October 4, 2012

A Kiss is Just a Kiss

Giacomo Giammatteo

Giacomo & Slick

A Kiss is Just a Kiss…

Or so states the line from “As Time Goes By,” the song made immortal when Dooley Wilson sang it for Ingrid Bergman in the movie Casablanca. While a kiss might be “just a kiss,” most of the time, there are “special” kisses. I’ll bet you remember your first kiss, and maybe a few others. Some kisses are so special you’ll never forget them.

When you’re writing about a kiss, you can’t just describe it and have it mean anything. No matter how great you are at describing a kiss, it has to mean something to the characters if you want it to have meaning for the readers. In other words, if a kiss is to have impact, it has to have a story.

Different Kinds of Kisses 

  • Peck on the cheek
  • Reluctant kiss
  • Stolen kiss
  • Sloppy kiss
  • French kiss
  • Passionate kiss
  • Goodbye kiss
  • A kiss hello
  • A good-morning kiss
  • A good-night kiss
  • An I-want-you kiss
  • An after-the-fact kiss.

The list goes on and on. But no matter the kiss, it has to have a story. Think of some of the most famous movie kisses:

  • Gone With The Wind, when Rhett Butler proposes to Scarlett and kisses her while Atlanta burns in the background.
  • Pretty Woman, when, after proclaiming throughout the movie that she doesn’t kiss clients, Julia Roberts’ white knight finally comes to get her and they kiss.
  • From Here to Eternity, when Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr shocked the movie-going audiences with their passionate kiss on the beach.
  • Casablanca, when Bogart reunited with Ingrid Bergman in his upstairs apartment.
  • The Princess Bride. Who can ever forget the “kiss to end all kisses.”

I was writing a scene the other night that had a kiss in it. I got to thinking about the different kinds of kisses and realized the one I was writing had no meaning. Then I thought of a story to get my point across. First, though, you’ll have to get to know my dog—



I’ll start off the story by telling you flat out—if Whiskers were a human, she’d be a hermit. To call Whiskers independent would be a gross understatement. Aloof wouldn’t come close. Anti-social would be closer to the truth.

We have an animal sanctuary with forty animals, and twelve of them are dogs. Whiskers won’t sleep or eat with any of them. Dogs are pack animals; they’re supposed to want to live together. Not Whiskers.

We first met Whiskers when she was two months old. She was living in a drainage ditch under a little bridge. I used to joke that she was like the troll from the children’s story, Three Billy Goats Gruff.

For about a year or so she lived by herself on the street. One day she got hit by a car and couldn’t walk. We took her in and tended to her. For a month my son carried her outside every day to let her go to the bathroom. He took care of her until she was able to manage by herself again. She stayed with us after that, but it was on her terms.

Whiskers’ Rules

  • She wouldn’t drink from inside the house
  • Wouldn’t sleep with other dogs
  • Wouldn’t sleep inside at night
  • Wouldn’t live with other dogs
  • Wouldn’t eat with other dogs
  • Wouldn’t stay in the fenced area

In return for our generosity, Whiskers appointed herself guardian of our property, about 15 acres. Every night for the past ten years, she has stayed outside, through heat, rain, cold…it didn’t matter. She has fought with, and driven off stray dogs, chased deer, fought coyotes and even held her ground against wild pigs, though she stopped short of fighting them.

A Crippling Event

A few months ago, while I was writing, I heard a noise outside. When I looked, I found Whiskers dragging herself toward the house. Her back legs were crippled. I carried her in and the next day we took her to the vet. He didn’t give us much hope. We kept her in the clinic for two weeks, but she still couldn’t walk. We decided to take her home.

For three more weeks we gave her pills and carried her out every day. There had been slight improvement, but not much. She still couldn’t walk ten feet without falling down. We decided we’d give it another few weeks.


The next morning around 6:30, I fed Dennis, our wild boar, fed the horse, gave Whiskers her anti-inflammatory pill and took her outside, then went to the kitchen to make coffee. When I finished my coffee I went back outside to get her—she was gone!

