“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” ~ Immanuel Kant

Guess what I’m talking about today. 🙂 Brilliant guess. Animals, more specifically, pets as found in m/m books. (Thanks to the lovely Kris for letting me expand on her theme.) Some people love books that have animals in them (or on them), others fear that it will end badly for the pet and dislike reading about animals who are hurt or die. I don’t either. No Marley and Me for this reader. Generally I’ve found the pets in m/m to be well cared for and from time to time, quite as important a character as our heroes. I’m going to talk a bit about pet traits and some of the pets I’ve come across that have stuck in my mind and other readers can add outstanding  pet characters they fondly remember.

Cats – I have two cats, so I guess am considered a cat person, although I like dogs as well. Why are cats good pets? They don’t need to be taken out for walks, you can leave them alone for the weekend while you run off to have hot smexin’ with that new love interest, they don’t need a lot of attention (great for workaholics) and they are relatively small so don’t eat/cost much. However, if you like lots of adoration and admiration you’re out of luck unless they’re in the mood, you may find your furniture in shreds and they refuse to come when called. Some books that I’ve read where cats have played a role are The One That Got Away by Rhianne Aile and Madeline Urban. I was so glad that in their revised version they included Mabel because I was desperately worried about the poor thing left alone for weeks. In Amy Lane’s If I Must, Manky Bastard and her successor Manky Bitch played a great role in bringing the guys together and in ML Rhodes’ Under My Skin you have Hennessy and Morgan, because naming your cats after booze should be mandatory.

Dogs – Big (or small) lovable dogs. They love you always, they come when you call, they make you feel like a king (or queen) and they can protect you from the bad guys. On the other hand, they have to be taken out for “walks”, aka poop trips, no matter the weather, they can be loud and annoying, and depending on their size, the food budget can be that of a small third world country. My colleague and his partner just got a Great Dane puppy. I suggested he invest in a shovel and buy a truck to haul the food. Some literary pups that I’ve enjoyed were Ponchito in James Buchanan’s The Good Thief. I loved that little ‘rat dog’. 😉 Also in Man and Wolf by Kate Roman, Bella and Mutty were major characters in the story. And who can forget PITA in J.L. Langley’s Without Reservations or the adorable Winston in Lynn Lorenz’s Edward Unconditionally?

Rodentia – I am also a bunny mommy, but I’ve never had a hamster, ferret, guinea pig, etc. On the upside they are quiet and they don’t take up a lot of space or eat much. Of course they aren’t always that friendly and cuddly. A rat is less-likely to curl up on the couch and watch Glee with you than a dog. Although I’m sure some are cuddlier than others. The only pet in this category I can think of is Karma in Tory Temple’s Keeping Karma. No guys with bunnies. 🙁 We’ll have to work on that.

Birds – I’ve always thought I’d like an orange canary. Not sure why. Birds are pretty easy to care for. Most don’t require much; food, a clean cage and a little attention. Granted, they don’t give much either unless you have a large parrot who likes to be around people. Small birds just kind of sit there and look at you while chirping, sometimes chirping too much. I can’t think of any books that featured a bird as a pet either. Anyone?

Reptiles – This is sooooo not my thing. Reptiles and I do not get along. shudder But I know people love their cold-blooded babies. They are also quiet, lizards don’t wake you up barking in the middle of the night, and I think they are pretty easy to care for; feed them and keep them clean and warm and they’re happy. Of course I wouldn’t call one cuddly either. They also tend to freak people out (aka me), so inviting guests over can be an interesting proposition. In Keeping Karma there was also a snake as a pet but I can’t think of any other stories where it was a pet and not something to run away from.

Horses – Of course EVERY cowboy story has horses, but sometimes they are just tools of the trade and sometimes they are characters on their own. Horses are useful and they can be very friendly and loyal, however, they do need a fair bit of space and are expensive. Not something most city folk own, much to my daughter’s dismay). Keeping a horse in the garage is just not practical. Two horses that I remember were in J.L. Langley’s The Tin Star. Jamie’s horse George and Ethan’s thieving horse Spot added greatly to the book. Also in Sutcliffe Cove by Ariel Tachna and Madeleine Urban, Gerald’s relationship with Misfit was an important feature.

