Anne here. We were talking about dogs and cats in books the other day, and though I've had several cats in my books, and I'm very fond of all animals, when it comes down to it, I'm generally for dogs, especially in books.
When I was a kid, I used to love Lassie and RinTinTin movies, and I snapped up any dog stories I could find. There was Finn the Wolfhound, Old Yeller, Jack London's The Call of the Wild, Nip (a story about a collie.)
But in the main, they were angsty stories about dogs enduring hard times, and surviving, but . . . as a friend of mine's teenage son once told her, "I'm not reading any more dog stories; they always die at the end." I remember howling at the end of Old Yeller.
And I recall reading Nip in the back yard, and fretting about the terrible things he was enduring, and calling my collie, Bessie, over every few minutes so I could cuddle her — and comfort me. I couldn't find a web reference for that story and the book is in a box somewhere, so I can't even find the author's name, sorry.
But it doesn't need to be that way. Dogs can fulfil other functions in books and it doesn't have to break your heart. Georgette Heyer was a dog lover — I would know this even if I didn't know anything else about her because of the way she portrays dogs in her books. But here are two photos of her with her dogs (with thanks to Jennifer Kloester for them.)
In The Grand Sophy, for instance, Charles —who was pretty autocratic and unsympathetic at the start, clicks his fingers, and Sophy's dog, who doesn't usually take to strangers, immediately comes to him. And thus we know that Charles isn't as bad as he seems.
In Venetia there are several dogs. In the opening scene, Venetia's dog Flurry makes up to Damerel instead of protecting her from the advances of a stranger, and she says something like, "Idiotic animal, have you no discrimination?" And while Flurry is a character reference, the incident also makes Damerel look twice at her, realizing she's not the village girl he first thought her.
One of my favourite Heyer dogs is Ulysses, a scruffy little street mutt that Arabella (our eponymous heroine) rescued from bullies, then bestowed on the bemused Mr Beaumaris. Ulysses takes to him at once, and as the story progresses, Mr Beaumaris has a series of delightful one-way conversations with the dog, that are funny and endearing, as well as showing our hero's state of mind.
Jennifer Crusie is another dog lover, and they play a part in several of her books. In Anyone But You, Fred the lugubrious, depressed looking rescue dog, is adopted by the heroine one day before his "expiry date." She went to the animal rescue place planning to adopt a puppy to cheer her up, and instead chooses Fred.
So he's a character reference, and of course, unlikely a cupid as he seems, he brings the hero and heroine together.
In my recent book, The Rake's Daughter, the hero's aunt, Lady Scattergood is somewhat of a recluse, but she takes in little street mutts. Leo is being cold and autocratic — and then he comes across her newest battered and scared little rescue mutt, Biddy. And he's gentle and sweet with her and so we can see he's redeemable.
(Lady Scattergood's dogs were inspired by this old photo from Juliet Marillier, who takes in elderly rescue dogs. The photo was taken by Kathy of Shaggy Dog Shack, and is used with Juliet's permission.) Juliet also has dogs in several of her books. Try Flame of Sevenwaters, a story that includes quite a bit of animal training.
I did one very bad thing with dogs, I confess. I killed a puppy in The Stolen Princess — actually the villain killed the puppy; he was trying to kill the princess's little son. The little boy didn't like the skin on his warm milk so he gave it to his puppy. And the milk was poisoned. But still, I wrote the words. I will never live it down, I fear. I suspect some readers would rather the little boy died, not the puppy! So now, confession over, onto happier dogs.
In my book, His Captive Lady, Nell's dog Freckles is her only source of comfort, as well as being someone to confide in.
In Marry in Haste, the gruff, practical hero virtually kidnaps his newly discovered niece, slung over his shoulder, kicking and yelling. Refusing to allow her to bring her beloved dog, a wolfhound called Finn (of course), they set off in the carriage. Until . . .
After about ten minutes on the main road, the carriage slowed. Hawkins opened the communication hatch.
“What is it, Hawkins?”
“It’s Miss George’s dawg, m’lord. It’s following us.”
Georgiana’s face lit up. “See, Finn goes everywhere with me. He always has. Let him in, oh, please let him in.”
“Keep going, Hawkins. The dog will give up soon and return home.”
“I hate you!” Georgiana curled up in her corner, a hostile ball of misery.
The carriage picked up speed again. Fifteen minutes later, Hawkins slowed again. “It’s still following, m’lord.”
Georgiana leaned forward and put a hand on Cal’s knee. Tears glimmered on her long lashes. “Please. Finn won’t give up. He’ll follow us until he drops. His paws will be bleeding. . . “
Cal sighed. “Let the blasted animal in.” The carriage came to a halt and he opened the door. Georgiana whistled again, and a moment later the dog clambered awkwardly into the carriage, his ribs heaving with exhaustion, a panting red tongue lolling halfway down his chest.
Georgiana gave the great beast a rapturous welcome, cooing over him as if he were a lapdog. “Finn, oh, Finn darling. What a good, clever dog you are! Yes, you are!”
Cal watched gloomily. The dog was huge. He was wet, he was muddy, he had probably never been bathed in his life. Now that he was reunited with his mistress, his long scraggy tail lashed ecstatically back and forth, sending joyous splatters of mud and filth in all directions—mainly over Cal’s pristine coat and breeches.
And the smell—dear God!
Georgiana gave him an apologetic glance. “He must have found a dead bird to roll in. He’s very fond of rolling in dead things.”
Of course he was. Cal tried not to breathe.
And so we see that Cal is not quite the heartless autocrat he seems to be at the start. See, dogs as character references…
There are plenty more dogs in fiction that I could talk about, but perhaps I'll turn that over you you, wenchly readers. Do you have any fictional dogs to recommend? Are you an animal lover, and if so do you have a favorite?