Mount Mary College

English Department

2900 North Menomonee River Parkway

Milwaukee, WI  53222

(414) 258-4810, ext. 395



Dr. Kristi Siegel

English Department

Mount Mary College

2900 North Menomonee River Parkway

Milwaukee, WI  53222

The Kippi Narrative

Without a controlling idea or thesis, a narration is not an essay.  The following story--and it's true (believe it or not)--is an example of narration.  There is no thesis and no controlling idea.  Although the story may be interesting, it is not yet an essay.  Examples of how this narration might be shaped depending on what thesis is chosen are provided at the end of the story. 


The Events - in chronological order

Shortly after my husband and I were married, we decided to get a dog.  I wanted a collie (I'd grown up reading Albert Payson Terhune stories), and my husband wanted an Irish Setter.  I thought Irish Setters were too "high strung," and my husband, Ron, thought collies were too hairy.  To compromise, we bought a book on dog breeds and tried to find a type of dog that we'd both like.  After a long search, I spotted a Belgian Tervuren, a dog that looked a bit like a cross between a German Shepherd and a collie.  The book clearly explained that this was a very aggressive breed and that only experienced dog owners need apply.  I'd had a dog before, and dismissed the warning.  The other problem was neither of us had heard of this breed before, and had no idea where to look for one.  Coincidentally, a friend of ours was looking at the same breed and mentioned a dog show that was going to be held shortly.  At the show, we found some Belgian Tervurens and were able to connect with a breeder.


When we visited the breeder's home, we found out that their dog had mated but the puppies were not yet born.  We put our dibs in on a female and then went home to wait.  While waiting, we argued over dog names and finally settled on "Kippi." When the litter arrived, my husband's department at work--who'd been given ongoing information about the forthcoming dog--gave Ron a puppy shower.  The cake said, "Yippi for Kippi!"  Before we could take Kippi home, we were told that we needed to have three "bonding" visits with the puppy to acclimate the dog to us and to demonstrate that we were going to be responsible, caring owners. 


We had the dog for about an hour when it became clear that this was indeed an aggressive breed.  Kippi could chew through all barriers, and--even as a puppy--was incredibly strong.  When we took Kippi to obedience school, the trainer told us, in essence, that we were too wimpy for this particular breed.  Her method for getting the dog's attention was to pick it up and slam it against the wall until they'd made eye contact.  She was right; neither Ron nor I was up to this mode of discipline, and the dog soon knew who was in charge.


One fairly chilly, spring morning, we decided to take Kippi to the park where Ron was later going to be playing baseball.  Ron and I arrived in separate cars as he was coming from work and I was coming from home.  Our agenda was to wear Kippi out before the game started.  We'd come up with a strategy where I would walk along the top of a hill while Ron would walk at the bottom.  Kippi, being a natural herder, would circle up, down, and around the hill in an exhausting effort to bring us together.  After an hour or so of this, a good meal, and plenty of water, we settled Kippi into my car (a brand new Toyota).  The car was parked under a tree, the windows were about halfway down, and--as mentioned--the temperature was chilly enough so that having the dog in the car was not a problem.


About thirty minutes into the game, one of my friends asked about Kippi.  Always eager to show off the dog, despite her ill-behavior, I went to the car to let her out.  When I opened the car door, time stopped.  In took me a moment to grasp what I was seeing.  Three seats had been chewed nearly beyond recognition, huge chunks were missing from the dashboard, and shards of fabric hung down from the inside of the roof.  Kippi was wagging her tail.  I went to tell Ron.  He said, "Drive the dog home. I'll follow you."


