When my husband and I were children in Washington State, we encountered a lot of stray dogs. Sometimes our families kept them, other times we weren’t allowed to feed them in hopes they would wander on. At the time, I really only remember one friend who had an inside dog. There wasn’t as many fenced yards and dogs were kept outside on a chain next to a dog house. It wasn’t uncommon to see a neighbor dog get loose and come to your yard from time to time. Occasionally, we would see a dog in the back of a truck, but it was unusual to see a dog riding in a car compared to every other vehicle we pass these days.
Yes, over the years there have been changes in the role of the pet dog, they’ve become an important part, or member, of the family and an emotional support to their owners. Now, I rarely see a dog on a chain as most dogs are inside with some time spent in a fenced yard.
Research says having a dog for a companion can help improve your health and psyche. When compared with those that do not have a pet, dog and cat owners have better mental and physical health and are less likely to be on medication. If you own an animal you are more likely to exercise as well. Pet ownership has even helped with coronary artery disease, making the patient less likely to die within a year of surgery compared to those without pets. They calm our anxiety, give us social support and can help make social connections with others.
To date, I’ve written five manuscripts. Of that number, four have included a pet in some way or another. In my first two manuscripts, one character longed for a pet, while another had a dog for protection and comradery. My story, A Place to Land, had a well-trained German shepherd at the hero’s side. In Maya’s Gold, I included an old pet collie, named Wonder Dog (which was anything but). For Wanting Moore, I didn’t include a pet, but the story really did not call for one.
I’ve always been fond of German shepherds; I think it goes back to watching Rin Tin Tin as a young girl. I’ve owned 3 purebreds over the years. My current shepherd is growing old, so we decided to take on another dog in hopes of bringing back a little youth, and for the new dog to take on some good habits already formed in our home. We certainly didn’t want to start with a puppy, so did our search at two animal shelters. We ended up with a nine-month-old shelter dog that’s been trained for two months in a prison program connected with the shelter. He is part German shepherd and part malamute, knows fourteen commands, and loves both people and dogs. We really couldn’t ask for more.
Our new dog, Jack, inspired my current manuscript. Somehow the first part of the story, where the hero meets the heroine… Well, something is missing in the conflict between the two and I know that Jack’s personality thrown into the mix would be believable and add a little humor to the story, too. After all, as I said above, pets can help make social connections with others.
Do you put pets in your stories?