World Building: Animal Companions
I brought home a puppy recently. Isa is a 12-week-old Rhodesian ridgeback / hound mix I found at petfinder.com. I had searched for months for the perfect large breed to add to our menagerie. My husband has been traveling more often than usual and I did not feel safe without a large dog to scare away would-be bad people.
Our four-year-old basenji mix, Amelia, is not fond of the puppy, but she doesn’t like other dogs anyway. The only warning she offers involves her viciously attacking our front window if there is a dog, usually being walked on a leash by her owner, across the street. Mailmen. No warning. Salesmen. Silence. But one tiny chihuahua crossing the street in the vicinity of our house and Amelia goes mad. Hence, her and Isa have a tenuous relationship. So far, Isa is playing the submissive. As long as that keeps up, Amelia’s ego will be sated and there should be no blood shed.
Toby, the year old cat, LOVES the puppy. He welcomed Isa into the family with his typical cleansing kisses. I can see those two sharing a bed, once the puppy stops trying to eat the kitty.
I have become much too sedentary thanks to my butt-in-chair attitude for getting the writing done. Good for my career. Bad for my, well, butt. The new puppy comes with walking responsibilities. She also prevents oversleeping by waking up at 6 am every morning. And I can’t seem to find the snooze button. Both of these habits are good for a healthier me. I can’t seem to motivate myself to get active. A young puppy in need of proper training to be a life long companion was the impetus I needed to get this party started.
As you can see from my personal experience, owning a pet, either one I’ve had for years or a brand new edition, forms part of who I am and what I do. Consider adding a pet to one of your characters. It can improve your story in many ways.
- Your pet-owning character can’t run away on a mission or vacation or quest without dealing with the care of their dependent non-humans. Whether it is your protagonist deciding on who to trust with the responsibility or a side character dropping her cat on your protag’s front porch, you can add dimension to the reader’s experience.
- Your party can take the pet with them to help on their mission. Maybe Joe Friday has a hound that can sniff out a demon. He could be useful on a road trip to track the demon who killed his girlfriend. A horse makes a great companion and expedites travel.
- A specific pet can add dimension to a character. Lara Kramer hides a guinea pig in her shoulder bag. Why does she carry a noisy rodent wherever she goes? The why can tell us a LOT about Lara.
- A four-legged companion can act as an emotional crutch. Do you have a character who has trouble showing emotion, but you want the reader to understand what she is feeling? She could confess to her cat when she thinks no one is listening. Maybe your antagonist has been hurt by everyone in his life and only trusts his griffon with his emotional baggage.
Pet ownership adds dimension to our life; it will add complexity to your story as well.
Do any of your characters have pets? If so, how did you use the presence of the animal? As an emotional mirror or a plot complication or just because you like dragons…..because dragons? Comment below and let me know!