Pets in Plots

Do I plot pets into my books? You betcha! Characters eat, sleep, drive cars, shop, and make love in books, so why would I leave out a pet when it's appropriate to a story?

Most of us have pets, whether we went looking for them or they found us. So it stands to reason that most characters would have them, too, though I don't go so far as to put them in all my books. I immortalized Friday, my Australian Shepherd, in Princess in Denim and Cowgirl in Pearls. After 15 years of love and devotion, she deserved a little public recognition, and since one of the books was based on a dude ranch, she fit perfectly into the plot. And she was such a character anyway. Love in the Fast Lane has a sooty gray cat named Ashes, which was really useful when I wanted to let the reader know the ghost was in the room.

Sometimes pets are integral to the plot. Sometimes they're just added color. They can be very useful if we have a grumpy hero no one could love, but we see how tender and caring he is with an animal, so we know there's hope for him (foreshadowing).

A word of caution, though. If you don't have a pet, don't try writing one in. An author who lives with an animal picks up on the odd little moments that others never see, and portraying those in words is just magic. Goofing it up sticks out like a sore thumb.