Animals as Chararacters
by Jacquie Rogers
Humans have domesticated animals to have as pets around the campfire for thousands of years. The tame wolf made a fine watchdog. Not sure who was brave enough to tame the first cat, though.
The first interaction between humans an animals was purely for food (yes, they ate each other) and skins (only humans skinned their prey and wore them). Later, people learned they could raise a herd of cattle and not have to go hunting for them. And bonus! Milk. If you've ever seen wild cow milking contest at a rodeo, you'd think the first brave soul who milked a cow must have been a bit on the barmy side. You notice not a whole lot of people milk pigs. They bite. Goats are smaller so more manageable. And so it goes--milk the girls and eat the boys.
And then there are the transportation animals, camels, burros, and horses. Plus the working animals--yaks, water buffalo, oxen, horses, donkeys, and mules.
Until the late 1800s, animals provided for most of our needs. These days, many people have pets but have no idea what a working animal is all about. One thing we haven't lost, though, is that connection.
And that's why there are animals in nearly all my books and stories. It all started off with my first novel, Down Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues. I tried to write a book for Harlequin but the story bored me. One night, I dreamed Socrates the mule, and now he's the star of that book. Socrates knows what's right for his human, Brody Alexander, and in collusion with the other animals--an Australian Shepherd named Perseus and a skunk named Guinnevere, sets out to bring Rita into Brody's life whether he wants it to happen or not.
Then there's Much Ado About Marshals, where Daisy's little brother's dog, Periwinkle, gets into all sorts of trouble. In Much Ado About Mavericks, the heroine collects strays--both kids and dogs, and in Much Ado about Miners, the hero has an attack cat, Duke.
In my Muleskinners series (not a series yet because only one story is written, but still...) the eight draft mules steal the show. There's a bossy chicken in A Gift for Rhoda, a story in Prairie Rose Publication's Wishing for a Cowboy, and of course in A Flare of the Heart (Hearts and Spurs), Celia has to contend with a dozen baby pigs.
So that's what you'll find in my stories--dogs, cats, and any number of barnyard animals. Stories are a slice of life and I grew up on a farm, so animals are a part of my world. And that's why they're in my stories.
I've read several times that writers use animals to show character. My animals are characters.
What's your favorite story animal? I'm rather partial to Puss 'n Boots in Shrek.
'Twas the Fight Before Christmas (
, Book 9: A Wolf Creek