The car was demolished.  As I drove home, I had two emotions: shock and anxiety (despite all the damage Kippi had done, I was afraid Ron would want to get rid of her).  Numbly, I noticed the gas tank was nearing empty.  There were still full-serve gas stations then, and I was far too rattled to fill the tank myself.  When I pulled into the gas station, and asked the attendant to "fill it up," I remember the look he gave me when he was getting my order.  Translated, his thoughts were probably something like, "Gee, lady, nice car on the outside, but you sure are a slob."  I drove out of the gas station, turned right, was blinded by the sun.  I pulled down the visor, but only its wire frame remained.  In taking brief stock of the damage, I noted that besides the three shredded seats, largely missing dashboard, bare steering wheel and visor, and torn roof, that the seat belts were nonexistent and anything that was remotely chewable had been chewed.  I wondered what Ron was going to do.

Ron got home only seconds after I did.  For a change, I didn't say a thing. Ron, clearly, had no idea what to do.  I watched while he simmered several minutes and then grabbed Kippi.  He dragged her out to the Toyota, opened the door, shook the dog, and shouted, "SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE!"  After dragging the dog back into the house, he sat down again.  After several minutes of resumed simmering, he repeated the pattern: he dragged Kippi out to the Toyota, opened the door, shook the dog, and shouted, "SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE!"  Ron repeated this disciplinary action perhaps three or four more times.  Suggestions that the dog should go were muttered, but never acted upon.

On Monday, I called our insurance agent.  I never liked him.  When I'd ask a question, he would turn to Ron to give the answer.  Women, apparently weren't able to grasp the subtleties of finance and insurance.  Although even I appreciated that this was a funny story, I didn't appreciate it when he laughed and said, "I'm afraid that if Fido eats your car it isn't covered."  After I hung up the phone, I became increasingly irritated with our agent's condescending and dismissive attitude.  I called him back and reminded him of the amount of insurance we carried with him and suggested that he might at least check to see if any of the damage would be covered.  When the phone rang, it was Ron.  The insurance agent, after checking, found that pet damage to a house was not covered, but if Fido eats your car, it was.  Obviously, he preferred to give Ron the good news.  

The next day, I took the car to get an estimate.  The claims agent, came out, took one look, and asked if I minded waiting for a minute.  He brought back another agent to show him the "eaten Toyota," and this process was repeated until what looked like the entire claims' department was out gaping at the car.  The men at the body shop gave the car similar respect, and told me--in rather awed tones--that this damage was even worse than the VW they'd repaired after two Dobermans got into a fight in the car. The damage estimate came to about $1600, and this was 20 years ago.

Amazingly, we kept Kippi.  She never mellowed, and we never gained dominance.  We do, however, have an awfully good collection of dog stories.  And, perhaps, this is our fate.  One of our current dogs (a more docile breed) takes Prozac.  Her name is "Sunny."

Shaping the Events - Creating an Essay

In the narrative above, some shaping was inevitable, but--for the most part--there is not a thesis.  To make the above narrative into an essay, I'd need to decide what my controlling idea was going to be.  I could emphasize the dog and its impossible behavior, or my husband's disciplinary style, or even how much I disliked my insurance agent.  Any of these choices would affect the way the story was told and even perhaps the sequence in which the story was told (e.g., I could start at the end and tell the story as a flashback).  Depending on what thesis I chose, some parts of the narrative would gain in importance and others would recede or even be eliminated.  If you look at the cluster I made for this story, you can see its dominant features and some of the less important ideas that would or would not be used depending on the working thesis.  Some ideas for a working thesis might be ...

  • Revelations got it wrong.  There were really the four horsemen of the apocalypse and a dog named Kippi.  [Here I would focus primarily on Kippi and probably bring in some of her more illustrious tales of mayhem.]

  • I could have deduced a lot about my husband's future parenting style by how he handled our first dog. [Here I'd be focusing more on my husband, and providing some background about him, to explain how he reacted to Kippi and perhaps provide some clues to his disciplinary strategies for our four children.]

  • I never liked our insurance agent. [Here I might provide some background on earlier incidents with the insurance agent and perhaps focus on his fairly consistent sexism.}

Most importantly, however, without a controlling idea the story above is just a narrative.  It is not an essay.  To make the story more interesting, I would add dialogue, pacing, and shape the story to fit the thesis.  **See the links for using effective dialogue and pacing.



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