The Hairy Character

A reader’s perspective of animals in literature

A month ago Kim and I agreed to kitten sit in our home. A co-worker of Kim’s brought over the most adorable little kitten who looked like a mini-me version of our younger of two cats. It was to be a great weekend especially for the twin kitties who could romp and chase and wrestle all day long. Except that didn’t happen. There was lots of hissing to be sure and a lot of sniffing and unfortunately A LOT of fleas! This poor tiny little kitten was infested!!

After 1.5 baths (the .5 because it was redo of her head) and a blow drying experience we were breathing a sigh of relief that we caught the situation before it got bad. Oh how wrong we were. A week later both of our cats were scratching up a storm and randomly jumping from their sleep as they were attacked mercilessly by these little biting critters.

A bath, crossed fingers and lots of hope for that to work and relieve our poor kitties from the torture but nope, didn’t happen. Finally we were at wits end and called in pest control to spray the house down. Of course there was lots of preparation for such an experience as outlined by the company including how and where to vacuum before they entered and how and where to vacuum every day for a week after they left. Making sure the cats were treated by their vet so there wasn’t a re-infestation. And of course how we would have to stay out of the house for a minimum of four hours!! What do you do with two indoor cats for four hours?!

Well the morning of the treatment arrived and I gave the cats another bath which they both hated and piled them into the car which they both hated. I figured I could drive around for a bit and when it was safe, we would all come back home. For our cats- WORST DAY EVER! How humiliating for them to both be soaked and then shoved into a moving vehicle for four hours! And believe me they both let me know how incredibly unhappy they were in regards to this experience.

Kona
Kona

We are blessed with two incredibly sweet and incredibly different feline companions. The older of the two is a long hair with possible Maine Coon traits in her coloring and coat–no six toes though. Her favorite things to do are to lie around all day on her “princess” pillow and wait for her servants (us) to carry her to her food bowl, or outside for her vitamin D exposure, or to brush her since she prefers not to groom herself (and for some reason Kim thinks she’s spoiled!).

The other one, quite a bit younger, is all about fast! He hates to be held but loves to be on laps. Give him a “mama kiss” on his head and it’s a sure way for him to take off at full speed to try to outrun the yuckyness. We love them both and they make our little family!

Kona shaved
Kona shaved

A week went by and our poor long hair cat was becoming more and more miserable. Her undercoat had started to severely mat from her bathing experiences to the point that she was nipping at anyone coming even close to her bottom. What to do? Well, the poor thing would need to be shaved! So yet again she is piled into the car, which she still hates, driven to the groomer and made to suffer the experience.

Except she really, really didn’t like that backside being touched! The groomer carefully placed her in a collar to help in the process which of course would be even more humiliating! Our poor cat rebelled and managed to catch her tooth on the collar and broke it! A car ride, a groomer and now the emergency vet! NEW. WORST. DAY. EVER! But we would do anything for our little kitties including scheduling them for a tooth extraction just to make them feel better. They truly are a part of the family!

So as I was sitting in the examination room of the vet snuggling and baby talking our cat (because she is not a spoiled princess!) and just wanting to make her world better I started thinking about how animals impact so many lives and how our lesfic authors are able to capture that love and impact.

1403Two stories immediately jumped out as having animals as actual characters in the story. Characters that impacted the plot, the characters and the connections between others. The first one is Georgia Beers’ Olive Oil and White Bread. The puppy that the couple adopts- Boo, is allowed to grow alongside the characters throughout the entire story. Boo had a place, a responsibility and an ability to move the story.

LAL_Cover

Same with KG MacGregor’s dog character of Dexter in Life After Love. Dexter wasn’t just a pet for one of the main characters, Dexter was a supporting character for the story. One with a personality and impacting messages.

There are more stories with animals as actual characters though and I’m stuck trying to remember them! Readers help me out!! What stories have you noticed where our amazing authors make one of their characters an animal? Animals that have a role, a personality, a purpose to the overall story.

Let me know if that is something that you enjoy seeing as much as I do. Fur characters that not only make the characters in the story react but make us as readers react as well be it with laughter, tears, concern, or joy. Characters that add to the story because they are capturing a part of life that is so common and so familiar to many of us. Let me know some titles and some favorites of yours!