I did not include any of the stories from the anthologies Animal Attractions I and Animal Attractions II, but they are great for stories that include some of the more unusual pets I mentioned. I only referred to stand-alone stories above. So share with us your opinion about pets in your romance and some of your favourite stories that have pets.

32 comments

  • One of the (many) things I liked about Josh Lanyon’s The Dark Tide is that (at least at the end) there were not only one but two animals after the furniture – Tomkins and Scott (hard to think of more unusual names for pets, I think). Also that neither Adrien nor Jake seemed to be particularly worried about it. I would really like a periodic follow-up charting the state of chairs/table/cupboard etc. *g*

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    • Watching the furniture degenerate through the series. LOL I kind of gave up on the furniture after a point. Especially since I’m not home all day to reprimand them. Now when I do they just kind of look at me.

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  • Hidden Treasure by VB Kildaire – one of the characters, Dorian, had a pack pony named Perly (alliteration much?) that had some personality, but was more important as a reflection of Dorian’s compassion. I thought it worked really well!

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    • (alliteration much?)

      We can tell you are a gen-u-ine author Wren. 🙂 An animal or pet can be used to show a lot about a person’s personality, how they treat them or interact with them.

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  • Great post, Tam! The book that jumped to my mind was Warrior’s Cross by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux. I think one of the heroes had a bunch of puppies and the other had two cats named Smith and Wesson! Cats named after gun manufacturers = unique. 😀

    Mostly, though, I’m with K.Z. all the way on pets in fiction: ” I don’t mind if pets are included in stories as long as a.) they aren’t mistreated, b.) the author doesn’t get too cutsie with them, and c.) they don’t overwhelm the human characters.”

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    • I remember reading some conflicting views about those puppies. You don’t want the whole book taken up with animal care, but you don’t want them to be no more important than a potted plant either. A fine line to tread I suppose.

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  • I’m not a dog person – don’t get me wrong, I can admire them from afar, I just don’t like getting up close and personal with them. This means that I’m often put off by characters who own dogs and spend a lot of time in the book with them. If the dog ‘kisses’ or licks the face of the hero then I feel a bit ill. I didn’t like The Good Theif basically because of Ponchito. It doesn’t help that authors seem to take great delight in describing how smelly and slobbery dogs can be – as though that makes them somehow endearing.

    Cats, however, I love cats. Maggie in Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy and Dwayne in A Strong Hand by Chrissy Munder are both examples where cats have been realistically shown in books.

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    • I don’t mind doggy kisses. Did you have a dog growing up Jen? I wonder if it’s a bit of a learned thing. Kids that grow up with dogs are more attracted to that. Not sure though. I’ve not read Chrissy’s story with Dwayne (which strikes me as an incredibly funny name for a cat).

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  • Nice post, Tam!

    As a reader, I don’t mind if pets are included in stories as long as a.) they aren’t mistreated, b.) the author doesn’t get too cutsie with them, and c.) they don’t overwhelm the human characters.

    As a writer, I leave pets out — dogs especially — because they’ve always held a special place in my life. I’d be afraid of not doing them justice.

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    • I agree KZ. I think pets are a bit like including kids. Difficult to get it right and realistic. Definitely no mistreatment.

      Have you been to my place to read about Gracie? Cutsie3 (cubed). LOL

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  • Hmm. My kitties come when I call them. They both play fetch. And Chaos plays catch and a sort of volleyball variant, where I throw the toy and he hits it back to me. Plus he’s a snuggle-monster. 🙂 Definitely an atypical cat.

    There really aren’t that many m/m romances that I can think of that include pets, which is a shame, because it definitely helps round out a character’s personality.

    Randomly, I’ve seen guys out walking around the Lakes here with quite a variety of pets: very large snakes, parrots, cats, and, of course, dogs.

