Monday, June 20, 2011

Mom, can we keep him?

By Pamela

My daughter with Jett--a love/tolerate relationship. Can you tell?
Among many labels I wear--mom, wife, writer, baker, reader--I'm also an animal lover. Can't help it. We've always had pets, mostly dogs, but currently a fish (I know, not like you can pet them), a hamster (way cuter than I expected him to be), and our dog Jett.

From the precious beagle pup my brother brought home from the farm where he worked, tucked into the front of his denim overalls, to the current 85-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback/Shepherd mix we rescued eleven years ago, a dog has been my constant companion. (Jett, who ate the last bite of my breakfast, is currently snoozing just inches from my feet.) I was raised in the country and, although we didn't farm, it seemed everyone around us did. So horses, pigs, cows, chickens, cats ...  you name it; we were near 'em.

When I picked up Katrina Kittle's The Blessings of the Animals, I fell in love with not only the lovely writing, but the animals that played an integral part to telling the story. The main character, Cami Anderson, is a vet who assists in animal rescues. And while the opening scenes of a horse farm left unattended still make me uneasy, it's Kittle's use of one horse's journey to healing that parallels Cami's own emotional recovery. Cami's three-legged cat and crazy goat also add a lot to the story and give us more to love about her heart.

Sadly, my WIP is currently dogless. I feel one lurking about but I haven't decided what kind he is. Because the personalities of the family vary so much, I haven't fit them with the perfect pet. I think the boy would like a big yellow Labrador that chews his chemistry book and sleeps half on, half off his bed. I see the mom with a Puggle that joins her on her morning walks and snuggles in her lap as she reads at night.

But then there's the dad. He's not a dog guy. I can't really see him with even a cat! So, I'm trying to decide how much power he has over the house. Does he veto the dog notion? Does the mom get one anyway, to please her son? Does a dog just follow the mom home one day while she's out walking, and she can't turn him away?

Just as in The Blessings of the Animals, it's important to the story. Pet ownership tells something about you. If you adopt a rescue, I admire your caring soul. If you adopt thirty, then to me, you're a crazy hoarder. If you kick one to the curb when it wanders into your yard, then, well, you're not someone I'd like to know better.

So pets--both real and fictitious--say a lot about someone's character. I just have to decide what that animal will say about mine.


  1. I have always been an animal lover, and typically try to befriend each one I meet.I grew up with cats and a horse, and my husband always had dogs. Our dog is a purebred (Boston Terrier) but our two cats are rescue animals. Our newest addition is a baby bearded dragon, an animal my daughter wanted and I had not expected to like much, but I have grown quite attached to Spike.

    I actually don't have that many animals in my WIP, but I need to put more in because Carl and Madonna lived with a menagerie. At different times they had a dog, a cat, two goats, ducks and chickens. (Carl loved one rooster so much that when the rooster's leg froze, he did a neat amputation and made him a prosthetic limb that he had for the rest of his long life.)

  2. Thank you so much, Pamela. I agree with you: pet ownership tells a lot about you! All best with your own WIP!

  3. Kim, if Carl made a prosthesis for a rooster, you MUST include that in your story. That's such a testament to his character.

    And thanks for checking in, Katrina. I'll admit to judging people when I hear they don't like dogs. I think, What's not to like?

  4. He did indeed, Pamela. Carl also had the kids watch while he revived a lethargic bee in his palm by giving it a drop of honey. One of their goats loved him and constantly decided to jump up onto his lap with her sharp hooves. He apparently swore his head off but always set her back down very gently. The cat wouldn't go to bed unless he tucked her in. The ducks had free reign of the house at one point and he was so attached to two of them that they never ended up on the dinner table.

  5. I was terrified of dogs until I got one. When my daughters started clamoring for a dog, I said a flat no more times than I can count. Finally, my youngest wore us down. I said if we were getting a dog, it had to be one I picked because I had to feel totally at ease. We rescued Sophie and now she's our big baby after two years. And, as you know, I recently rescued a second dog ... for me! :) I have lost most of my fear of dogs, though some still give me the heebie jeebies. I can see something in their eyes that just scares me, and I know I'm not the person to try to make friends with them. Ironically, my friends' dogs always seek me out. Maybe it's because I've never been the one to approach first. And I don't have any animals in my manuscript. Hmm. Next one, remind me!

  6. Great post, Pamela--I agree, animals add so much to a story. I like your third option, where the dog follows mom home.

    In The Cemetery Garden, Athena had a miniature schnauzer (in honor of my own two minis, Mollie & Madison) who kept her grounded when her life was anything but, and in my current WIP, one of the characters has a fluffy-eared Springer Spaniel named Mack who gives him solace in rough times.

    You were the one who lent me the wonderful Lisa Scottoline's, My Third Husband Will Be A Dog. Charming, hilarious book reminding us just how much pets can add to our lives.

  7. I loved The Blessings Of The Animals and am always a sucker for the animals in a story. You are right about judging people by how they love/hate animals. There's something about not trusting someone who doesn't open their hearts to animals. Riding horses every week after my son died healed a little piece of heart.


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