Reader Friday: Pets and Animals in Fiction

Pets and animals in fiction is a huge topic. Interestingly, a quick search of Amazon didn’t bring up any book on the topic. So, readers/writers, there’s a void to be filled by an animal enthusiast. I did find an excellent post on the subject by Sue Coletta  – Tips to Include Pets in Fiction

Today, let’s discuss two things:

Your favorite pet:

Looking back at your entire life, which pet was/is your all-time favorite? Tell us about that pet and why he or she was so special.

The roles pets and animals play in books you enjoy:

As a reader of fiction, what way of using pets or animals in the story do you find most enjoyable? Explain.

Introducing Hamish

The timing could have probably been better (though who could have predicted the house flooding?!) but last Thursday we picked up our new collie puppy, Hamish. We were going to get an australian labradoodle but after much deliberation, we decided on a collie. Followers of TKZ may recall that we had to put down our previous collie but now we have finally welcomed a new puppy into our hearts and home. It’s been a while since we’ve done the whole puppy thing and I’d forgotten how much like having a baby it can be – crying in the middle of the night, potty training and, of course, all the delightful curiosity and playfulness. I’m so glad we got a puppy! I’ve been reading articles on websites like to get some tips on how to keep my puppy happy but he seems to be enjoying his new home!

Despite the potty training trials, Hamish is an lovely, friendly, mellow puppy and hopefully his presence will bring the same comfort our old dog, Benjamin, brought to our home. More importantly I hope he heralds the normalization of my writing schedule (finally!! Please!!) – Jim’s post yesterday actually made me a bit depressed as I would love to type faster but life seems to be getting in the way lately (sigh!). In fact it feels rather like trying to walk up a slippery slide…but enough about me…back to Hamish…

I can’t say I am a huge fan of pets in mysteries – especially not the pseudo-detective types – but I do believe pets can be excellent muses. My old dog was always happy to sit and listen to me talk about plot issues or offer me a ruff to hug when the middle of the books started to sag. I think pets provide writers with a myriad of support services – and besides who else would sit by hour after hour as you type, asking only for a small tummy rub now and again in return?

So do you have a pet ‘muse’? Do you have a cat, dog, horse, guinea pig, chicken, fish or exotic pet that supports you as a writer?

One Life That Still Touches Me

I was remembering our old dog, Feliz, the other day after I had found her collar in a box and wanted to share something that I had written to get past the profound sorrow of losing her.

Feliz had passed from this life after sixteen years of sharing her love. And as we knew it would, her death broke our hearts. Grief manifests itself in many ways. We still hear the click of her nails on tile, still see her shadow at the door, and we still linger at the garage, waiting for her to show and claim a biscuit. All of these moments are products of our wishful thinking and old habits are hard to deny, but it’s amazing how well she trained us. And if Stephen King’s story in Pet Sematary were true, we’d gladly welcome her back to this life, even if she were the spawn of Satan. That’s how much we loved her. She would always enjoy her dog playpen. If you wanted to learn more about dog playpens check out this guide on dog playpens.

Her full name was Feliz Navidog. Yes, she was a Christmas present, but not for us. We had given her to my parents with the caveat that if they truly didn’t want a puppy, they could return her to us. And within two weeks, back she came. In hindsight, she was the best present we ever got. We nearly called her Boomerang, but in Spanish, the word Feliz translates to ‘happy’ and that suited her just fine. She always had a smile on her face.

When she was a pup, she had a dark muzzle, one ear up and one down, a curled tail and an unfaltering bounce to her step. People often asked us what breed she was. In truth, she was a German Shepherd Chow mix, but we lovingly called her a “Somma Dog”—because she was somma dis, somma dat. But one man’s mutt is another man’s idea of perfection.

And Feliz had many admirable skills, despite her questionable lineage.

She was a practitioner of puppy telepathy, transmitting her thoughts to us with a meaningful stare. And she spoke the language of human beings with unfailing accuracy, developing an extensive vocabulary. Balancing a biscuit on the end of her nose then tossing it into her mouth had become her signature move. And in later years, she mastered sign language when her hearing was failing. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? I remember we bought her one of the best dog strollers and used to push her around the village when she was getting older. I have such great memories of her.

And every morning of her life—without fail—she awoke for the sole purpose of pleasing us. We saw it in her face and felt it on her warm wet tongue. She never tired of the routine or the mundane, even after her joints got stiff and her eyesight grew dim—because in her mind, she was always that puppy with a bounce in her step. Luckily we had read some pet insurance reviews and bought some pet insurance, since vet bills can get pretty expensive. She was totally worth all the costs though.

Dogs remind us that love should be unconditional. And in their world, friendships begin with a well-placed and unerring sniff—completely devoid of an ulterior motive or personal agenda. If you pass the sniff test, you’re in. No cover charge and no membership fee. And with a mere wag of a tail, a dog can make you smile and lift your spirits. We can all learn from them—because their love comes from a higher place.

I’d love for you to share your pet stories. Do you have a favorite pet?