By Cait Collins
A co-worker of mine returned from her vacation to find her beloved cat is distress. I was sorry to hear that he did not survive. As she was telling me about her pet, I realized that I had never really bonded with an animal. When you’re in the military pets are not always convenient. Some military housing did not provide fenced and gated yards. And as housing was almost white-glove inspected before transfer, we could not risk a pet that would damage or destroy the property. It wasn’t until I married that I felt a bond with an animal. My husband’s German shepherd would lay his head in my lap and beg me to stop the brothers’ wrestling match. I remember how devastated we were when we lost Barron.
I also realized I’ve seldom featured animals in my novels. Ginger is the exception. Ginger, the Irish setter in my current work, recognized Creed immediately, but her master is suffering from amnesia and doesn’t know the dog. Yet when he’s sitting on the floor watching over Ginger’s mistress who fainted when she saw her long lost son, he absently scratches the dog’s ears and talks to her like they’re old pals.
Ginger is collects people, especially people who are hurting. When ten-year old Sara learns the man she’s called uncle is really her father, she is hurt and angry because he lied to her. Creed’s dog becomes her confidant. She provides whines of understanding and licks of sympathy.
Ginger also plays a role in Creed’s recovery. She is the calm, the constant in the trials and pain of reclaiming his life. While others are stressing and venting, she remains a steadying influence for everyone she considers family.
I don’t have a pet. Mostly because I’m not home enough to devote the time and energy an animal deserves. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the companionship and love a furry friend provides. Animal friends are as multi-faceted as humans. They are not color in a story, often they are the story. Old Yeller comes to mind.
Pinocchio had Jiminy Cricket. Cinderella befriended her mice. Beauty had her Beast. Nana cared for the Darling children. What about White Fang, Fury, and Flicka? And there’s Lassie, Spot, and Rin Tin Tin. As you can see, sometimes an animal…dog, cat, wolf, horse, or a cricket just might be the missing or the lead character in a story.