Merrill and Fergus kicking back.

Merrill Feitel is a beloved Writers’ Program instructor and award-winning author of short fiction and nonfiction stories. She has a furry companion who features prominently in many of her works.

We caught up with her this past month and asked her if she would mind giving us some insider information about her bond with her furry gentleman friend, Fergus. She was kind enough to oblige.


Please tell me your pet’s name, age, and breed. 

Fergus. 15 and 3/4. Mutt.

How did you and your pet(s) meet? 


In the park.

We first met face-to-face in a Baltimore parking lot, where he showed up late in a van full of troublemakers escaping a lethal drug situation in West Virginia. He was filthy, worm-infested, and smelled like the dudes I desperately wanted to date in the ’90s. So I brought him home.

How did you know you were meant to be together? 

We spent almost three years driving back and forth across the country, fleeing unfortunate circumstances on both coasts. Fergus was afraid of plastic bags and wind, but he was big and sturdy, with a tough underbite, so he gave me the illusion of safety necessary to keep going. Together, we had the courage and opposable thumbs to explore remarkable things—and when I’d say: Let’s go home, he’d head for the car.

How long have you been together?

15 years

Fergus in his award-winning Halloween costume.

Tell me about your pet(s), any characteristics, notable personality traits?

Impeccable comic timing; ridiculous underbite.

How has your pet influenced you creatively?

I used to believe anything could be conjured on the page with words alone—but then I started writing about the dog, whose handsomeness defies language and requires photos.

Has your pet influenced your teaching?

It is decidedly so.

Any life lessons they’ve taught you?

If you insist on rolling in bear shit, you’re going to end up at the dog wash.

Fergus reading some of Merrill’s books.


Does your pet like to contribute a helping hand while you are writing? Please elaborate.

When I sit at the desk ignoring him, he helps perpetuate the self-loathing crucial to my work.

If you wouldn’t mind, could you please write a short ode (or some other type of creative bit) to (or about) your pet?

 He’s named after the poem “Who Goes With Fergus?” by William Butler Yeats, which is a far better poem than I could ever write. Google it!

(or click here)


Thank you Merrill and Fergus!

Merrill will be teaching an Intensive Revision course this winter quarter. Look out for her on the schedule.

You can find out more about Merrill and check out her work here.


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