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13 thoughts on “The Hairy Character

  1. I am a cat lover like you. I used to do the flea bomb, baths, etc. The absolute best stuff doe fleas is this powder that I got from a company called flea busters many years ago and then treating your cats with advantage. Works great. I’ve started snaking my cat characters into my books with a very minor part in a book coming out in December and then the next two books I wrote that are coming out probably next year have a bit more with cat characters. I think I have to think about making a very prominent cat character now!

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    1. Cats have the best personalities too! They can totally be captured in all their attitude and behaviors. That is great that you are adding some to your upcoming stories. I’ll look forward to meeting them on the pages!

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  2. Rita Mae Brown, of course, writes the Sneaky Pie mysteries. And Dana Stabenow’s mysteries include character Kate Shugak’s wolf-husky Mutt (great animal character). You might also check out Andrews and Austin, who have a basset hound named Elmo in their Richfield and Rivers mystery series. And if you’re interested in cozy mysteries, here’s a nice list of animal-themed books in that genre. And speaking of Georgia Beers, her work-in-progress is a series, I believe she said, that is set in and around an animal shelter (she talked about it on Facebook a few weeks ago — everybody get stoked!).

    I’ve written animals into some of my works. From the Boots Up and From the Hat Down have dogs, with particular emphasis on the dogs Moonshine and Booger, who appear in both and do play sort of a thematic role as well as a companion role. Plus, Meg Tallmadge is a ranch woman, and then a veterinarian. So she works with lots of animals. I also wrote dogs into my YA mystery story, “The Falcone Maltese,” which appears in Lesbians on the Loose: Crime Writers on the Lam. I’m more a dog person, but in a forthcoming romance, there is a cat that belongs to the main character’s best friend.

    At any rate, great topic, Erin! Readers, give us more suggestions for books with animals!

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  3. So, how awkward was Kim’s relationship with her coworker after that? Yikes!

    I love Micky Knight’s relationship with her cat, Hepplewhite (J. M. Redmann). There’s Stephen King, or Steve, the rescue mutt in Georgia Beers’s Starting from Scratch. And Gordie in Zero Visibility (heck GB probably has a dog in every book, right?). How about Trashcan in Dillon Watson’s Keile’s Chance? Dog names could be a topic of it’s own, right? DeJay’s Sisters has an awesome German shepherd, Chance.

    My book, Wishbone, is about an animal control officer who works to open a shelter. Stanley, a Norwich terrier, is one of my favorite characters.

    Animals can be great metaphors and truth tellers in a story. Thanks for sharing yours!

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    1. Let’s see- she’s cooked us dinner once, bought me an iced tea once, and gets teased every time I have a chance! She is still working to get rid of the fleas in her house as well and claims to have thought her kitten was flea free when she dropped her off.

      I totally agree that Georgia Beers does an excellent job of having animals in her works and they have such a natural presence that it reminds me of my own wondering around my house. It definitely makes it easier to relate to the human characters as that is a big similarity.

      I’ll have to check out Wishbone! Thanks for letting me know and thanks for reading!

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  4. Being a sci-fi/fantasy fan, I love D. JacksonLeigh’s Dragon Horse series. I love it when there’s telepathy between humans and animals. I got hooked on that when I devoured Ann McCaffrey’s Dragon Rider series in my early years. Shape-shifting stories also bring a cool perspective to the human-animal relationship. LL Raand’s Midnight Hunter series is great, and there are lots of other ones out there. Laurie Salzer’s Positive Lightning integrates training guide dogs for the people with visual impairments. Good books are just better with animals in them!

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    1. I didn’t realize that D. Jackson Leigh had written a sci-fi/fantasy! That is so cool!! I’ve really enjoyed Jae’s shape shifter series. I think it is that cat lover in me but she works cat characteristics into her main characters and so many of them made me chuckle as I read them because I kept thinking- my cat does that!!! I enjoyed Laurie Salzer’s first story and definitely need to pick up Positive Lightening as well. Thanks for reading!!

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  5. Sorry your furry friends had to go through that experience. I can’t think of any specific stories at the moment but I do love stories where animals play strong supporting characters.

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    1. Thanks Devlyn. She is on antibiotics to help with the tooth extraction so she is still having bad days when she is pulled off her princess pillow so we can pry her jaw open and try to get at least half of her medicine into her mouth instead of all over her chin! On the positive side, she gets to eat wet food for the next two weeks so that is making her pretty happy!

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