I’m a dog person. Nothing personal against cats, or rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, snakes, and other domestic pets, but we’ve alway had dogs in my family. Now, there are dogs in my books.
The Family Dog
When I was a child we had Herbert, a Bassett Hound. He had a tendency to scamper off when we were playing outside so we developed a solution – tie a long rope to his collar and secure it through a brick (the old fashioned kind with holes in them.) By the end of the summer he could flat out run towing six bricks. This served us well a few years later when powerful storms left snow on the ground and school cancelled for over a month. (This was in Kentucky, where we rarely had snow.) The road in front of our house was flat but thanks to his early strength training Herbert easily pulled our sled around the neighborhood streets.
Later in adolescence my family had a Bloodhound, Justin. Descended from tracking champions (the state prison used dogs to find escapees) he probably found us boring. Our tracking experiences were limited to hide and seek, with Justin’s nose always winning no matter now long we took or far we went. (For the record, when a Bloodhound rounds a blind corner hot on the trail of your scent molecules, it can be quite the shock, even if you know he’s coming.)
Dogs in Fiction
Too many fictional dogs to name them all, but I have a few scene stealing favorites:
Toto, the Cairn Terrier in The Wizard of Oz (wouldn’t have an ending if he hadn’t reveled the man behind the curtain).
Argos, Odysseus’s dog, who recognizes his master after many years of wandering. The earliest example of a dog captured in story telling and the ultimate icon of loyalty.
Lassie, the Collie from the iconic TV show Lassie Come Home, who I mention because I thought it was hilarious when my cousin cried every single episode when Lassie was in danger. She is my older cousin and this was my one chance to feel superior, after all, I was pretty sure it would end well for the star of the show. (Granted, she did have a Collie as a family pet, so this was probably pretty close to home emotionally.)
There are too many others to name, Milou in Tintin, Nan in Peter Pan, and, of course, dogs in mysteries! We will skip the hound of the Baskervilles and go straight to contemporary favorites. A few of my favorites are retired K-9 Elvis in Paula Munier’s Mercy and Elvis mystery series; Clyde, another retired military K-9, in Barbara Nickless’s series starring Sydney Rose Parnell; and Alan Russell’s series featuring LAPD cop Michael Gideon and his K-9 partner Sirius. Each of these series bind human and canine partner in a quest for justice.
My own writing
I never set out to write a dog into my books, but I can’t help it. I can’t imagine life without my own Jack Russell terriers and can’t imagine my characters without their dogs. In Swiss Vendetta, the Vallotton’s Great Dane has a role to play, and in my current manuscript there is a bloodhound among the characters, ready to use his nose when called upon. They are more than a counterpart to their human counterpart. They are characters in their own right, with a place and purpose in the world, and in the books.
Share your favorite dog memory with us on Facebook or Twitter – whether it’s fictional or straight from daily life. And, for the record, I’m not so sure about the snakes. Let’s just say they are better off living in the wild, far, far from me.