Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose to combine Amusing Muses from April 14, 2013 and Pet Projects from March 22, 2015 because social media is increasingly sharing the close relationships people have with their pets. These days, it seems we humans are getting along better with our pets than with people. This combined post is dedicated to that special bond.
Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.— Anatole France
My daughter, Kenna, suggested I write about writers’ pets. The menagerie in our home has included Katje (my calico cat), Oliver (dwarf hotot rabbit), Tidus (betta fish), Arrow (English Pointer), Dusty (mini-lop), Mucki and Rosette (guinea pigs), Sunset and Triangle (goldfish). All have been amusing, but only one has been a muse for me, resulting in my prose poem, Katje Must Be Fed. My niece, Leisa, also has a variety of pets but it was her first pug that inspired her to write the children’s picture book, Pugsley’s Imagination.
Today, only Katje remains. Each pet’s loss was heartbreaking. The hardest were the euthanizations. I wish I could use the euphemism “put to sleep” but there is no awakening and the loss is permanent. Mercifully, holes in the heart eventually fill with memories. This post is dedicated to all our beloved animal companions, the lovely creatures that are the golden threads in the tapestry of our lives.
One is lucky to love an animal. One is lucky also to have limitless access to animals through great literature. We grow up on fairy tales populated by animals and continue to find them in some of the most enduring literature throughout our lives. Among the best and brightest stories involving animals are:
Fiction for All Ages
Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls
The Call of the Wild – Jack London
The Black Stallion – Walter Farley
Fiction for Adults
Watership Down – Richard Adams
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein
Marley and Me – John Grogan
All Creatures Great & Small – James Herriot
Seabiscuit: An American Legend – Laura Hillenbrand
Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds – Joy Adamson
Never Cry Wolf – Farley Mowat
The Eighty Dollar Champion – Elizabeth Letts
Last Chance Mustang – Mitchell Bornstein
Written For Young Children, Loved By Adults
Charlotte’s Webb – E.B. White
The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter
The Secret of NIMH – Seymour Reit
The Story of Ferdinand – Munro Leaf
Stellaluna – Janell Cannon
Make Way for Ducklings – Robert McCloskey
It’s not surprising that authors are inspired to write about animals. Most of them have had pets. Dogs have been favored by the likes of Steinbeck, Cheever, Doctorow, Vonnegut, Sendak, Wharton, Dorothy Parker, Stephen King, Virginia Wolf and Robert Penn Warren (who saluted Tolkien by naming his dog Frodo). Cats were companions to such literary luminaries as Twain, Dumas, Beckett, Huxley, Kerouac, Collette, Eliot, Plath, Sartre (his cat was Nothing) and Raymond Chandler (whose Persian purred while perched on his manuscripts as Chandler edited). Polar opposites Hemmingway and Capote owned both cats and dogs (the progeny of Hemingway’s famous six-toed cats still roam the Hemingway House & Museum in Key West, FL).
As far as I can tell, authors choose cats more often than dogs to share their lives. This may not be a matter of personalities (authors’ or species’) as much as it is a result of lifestyle. An author living in the countryside might like to take thoughtful walks with a canine companion while a city-dwelling author might view dog walking as stealing writing time. Cats tend to be more independent — or less needy — than dogs, depending on how you feel about felines vs. canines.
Then again, look at which authors have chosen dogs and which have chosen cats. Do you see any trends? And what can we imagine about writers with more “exotic” tastes in pets? Those would include some obvious ones such as Beatrix Potter (rabbit) and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (raccoon). But how do you explain Flannery O’Connor (peacocks) or Lord Byron (peacocks, crocodile, crow, heron, fox and bear — oh my!)?
To see photos of some famous writers with their pets, visit Photos of Famous Writers with their Pets.
I think I could always live with animals. The more you’re around people, the more you love animals. — Walt Whitman