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    • I think your fur babies are “special” Chris. 😉

      I can understand that putting pets in a story can cramp a character’s style, you can’t just stay over for the weekend on impulse if you’ve got a dog at home with it’s legs crossed waiting for you, but I think it adds a touch of realism. But I’d rather see nothing than mention a pet and then never talk about it again.

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      • Heh, and you mean that in the most “special” way it can be meant. 😉

        Ah, yes, we were both worried about that poor cat in the first edition of The One That Got Away

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  • I have 2 house cats that I adore. And 3 out of 4 times, they actually *will* come when I call them but it’s clearly because it’s something they want to do anyway.

    I prefer dogs, though, but they take more time than I have or am willing to give right now. However, I have access to and can “borrow” 2 labs, a pug, a Rottie, and a Springer Spaniel at any time so I get my fix. (I also sit for them when owners are out of town.) Much like nieces and nephews, once I’m done with them, I can send them home! I have a big back yard that serves as the frequent dog park for “my puppies”. And guess who “runs” the dog park? Yep, the pug.

    I do like seeing the caring pet owner in stories as I usually take it as a good sign that the character isn’t the complete bastard they’re sometimes made out to be. 🙂

    I’m a softie….can’t watch “Old Yeller” or Homeward Bound” and refuse to read “Marley & Me”. As Simsala said, “write about pets – I’m a sap.”

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    • If I lived in the country or had a huge yard I would likely have a smallish dog. I’ve heard Greyhounds are great because while they can run like the wind they are giant couch potatoes at heart and only need a good long walk a few times a week. But I live in a townhouse with a yard the size of a postage stamp so it’s not really fair to a dog.

      I don’t like sad movies or books either. I prefer a more upbeat story involving pets. Disney used to be the master at the sad animal story.

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  • sounds like you are in the same boat as me- my son brought in anole’s and I got to help feed them crickets- they skitter. I’ve had rabbits which ate my mothers tv cord, and birds and mice none which were much other than a lot of work, care of animals rolls downhill towards me – we have three cats – again that love to leave hairballs -though they tell me that they are really just signs of love. I get tripped if I dont feed them fast enough. and now I have three german shepherds- all rescues – I like how they protect me from leaves and anything else that moves too fast, if my other half and I argue they get in the middle, they turn their head trying to understand exactly what I am saying and hide as much as possible from thunder and vet. I guess I am mostly a dog person though.

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    • Holy cow, you could open a zoo. LOL My bunny will chew electrical cords as well. Luckily he really doesn’t like being out of his cage anymore so he rarely gets out. When he does he just finds a corner to hide in. He’s tiny so his cage is pretty big to him. But yeah, the pet care tends to fall to Mom. Sigh.

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  • Tam
    I’m a dog person. Cats and I don’t get along – too many hair balls, plus I’m allergic to the fur.

    My dog whom I loved (the one after whom this site is named) was a Dobe and even though he had to be taken for walks in all kinds of weather I didn’t mind because he was great company.

    I don’t know much about horses but loved George and Spot in The Tin Star. I’m reviewing a book later today that’s a horse story and you’ll go crazy for it because it’s more about the horses than anything else. 🙂 If it wasn’t for all the sex I would recommend it for your daughter. 🙂

    Great post Tam. I did a tweet.

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    • I guess I just detest the cold too much to have a dog. If I lived somewhere warm year around I’d certainly have one. Look forward to the horse book, I do enjoy stories with horses in them.

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  • Hi Tam,
    you already mentioned my favourite m/m pet – WINSTON !! But I have one more – Duke,the Siamese cat from Rob Knights`Touching Evil.
    A cat from hell – evil and adorable !
    I love it when the pets take the luck of their daddy`s in their own paws. Write about pets – I`m a sap….

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    • I’ve never read about Duke Simsala. I’ll have to keep an eye out for him. I do like pets but I like when they are realisticially done (even if they aren’t one of the main stars of the book). Don’t forget you have one and they mean being fed and cared for.

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      • No, I don`t forget *g*
        I have three cats.
        Reminds me I wanted to strangle them this morning for destroying my window plants.
        -but they are faster than me…

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