that wasn’t very comforting. What kept me cool was grocery shopping at a deliciously cool Sainsbury’s, dining out, attending a concert in a Victorian church, and visiting fantastic museums like the Tate Modern where I saw epic Matisse and Malevich exhibitions.  People were remarkably friendly wherever I want, and honestly, I fell in love with Pimlico.

Eventually the AC-phobic drivers and everything else making me fry started to seem almost funny.  Why?  Because on my first-ever summer trip to London years before, I was so cold I had to buy a woolen sweater. So by the end of my six week stint in 2014, I was calling it my deluxe and safe Caribbean vacation.  No fear of sunburn, no sharks, no sand in my clothes.  And terrific Gin and Tonics.

Lev Raphael is the author of 25 books in many genres, including the guide for writers, Writer’s Block is Bunk.  You can take creative writing workshops with him online at writewithoutborders.com.“Studying creative writing with Lev Raphael was like seeing Blade Runner for the first time: simply incredible.”
—Kyle Roberts, MSU Class of 2016