Pets and Fiction - A Love/Hate Relationship
Full disclosure: Sometimes I feel like I can understand animals better than people. That look in their eye, the tilt of their head, that subtle movement that most might not pick up on. When it comes to my family, along with my wife there is a pair or rather ridiculous dogs that mean the absolute world to me. I get them. They can still surprise me, absolutely, but when I look into their eyes I can feel the absolute enormity of our relationship.
Sadly, one aspect of bringing animals into your life is that one day you will have to say goodbye. It will always be too soon, it will always feel like there was so much left unshared, and it will always hurt like hell. Over the past 5 years, my wife and I had to do this twice. The loving and wonderful family members that were with us when we got married are no longer with us. It's an incredibly surreal feeling to have such an important part of your memories no longer be with you. It's almost like an entire chapter of your life has gone by, and you can no longer leaf backwards to re-read it.
When it comes to reading, I love stories that feature animals. I love seeing the author's world from the point of view of the loving family pet. I enjoy reading the dynamic of a child and their bestest best friend as they go on adventures. When an author pulls it off, it's a special treat to be brought into that world. When I can close my eyes and feel that magic just from a smattering of words, it takes me back. I remember my own adventures with the family I've lost, and can appreciate the new adventures the author has crafted.
The issue that comes from pets and fiction is that the attachment and memory can be too real, and the fact that often times the beloved family pet does not make it to the end. I fully admit that I am a complete and utter wimp when it comes to this. Whether it be movies, television or video games, I simply cannot stand it to see the beloved family pet die. It hurts. When it comes to books though, it's all the worse. Something about creating the relationship in my mind, seeing the animal through my mind's eye, and the innate closeness you feel to characters in a good book. For movies, there's a website I swear by called doesthedogdie.com. I really wish that the same thing existed for books.
How many kids were traumatized by Old Yeller? I know I was. Growing up in Quebec, it's practically required to watch La Guerre des Tuques, which has one of the saddest endings I've ever experienced. We were all hurt when Artax passes in The Neverending Story. For those that played Fallout 3, how many times did you load an old save file when Dogmeat met an unfortunate end?
I've linked to a book called The Hidden Life of Humans. Not only is it a really great read, it's also a great example of an author letting the pet live. When it comes to book recommendations, it's always one of the first ones I think of.
Now, I'm not saying that it's a bad thing when an author decides to kill off the family pet. Only that I'm too big of a wuss to deal with it. Actually, just thinking this through has left me a little sad. I think it's time to give my dogs a scritch.