[identity profile] ultra-chrome.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] ds_workshop
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s most likely to mean Dief in this fandom. There’s just not that much Turtle fic out there. In fact the only one I know of is [livejournal.com profile] elementalv’s Mortal Enemies. It’s only a drabble, but I’m of the firm belief that it’s more than enough to instill a deep and abiding respect for The Turtle Mind.

So let’s stick with Dief for now, shall we? And while I’m at it, I haven’t seen nearly enough Dief fic, either, so links to any memorable ones would make me love you long time.

I guess the first thing you need to decide is whether your Dief is actually deaf, or if he’s got selective hearing. Fraser swears he can’t hear a thing, (even though he talks to him constantly) but if you watch Dead Men Don’t Throw Rice and Mountie on the Bounty, you get a couple of Dief’s ear accounts of what he hears and it’s just a little muffled. You can choose whether you want him to be able to use that or not.

The part that’s going to be the biggest challenge is sorting out how Dief interprets the world around him. Dogs don’t care much for the things we think are important. Dogs don’t worry about money or if the people next door can hear them having sex. They don’t care if Snuffy down the road told Brutus a block over that their new collar makes them look fat.

On the other hand, if Snuffy is in season at the time, her spending any time at all with Brutus is going to be major blow. (Although the Dief in my head is as fussy as Fraser and would never deign to breed with a diamond studded lapdog. Ante doesn’t count. She’s like a supermodel with brains, ok?)

I’ve had a lot of dogs in my life, but the one who has taught me the most about what makes them tick is Riff Raff. He’s half Dingo (Australia’s answer to the Wolf.) and as a result I’ve had to battle the wilder side of him to end up with the joyous companion that he is most of the time. Riffy gives me about as much grief as Dief gives Fraser, but without the fluffy.

Things I’ve Learned From Riffy.

Food is God. You Can Never Eat Too Much. Ever.

This one stems from the way wild dogs survive. They aren’t going to catch something every day, no matter how good they are, so they gorge themselves whenever they can and then find somewhere comfortable to sleep it off. A few days later, they go out and do it all again.

It’s a great survival strategy that doesn’t translate so well into domesticity. They’ll do it every time they find food. Any kind of food at all. Naturally, it’s a habit that should be combined with exercise and when it isn’t, fatness ensues.

Now, I don’t know if dogs understand the concept of cause and effect when it comes to their stomachs, but, like Dief, Riffy never seems to grasp that belly ache is a common side effect of over indulgence. I tell him and tell him, but he never listens…

Do Important Stuff When Nobody’s Looking.

Important stuff is things like snatching forbidden treasure and stashing it for later, digging an escape route in the most remote, well sheltered part of the yard and killing the newly hung out laundry. Okay, Dief doesn’t really have to do the digging thing, but he might have need of it in your story. The point is these guys can be sneaky with the best of them. They figure out what they can get away with much better than your average bred in captivity variety pooch. They know that they can’t get in trouble if you don’t catch them at it.

Obedience is Optional.

No matter how much training you pour in, how well they know the required response, they will prioritise all requests.

What I mean is, you might tell them, “Stay.” As long as something more important doesn’t come up, they’ll do just that. The good bit is that even if they go and deal with the more pressing issue, they’ll often come right back and lay down where you left them.
Food is always going to beat any command you give them, unless they know you’re carrying something yummier.

People Like To Pat You.

Dief’s Kind isn’t all that snugly. They think they want a cuddle and then halfway through getting one, they find something else to do. It’s nothing against Humans, it’s just that they show affection in other ways. A good hard scratch above the tail and they’ve had their lovin’ for the day. They can take a good deal more when it’s all tied up with you telling them how clever they are, and how much you appreciate them bringing the (insert item here) back.

One thing they won’t do unless they trust you implicitly, is roll on their back for a belly rub. Dief would probably only do that fro Fraser, and maybe Ray after a while. Even then, it wouldn’t happen often.

The reason this is at all bearable for someone like me is simple. They humour us. They know that we supply an acceptable portion of their daily food requirements and they let us love them in whatever way they can. They also know we need it more than they do.

I think it’s a big part of why Dief and Fraser get along so well. They can both show their love by just sitting quietly together.


Loyalty Must Be Earned.

Here’s one thing that food can’t buy. This one’s all about the Alpha.

These guys won’t follow just anyone who wants to be leader. You have to show many Fraser-like traits to gain their respect. (I don’t mean the big words and Inuit stories.) You have to know who you are. You have to mean what you say. You have to be confident with your decisions and your demands. Most of all, you have to be polite.

It helps if you know a bit of Canine body language, too, but I’ll cover that later.


I could go on for days about all the neat and not so neat ways that Riffy is like Dief, but I actually need to post something that isn’t going to bore you to sleep, so I’ll move on to some other, more important issues. Like the physical differences between Us and Them. Well, the not so obvious ones.

Vision.
Some people will tell you that dogs are colour-blind. They’re not. They see colours differently to us, but they don’t see in black and white. They can tell a blue ball from a yellow ball. They have trouble seeing an orange dumbbell on green grass, though. Any other colour seems to be fine.

There are so many differing accounts of what colour ranges they have that you’ll never be correct in everyone’s eyes. To be on the safe side, stick with primary colours if you’re going to note colour at all. I’m sure Dief doesn’t care about the subtle differences between lilac and lavender. (Unless he’s having difficulty with a floral arrangement.)

