Recently someone asked me whether the two dogs mentioned in my novel are based on my real life pooches. Of course they are! It’s so much easier to write about what you know after all. I didn’t really mean to include them though, they just kind of crept into the story when I wasn’t looking. This made me wonder how many other authors are tempted to include their pets in their manuscripts? Or even include pets at all? I can think of lots of books that feature dogs, but hardly any where a cat plays a leading role or a hamster, guinea pig and so on. The only one that sprang to mind starring a bird was Kiki the parrot from Enid Blyton’s Adventure series, but I’m sure there must be lots of others.
Dogs can so easily steal the show in books. Man’s best friend only needs to make a tiny appearance, and we remember them, sometimes long after we’ve forgotten the other characters. There is something so very appealing about them and they stand out on the page even though their actions have to do their talking for them. And I suppose because they’re easier to train than some other animals, it’s possible to utilise them more to help with the plot. They’re our guardians and loyal companions, they give us sympathy when no one else will and they love us unconditionally no matter what.
Some authors have brilliant canine characters and I think Georgette Heyer was especially good at creating them. Take for example the dog in The Reluctant Widow, who decides to “guard” the heroine to the extent that he won’t let her out of her own study! Then there’s the so called Baluchistan hound (whatever that is?) in Frederica, who causes havoc in the hero’s house because he won’t go with anyone other than the heroine’s brothers. Both wonderful plot devices used to great comic effect.
Katie Fforde’s novel Practically Perfect features greyhounds and who could fail to fall in love with those gentle creatures? They bring the hero and heroine together, as dogs often seem to do in real life (I’ve never had as many strangers talk to me as when I first bought a puppy!). Then there’s Lucy Dillon’s recent Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, which won the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award this year. It features a whole cast of canines, who all win you over, especially the boisterous Basset Hound who makes you want to own one yourself. Apparently Lucy based him on her own Bassett, which might be why it stands out from the others.
As a child, my absolute favourite was Timmy from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series – I made my parents name our first dog after him even though we chose to buy a collie because of the gentle creature in Lassie Come Home. And as an adult, another favourite was Tricki Woo, Mrs. Pumphrey’s fat Pekinese in All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, who had to go on diet “holidays” at the vet’s just to be able to move. Whenever I see Pekes now, I think of him and smile.
So do you use your dogs or other pets in your novels and do you find this happens without you even thinking about it, as mine did? And what’s your favourite canine character in other people’s books? I’d love to know. (Also, can anyone think of a novel where a cat saves the day? I can’t, but that might just be because I’m a dog person and therefore slightly biased.)
Don’t forget to come back on Sunday, when Liz will be posting again.