My dog is dying. His name is Beau and he is supposed to be a miniature dachshund, but he has a bit of a weight problem and he wouldn’t make the grade in terms of being best in class, I’ll say that much. But he is an awesome dog. But he is sick. And we have to decide when to let him go. What a horrible decision to have to make. Every day we get up and have to think about whether today is a good day to die.
And one of the things I’ve been thinking about is why I’ve never read about any characters in paranormal fiction who have pets. Well, that isn’t totally true; Sookie Stackhouse had a cat, but the poor thing eventually meets the same sad end as the red-shirted guys on Star Trek. Their deaths always progress the plot line, but you definitely have to feel for the poor suckers. Same with Sookie’s cat.
But, as far as I can remember, that is the only pet I can think of. I’m sure you’ll remind me if I’ve overlooked someone. And supernatural pets like Atticus O’Sullivan’s dog, Oberon, and Bluebell Kildare’s trusty sidekick, Varg, don’t count.
Why don’t characters in paranormal and urban fantasy have pets? Well, first of all, many of them are pets, of the shapeshifting variety. I would imagine it’s hard to keep a dog or cat when your other body is a wolf or a coyote or a cougar, as in Patricia Briggs novels or Faith Hunter’s works. Maybe it would feel too much like keeping a friend on a leash. I know that in our collective newfound fascination with the BDSM lifestyle, we are all aware that there are those among us who enjoy leading their friends and lovers around by the nose, literally, and housing them in cages, but most of us only like to be titillated by that sort of second hand description, not live it. So too among the supernatural, so that having a pet, for the shapeshifting crowd, would probably just seem weird.
But another reason, I’m sure, for the dearth of dog and cat companions among the paranormal creatures of my beloved books, is the very difficulty I’m having now when faced with the reality of our animals’ short lives, at least as compared to ours. It seems so unfair that creatures who love us so unconditionally, and for whom our love is so uncomplicated, should pass from our lives in what seems like the blink of an eye. I grew up desperately wanting a puppy, but my parents wouldn’t let me get one. And I knew I would marry my husband well before he proposed when he made my dreams come true and presented me with a fur ball with a red bow who was my first-ever dog, and the animal love of my life, a golden cocker spaniel named Belle (because she was so beautiful and she was a Christmas gift). When Belle died eight years ago I was inconsolable. Her memory can still stir deep feelings within me, that’s how much I loved her and how bereft I felt when she died.
And the way I figure it, for immortals or the extremely long-lived creatures of my beloved books, why would they subject themselves to that kind of grief, over and over again? It’s bad enough for them that mortals are given only a relatively short few decades on this plane of existence. Pity the poor immortals who become attached to their mortal lovers and companions who must then suffer their deaths. Kind of like pets for us. The short lifespan of a human being is difficult enough for immortals to tolerate, forget about the eye-blink of life that actual animals enjoy upon this earth.
And in trying to make a decision about my beloved pup and when to let him go to the big dog park in the sky, I understand why immortals eschew the love of animals. It would be too painful for them to become attached. Even though the love of an animal is such a pure joy to experience. So I feel sorry for the poor immortals, even as I feel sorry for myself and my family as we move ever closer to the time to say goodbye. Because even in the depth of my grief and the sure knowledge of the pain that will accompany the inevitable letting go of my dog, I am grateful for the love and acceptance and happiness he’s offered to me and my family so freely and effortlessly. I’m grateful for having him in our lives. And when the time comes, so much sooner than I would like, I’ll surrender him to the earth and the sky and the universe and hope to see him someday on the other side. And I’ll continue to pity the poor paranormal creatures who have no idea what they are missing.