Growing up my favorite fluffy toy was a purple bunny, but we only had stray cats as pets. I was well into adulthood before I realized how much I love animals of all sizes.
It wasn't until I transitioned to a writing career that our lifestyle could provide a stable home for a pet. We went to visit a breeder, and instantly fell in love with a 12-week-old Bichon Shih Tzu named Kipper (aka my little dead fish). We later adopted a 3 1/2-year-old Bichon rescue named Benny, who quickly became known as The Knickernapper. Benny and Kipper have since passed away two years apart, both having reached the ripe old age of 14.
When I began writing books, my love of animals seeped into that aspect of my life as well. Buddy, a stray dog, showed up during a raging blizzard to be rescued by the heroine, Police Officer Joey Frost, in Chapter 1 of The Holly & The Ivy in the Frost Family & Friends series. This loveable canine brings moments of tears and joy to the holiday tale that can only come from the relationship between people and their pets.
I can't imagine my upcoming series Beyond the Magic without Busby—the mysterious, but loyal and loveable canine Familiar. In my fictional world, an animal Familiar spontaneously appears to a witch who needs help or protection and is believed to be sent by a more powerful witch or spirit. Busby is the Familiar for my heroine, Avalon [Avy] Gwynn, a young woman whose parents have been murdered and who doesn't know she's an extraordinary hereditary witch. Busby is one of the main story characters and shows up even before my hero, a powerful warlock (Marcus Egan). I modeled Busby's behavior on Kipper and Benny, but he developed his own personality. He and Marcus have a funny dynamic to their relationship that I had nothing to do with; they just acted that way whenever they were together in Witch Unbound. I can't say more without spoiling it for readers, though. Keep an eye out for Beyond the Magic books beginning in October 2022.
When my hubby and I moved to Canada's cowboy country, Alberta, in 1997 we spent many weekends learning to ride and exploring the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains on horseback. These mountain-bred horses allowed me to see area that I never could have accessed on my own. There was one instance when we needed to descend a steep shale slope. Our guide told us we had two options; slide down on our behinds or stay on our mounts but let them have their head (meaning let go of the reins, lean back on their rump, and trust them to take you down safely). Most of the group opted for the bum option. Not me! I decided the horse was much more sure-footed than I, so I lay back across Ginger's rump and closed my eyes. It was like floating on a cloud. The guide told me later that Ginger was nicknamed 'The Babysitter' because she was so conscious of her charges that she never let one fall off her back. Who knows, maybe my next Familiar will be a horse!
I've also worked for my local municipal department that oversees the city zoo, and that allowed me special access to the exotic animals on occasion. I've hand fed elephants, petted camels, snuggled jaguar cubs and had a sleepover with the hippos - no cuddling with those guys let me tell you. We don’t have a pet at home right now, but I am registered as a foster parent for dogs with the #CalgaryHumaneSociety.
I believe that illustrating the special relationship between humans and animals in my stories adds a significant dimension that is just as important as the interactions between the rest of the characters.