Let There be Pets

Owning a pet is a fairly common practice. Pet stores flourish because they offer sad-looking dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and various amphibians.

What kind of pet chosen is often determined by spur-of-the-moment decisions, brought on by the appeal of large brown eyes and drooping ear. Such stores cater to those of us who walk in just to have a look and then end up leaving with pet in hand.

For many of us, type of pet is determined by previous experience. If, as a child, a cat scratched your arm, leaving a long, painful gash, you are not too likely to want a cat. If you grew up on a farm, however, where cats are welcomed residents due to their ability to keep rodents out of the crops, then your attitude might be different.

Choice is also determined by how emotionally needy the owner is. Cats tend to be independent, often remote, and not always welcoming to petting and cuddling. Dogs are pack animals that seek the approval of the leader. As owner, you command that position, and so are the recipient of licks, rubs, and wagging tails.

Some pets do not evoke that loving feeling. A tarantula, to me, is not cuddly. Neither is a snake or lizard. Guinea pigs squeal to get attention, but they often are not litter box trained. What a mess!

My children once borrowed a rat from a pet lending library. While the rat was calm and accepted being carried about, I did not like having it in my house. It gave me goosebumps any time it was out of its cage. I was glad to see it leave.

Characters in our stories can be pet owners as well. When you select a pet, consider that the choice will often give clues into the personality of the character. Let’s say that you she has a show dog. Now she has to deal with grooming, training and cost of registration. Handlers might be needed to actually show the dog. Is this what your character needs and wants? Or is your character the type to bring home a stray, one that is perhaps a little odd shaped and bordering on ugly?

What if your character is disabled and needs a helpful companion? You’re not going to give him a cat. Instead you’ll look for a dog that can open and close doors, pick up things off the floor, notify the owner when bells ring and so forth.

Your task is to write a short story in which your character has a pet or is in the process of choosing a pet. Think about what this pet does, how it interacts and behaves. How does your character respond? Do they go out jogging together? Have picnics and share food? Cuddle on the couch?

Is the dog a trained search and rescue animal that finds people buried or lost? That would make quite a story!

Have fun with this one.

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