I looked everywhere and couldn’t find her, so I got my wife and we both looked. Then we got the tractor and drove around the property—through the woods, around the pond… She was nowhere! I got that sick feeling in my gut. Something was wrong.

We started at square one. This time I walked every inch of the property, calling her name the whole time. After almost an hour, as I was making my way around the pond for the second time, I heard a whimper. I looked, but couldn’t see her. I called her name, and again I heard a tiny whimper. It was coming from the pond!

our half-acre pond with first stages of giant salvinia

Giant Salvinia


As you can see from the picture, the pond has been invaded by giant salvinia, a species of plant from South America that takes over in a matter of weeks. It is damn near impossible to get rid of.

When I got to the edge of the pond, all I could see was her nose, and, when she bobbed her head, a bit of her mouth. She went under just as I got there. I jumped in, and briefly went under, all the time I worried that the giant salvinia might be much more than an invasive plant species. Images from Aliens which I had watched a few nights before came to mind. Suddenly the salvinia seemed to have “hands” or at least “grippers.”

I grabbed hold of Whiskers and tried getting to the shore. My headset fell off and submerged. My iPhone, always in my shirt pocket, went down for the third time, and I prayed that it was not the metaphorical “third time” like in the movies. All the while, Whiskers struggled to stay afloat in my arms, and I struggled to stay on my feet, as the bottom of the pond puts the definition of slippery to shame.

To top it off, I must tell you, I’m not a water person. I have no fish in my ancestry. Not anywhere. I grew up in the city, and while we had a public pool a few blocks from the house, I think it costs a dime to get in. Dimes were better spent on cigarettes in those days.

So there I was, slipping my way toward the very-steep bank, and struggling to keep Whisker’s head above water. Oh, and I wondered aloud, with more than a few curse words, why I ever wanted to live in the country.


I managed to get Whiskers to the side of the bank and push her up on it, but she kept sliding back. The floor of the pond had a steep slope and I couldn’t keep balanced. I finally found a foothold on a branch from a tree. I gave Whiskers one big push, stabilized my position, and managed to crawl out onto the ground next to her. While I lay there on the bank with Whiskers, I leaned in close and said, “You damn crazy dog. You almost killed us both.”

She let out a small whimper, and then she did something she has never done. Not once in the ten years I’ve had her—she reached up and kissed me.

That might not seem like much for you people reading this. It’s not much for any dog. But for Whiskers—it’s a lot.

Whiskers Has Never Kissed Anyone. 

  • Not my son, when he carried her outside every day for a month after she was hit by a car.
  • Not my wife, when she spent days tending to Whiskers after a copperhead bit her and her face swelled until she looked as if she had a grapefruit attached to it.
  • Whiskers has never kissed my grandkids, my niece, or me. No one! Ever.

That kiss was magic! There’s no doubt in my mind what it was. It was a “thank-you” kiss.

 The Bottom Line

If I told someone, “I got a kiss from my dog Whiskers today,” it wouldn’t mean much. But if they knew Whiskers, and what it takes to get a kiss from her, it would carry a lot more weight.

So the next time you’re writing a scene with a kiss, think about Whiskers, and make that kiss magical.

PS. Now that I know what it takes to get a kiss from Whiskers…I hope I never get another.

Ciao, and thanks for stopping by,




Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of Murder Takes Time, and A Bullet For Carlos. He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 40 loving “friends.”

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35 Responses to “A Kiss is Just a Kiss”

  1. a hero’s kiss for certain

  2. Thanks for dropping by. That kiss from Whiskers was momentous.

  3. Awesome post! I love the story about Whiskers, and you told it incredibly well. I think you deserved that kiss, but yeah, I hope you never have to earn another. Sounds like that dog really knows it can count on you, maybe in a life where it couldn’t count on much. No wonder she’s so vigilant about protecting your house and property. Thanks for sharing…

  4. Thanks, Julie. Whiskers is a great dog. She still can’t walk well, but she’s outside right now, guarding the place. Glad you stopped by.

