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  • Writer's pictureWalker Buckalew

Dogs and Cats and Novels

Updated: May 26, 2022

Dogs and Cats and Novels

The latest novel in the Rebecca Series, A Fearful Thing, is the first in the Rebecca Series and in the Visioners Series – a total of five books for adults and two for young adults – in which no dogs play important roles. In fact, no dogs even make an appearance in the latest book.

There is, instead, a cat named Penelope (as there was, incidentally, in the first Rebecca novel, The Face of the Enemy; that, of course, was a different Penelope). This Penelope belongs to a new character, Marie Campbell, and Penelope is able, because of her very cat-ness, to adapt to the story’s fast changing set of venues in ways that would have been nearly impossible for a dog.

Penelope’s role in A Fearful Thing is not to provide the sort of heroics that some of the Rebecca Series’ dogs have displayed. Her roles, instead, are, first, to provide companionship for Marie Campbell, who otherwise would be living alone, and, second, to make the Marie Campbell character, a 30-ish American working in the Soviet Embassy in Washington, a more sympathetic person… that is, more readily likeable…and not only likeable, but a person with whom Jack McGriff might actually fall in love.

Human beings who have enough affection within them to love and care for a pet are often attractive to other people, in part, for that very reason. That is, the generosity, thoughtfulness, and compassion that they exhibit in taking care of, and loving, their cat or dog, puts those characteristics on display for others to see and appreciate.

They are, in that novel, part of the “home team.” Max, a large male German Shepherd, and Margaret, the much smaller female Border Collie, serve as the canine alarm and protection unit back at “the Lodge,” where Rebecca and her family always gather to defend themselves against threats.

And, in Choose You This Day, when that threat arrives, near that book’s end, Margaret does her Border Collie thing by racing in a wide circle and attacking the chief villain from behind, knocking his weapon from his hand. Max, in a coordinated maneuver with Margaret’s indirect attack, races directly toward a second terrorist, knocks him to the ground, and secures him with his “bite and hold” technique, a toothy and terrifying hold applied to the petrified man’s neck.

In the two Visioners novels for young adults, a Border Collie named Flurry is Joanna’s ever present companion throughout. Flurry’s presence is a constant comfort and source of reassurance for Joanna, an awkward 14-year-old whose natural discomfort with most humans – especially boys of her own age – is lessened and softened by Flurry’s mere presence alongside her.

Animals such as the dogs and cats that appear in my novels play a variety of roles, but their presence always adds a note of affection to the human dynamic which would otherwise be lacking. These animals have the same kind of importance in my stories as that which they often have in real life.

They are God’s special gifts to us all.

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