May 19, 2010

I’m in the middle of reading HIDEAWAY. Is it a coincidence that Regina is exactly like Leilani from ONE DOOR AWAY FROM HEAVEN? Also, I read all of Trixie’s articles, and I just want to know… how do you get her to pee on command, and why would you want to do that? My dog just pees on every tree, and as we live on a farm with many trees, sometimes this takes quite awhile. — Another nameless reader, from a nameless place

I loved Regina, who was not one of the three leads of the book but was, indeed, the heart of the book. I wanted to write a novel in which she was more explicitly a lead character, but I didn’t want to write a sequel to HIDEAWAY. A version of her later surfaced as Leilani in ONE DOOR AWAY FROM HEAVEN. They share the same physical disabilities and the same level of intelligence, but they really are not otherwise alike. Regina is absolute innocence, quick on the uptake but fundamentally naive. Leilani is far from naive; she has seen too much, experienced too much, to be naive. She is a more mature and complex character than Regina. As for Trixie…she was a companion dog for a young woman in a wheelchair. After elbow surgery, Trixie had to retire at three. She had two years of training and performed dozens of tasks for her human companion. Because many disabled people have mobility issues, dogs like Trixie are trained to toilet on a schedule related to their feeding times. Because, as you well know, dogs can wander around a lot before deciding on the precise best spot to deposit their “products,” and because disabled people in wheelchairs cannot keep them on a leash and follow them all over a grassy meadow, it is necessary for the dogs to learn to toilet on command. That they are able to do so and are content to do so says a great deal about the amiability and intelligence of dogs–and about the incredible skill of trainers with such organizations as Canine Companions for Independence, which was where Trixie came from.

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