A few days ago a dear friend lost her beloved dog to a violent attack by a much bigger dog. It broke my heart to witness my friend’s pain. I also loved the little dog and have shed many tears over her death. My dog passed away almost three years ago, and dealing with that loss was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve suffered. I’ve never even been able to continue reading a book or watching a movie if the dog suffers and/or dies (no Old Yeller for me).
Sometimes I pay a little too much attention to the dog in a story, especially if the human characters aren’t very interesting. I always hope that the dog will stay safe. A few weeks ago I read The Widow Waltz by Sally Koslow. I have to confess that I selected it because of the dog pictured on the cover. The dog didn’t play a major role in the story, but I enjoyed the scenes in which he appeared. I liked the dog in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, who added a measure of warmth to a somewhat dark tale. In Rebecca, the main character spent some scenes walking the dog, Jasper. I don’t remember if Jasper survived the climactic scene, but he probably did because a big deal was made out of the fact that mean Mrs. Danvers was the only one who refused to leave the house. And I can’t forget Buck in Call of the Wild, or Toby, Sherlock Holmes’ buddy.
When an author writes a dog into a book, I presume it’s because she has a dog, but that’s not necessarily true. A dog can be integral to the plot. I wrote two dachshunds into my second novel, Silence, Please, but they don’t play big parts in the plot. However, they are instrumental in one scene where the protagonist meets someone who will become important to her.
I love dogs even more than I love books, and that’s saying a lot.