Another thing to remember is the view Dief has from his eye level. He won’t see what’s pushed to the back of the top shelf, but he can tell you what’s been kicked to the very back corner under the desk. If you ask him nicely enough, he may even bring it out for you.

Smell.
Dogs can detect scents that the rest of us don’t know exist. If somebody dropped a slice of pizza on the rug a week ago, Dief can tell you what the toppings were. Even if it was only the crust. Seriously. He can’t help it, either. Dogs can’t “switch off” from a smell like we do. I can’t imagine how Chicago must smell to Dief after living in the Territories. Fortunately, dogs also enjoy scents that we find repulsive. Garbage is divine. Conversely, CKOne is not going to be Dief’s favourite smell.

Dogs Don’t Sweat.
Personal agenda here. I once read a trilogy about wolves and their battle for survival in a human war zone. It was brilliant. There were all sorts of beautiful descriptions of how the world looked to them and how they reacted. I was so engrossed I neglected to eat. And then, about a hundred pages from the end, came the fatal flaw. The hero was running for his life and “his flanks were streaked with sweat.” That phrase still haunts me. I thought I was in this wolf world, living with the pack, hunting, raising cubs, the whole shebang. Then, BAM! Forcefully ejected by a glaring mistake. That’s one of the first groovy facts I learned about dogs. They drool and they pant. Riffy dunks his whole head in a bucket along with his front feet and then slides around on the grass so that he gets wet all over. They cool down in different ways.

Just… please don’t make Dief sweat. Please.

Diet.

I’ve been guilty of writing fic in which Dief eats chocolate. It’s a common thing and he does it in canon, too. But he really shouldn’t. There’s a chemical in chocolate that is toxic to dogs, causing a range of symptoms from vomiting to seizures and possibly death. Milk chocolate isn’t likely to cause more than a bout of diarrhoea, but baker’s chocolate is far, far more dangerous. So think twice before you have Dief eating a box full of chocolate covered donuts. You might be killing him.

Not to mention the risk of pancreatitis from too much fat intake.

A short list of other food that is poisonous to dogs…
Nutmeg.
Avocado
Raisins
Macadamia Nuts

There are other foods which wouldn’t be doing Dief any favours, but those are the ones that’ll land him in the vet’s faster than you can say Tuktoyuktuk.

Other Ways Dief is Different from Fraser’s Other Buddies.

Knowing a bit about the body language of dogs is all important if you want to write Dief. The perfect example of how well it can work is Learn to Speak Canine in Seven Easy Steps by [livejournal.com profile] etcetera_cat.

Eye contact is a very powerful thing for dogs, Wolf or otherwise. To stare at a dog’s eyes is to challenge him. It’ll usually go one of two ways. He’ll divert his eyes and lower his body position in relation to yours, or he’ll become aggressive. You see Fraser make direct eye contact with Dief quite a bit. It’s an effective way of reminding him who’s boss.

On rare occasions, Fraser combines The Stare with The Muzzle Hold. That’s like saying, “Screw up now and you’ll be eating kibble for ever!” The Muzzle Hold is like the pinch your mother gave you when you were naughty in public. It’s a big warning that bad behaviour will not be tolerated. Dogs use it on each other all the time.

If that isn’t enough, they’ll grab the scruff of the neck and shake it. For really big punishment, it’s usually a case of grabbing the brat by the throat and flipping him over.

When it Comes to Establishing Dominance, It’s All About Who’s On Top.

Keep your mind out of the gutter, we’re talking about dogs, remember?

When dogs meet for the first time, they’ll sniff around a lot, and wag or flag their tails. (Wagging is side to side and low. Flagging is upright and sort of like twitching the end.) Can you guess which dog is taking the offensive here? Yep, the one with the upright tail.

When they come face to face, one dog will sniff at the top of the other dog’s head. Once again, dominance. The submissive will sniff around the dominant one’s mouth. He may even lick. It comes from way back when Mama Wolf came home with a full belly and all the Baby Wolves would lick her face to make her regurgitate food for them. Face licking is like saying, “I’m a baby, don’t eat me.” Or it could be a prelude to lunch…

And sometimes the dominant will even hump the submissive, just to get the point across beyond doubt. Take a moment here to reflect on your new Dief’s eye view of Fraser and Ray’s relationship…

Okay, back to work!

How Smart is Dief?

The intelligence of dogs is generally considered to be something like that of a child between the ages of four and seven. Four being the Pit Bulls and Irish Setters of the world and seven being the Poodles and Border Collies. Before you jump on me about my breedist opinions, I got that from about a million books on the subject. Like I said, Riffy was a challenge.

So, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d rate Dief at about a ten year old brain. He can read maps. He watches hockey. He can lip read in how many languages? But he still can’t figure out what makes his tummy sick and he’s afraid of Pink Plastic Flamingoes.

That gives you a lot of room to play with your Dief POV. He can be well spoken and articulate, or he can use plain language. So long as you’re consistent with what you’ve decided for him, Dief’s pretty easy to write. He’s actually a lot of fun.

Now if you want to know how to write Fraser’s horse? That’s going to need a whole new post. But I could be bribed.
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An archive of the Due South Workshop comm from LJ

October 2011

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