by Mary Jo
The English are famously fond of their pooches, and so it's both legitimate and fun to add dogs to our stories. While I mostly add cat characters, I've also written dogs when they seemed to be the best choice.
Today's post was inspired by a chat with my friend Sally MacKenzie, who writes light-hearted Regencies for Kensington. Her current Duchess of Love series has significant animal characters, with three books featuring dogs, and one with a mischievous cat named Reggie. (No, he was not named after my mischievous cat named Reggie. I think Reggie is just a mischievous name. <G>)
Sally's March 2014 book, Loving Lord Ash, has a VERY LARGE BLACK DOG who looks and acts much like a Newfoundland, though she says that her fictional dog Fluff (yes, really <G>) is probably a mutt. But, she told me, Newfoundlands, a Canadian breed as the name suggests, were in England in Regency times, and Lord Byron loved them.
Yes! The fashionable aristocratic poet with the devilishly attractive sneer was an animal lover! Sally pointed me to the Byron page in the London Dog Forum's Famous Dogs section. It is filled with delicious tidbits about Byron and his dogs, such as this one:
In Lord Byron’s time it was the custom to give one’s lover a lock of hair, recent DNA analysis has revealed that the locks of hair that Byron handed out to his mistresses were that of a dog, possibly Boatswain.
An Ode to Boatswain
Boatswain was the most beloved of Byron's many pets, and is commemorated at Newstead Abbey with a vast marble monument and a poem. Here is part of it:
Epitaph to A Dog
Near this Spot
are deposited the Remains of one
who possessed Beauty without Vanity,
Strength without Insolence,
Courage without Ferosity,
and all the virtues of Man without his Vices.
Though Byron wanted to be buried with Boatswain, that wasn't allowed and he ended up in his family tomb. But when his body was returned from Greece, where he died, it was accompanied by his Newfie of the time, Lyon. The Dogs of London site has a picture of a Newfoundland like Boatswain, though the color patches suggest some collie influence.
Dogs of London has other famous dogs and dog lovers listed as well. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the infamous Iron Lady, was a dog lover, with a particular fondness for the Cavalier King Charles spaniel. (If the breed was good enough for King Charles, it's good enough for a prime minister!) In her later years, she enjoyed sitting in a park and chatting up any dogs that went by.
It's not just the English who love dogs, of course. The Dogs of London site includes a bit on the Empress Josephine's pug, Fortuné. The pug slept on her bed, and when she married Napoleon Bonaparte, the great man had to share the marital mattress with his lady's pooch.
Writing fictional felines
Lots of romance writers and readers are animal lovers, so it's not surprising that companion animals show up regularly in the books. The heroine of my 2014 book, Not Quite a Wife, has not one but two cats--her mellow old gray cat, Shadow, in Bristol, who is really my sweet Grady the Gray. And in London, Laurel makes friends with a large, shy black and white tomcat who came in from the cold to a nice warm kitchen. He's really my PandaMax (who is a very maximum panda puss <G>) but the name Panda wouldn't make sense in 1813, so he's called Badger in the book. (Here are Panda and Grady together.)
Dogs on book covers
Here's the cover of Sally's Loving Lord Ash. Clearly that little terrierish fellow is no Newfoundland! He's actually Shakespeare, the dog from her previous book, Surprising Lord Jack. Shakespeare is the sort of dog who gets into everything. <G> (And, to be fair, art departments are justly concerned that Very Large Dogs will take over the cover if left unchecked.)
Do you have favorite fictional pest?
Fictional pets who remind you of your own fur friends?
And have you ever given a lock of your pet's fur to a sweetheart? <G>