  5. Just stopping by from the blog hop 🙂

    I knew it! I just knew one of the posts today would make me cry and yours was it:)

    What a lovely post 🙂


  6. Thanks, Vikki. Sorry about the tears, but glad you liked it. And thanks for dropping by.

  7. Thanks for taking part in the blog hop.

    Thank you also for sharing such a wonderful story. Whiskers sounds like one very special dog. A kiss well-earned for the hero I would say.

    I take my hat off to you looking after so many animals. The world needs more people like you.

    My wife and I have 6 cats but I know if we had a bigger house that figure would be much higher.

  8. Thanks, Dave, Whiskers is a special girl. But then again, they’re all special.

  9. Thank God!

    What has the vet said about her not walking? If he prescribed anti-inflammatories it sounds like he suspects muscles pinching a nerve.

    PS I emailed you. Good news. 🙂

  10. Exactly, Maria. It has been three months now, but she is improving.

  11. my heart is so full…the overflow is spilling from my eyes! thank you for sharing Whisker’s story! I’m very proud to have made her acquaintance…and yours!

  12. I’m so glad you stopped by Jayedee. I blog a lot about our animals here. They have so much to give.

  13. Love this story, even though it plucked at my heart strings and brought tears to my eyes. You and your wife are angels on Earth. A cross-species kiss that didn’t need spoken language to explain it….

  14. Thanks Dianne. And yes, there was no denying what that kiss was for. I’ve tried to get another one from her since that happened, but no dice! Whiskers is stingy with her kisses.

  15. We’re on a dog break after our labrador died this year so am a sucker for feel-good animal stories……

  16. So sorry about your Lab. They are such great dogs. It does take time after you lose one.

  17. What a great story – I’m so glad it had a happy ending! When I saw the picture of poor Whiskers all wet and half dead looking, I was scared to keep reading. What an amazing story!

  18. Hi, Terri. Glad you kept reading. Whiskers is a character. I think I was more shaken up than she was that day.

  19. Knowing Whisk personally, I almost fell out of my chair hearing about that kiss!!!

    A couple other things about her that Giacomo couldn’t fit in:

    — She doesn’t even like being pet!

    — It’s almost impossible to even get a pic of her.

    — She barely qualifies to be called a domesticated dog. She doesn’t act like any pet I’ve ever know…and growing up in the Giammatteo household, that’s saying a lot!

    I’m so glad that you were able to save Whisk! And to get your kiss.

    But mamma mia!, I hope this is the last of the pond adventures.

  20. Wow, what an amazing story. You had me in tears. I hope Whiskers does well. Take care.

  21. Sorry about the tears, Andrea, but thanks for stopping by. Whiskers is getting better. She’s walking about fifty feet at a time now, without falling. And I’m not letting her near the pond.

  22. Aliza: you’re right, there are too many peculiar behavior traits of Whiskers to fit in one post.

  23. Oh my goodness, what a sweet and heartbreaking story Whiskers has. You are truly a hero, that’s why you got Whiskers’ one and only kiss!

  24. Thanks, Lauri. Whiskers is one of the happiest dogs I know. She’s a real character.

  25. Oh what a story!

    I love that you and Whiskers have been able to come to a living arrangement that suits everyone. I’m so glad that she lets you care for her when necessary even if it doesn’t really suit her nature.

    What an amazing kiss.

  26. Thanks, Angela. The living arrangement works because everyone gave in to Whiskers. What a strong personality she has! Thanks for dropping by.

  27. THAT was amazing! I’m so glad you found her and that you both weren’t hurt further. I really hope she is doing better! Sounds like an amazing pup 😀

  28. Thanks for stopping by. It had me shaking all day. I kept thinking, what if I hadn’t heard her? Damn dogs! they get to you.

  29. What a sweet story. Horrah for Whiskers 🙂

  30. thanks Vickie. I appreciate you stopping by.

  31. What a touching story! At least that kiss meant something!

  32. you bet. it meant a lot.

  33. Dear Jim,
    Thank you for that great, and very well-told story. Your point resonates with me, and you’ve helped me in my writing. Thank you for taking the time to share.

  34. Oh my word, what a story. I’m so pleased it has a happy ending – and a great kiss x.

  35. Thanks for stopping by, Lesley. And you’re right, that kiss from Whiskers made it all worthwhile.

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