We have two feisty and super-smart West Highland White Terriers who seem to love TV–each in different ways. Television is as important to me as reading and because I write mysteries, I watch a lot of movies and crime series, domestic and foreign. I’m always curious to see how other writers develop character, work twists into their plots, and create believable dialogue.
And I’ve been surprised that the dogs enjoy it, too, though obviously they have different interests. Our six-year old, Rudi, is fascinated by a wide range of things, and after dinner, he sits in the kitchen waiting for us to say, “It’s time for TV.” While we’re cleaning up, he trots into the living room and plants himself on a chair or ottoman opposite the 65-inch screen, waiting.
Rudi is happy watching nature specials and enjoys simple scenes like the wind sweeping across a planted field, rippling the wheat or corn. He also sat there riveted by most of Babe. At the end of that movie, he turned to us and moved his lips like the animals he’d been observing, and he does that every now and then when he’s excited about something.
He’s been no fan of the dragons in Game of Thrones or zombies in The Walking Dead. He races to the set to bark at horses tearing across the screen as they do somewhat too often in Poldark, but he seems especially fascinated by extreme closeups of people expressing intense emotion. At those moments, I watch his ears twitch and his head move from one speaker to another. Sometimes his eyes go wide if characters are yelling or crying. Both Westies are fascinated by fast-paced chases and fight scenes like the ones in the Jason Bourne movies.
Rudi’s half-brother Ravi, who’s just over two years old, is a typical little brother and often seems drawn to whatever Rudi is watching or barking at. But emotion triggers something extra special in the little guy. We were all watching Daredevil last week and I reacted intensely to a car crash that left the driver trapped upside down near her dead passenger because I have some lingering PTSD from a car accident of my own. I gasped during that scene in the show and Ravi raced onto the couch and started licking my face as if to reassure me. It’s happened before, and sometimes he responds even when I’m silent but experiencing surprise or momentary distress at what’s on the screen. He’s clearly been observing my face.
So TV nights at our home are layered: my spouse and I are watching the screen, but we’re also watching the Westies, who watch each other, the screen and us, too.
A veteran of university teaching, Lev Raphael now offers creative writing workshops online at writewithoutborders.com. He’s the author of the health club mystery Hot Rocks and 24 other books in many genres.