Behind the Story ~ Pets and Music

I intended to blog more often this year, but we’re now well into February and I haven’t met my goals. I’ve devoted most of my writing time to editing my novel and it’s taking much longer than I planned. However, I want to stay connected with you so I came up with the idea of a series titled “Behind the Story.” Today, I’ll start with the topic of pets and music.

In this month’s First Friday Fiction story, my protagonist Allison comes home one evening to find a black German Shepherd at her house. (If you haven’t read the story, you can do so by clicking here or by following the Friday Fiction link on the menu above.)

The idea of using pets in writing helps readers to identify with a character. Animals can give a clue as to the character’s personality. Does this person like pets? How do animals react around the protagonist? The antagonist?

If you’ve read my blog for a while or follow my Facebook page, you’ll know I’m a cat lover. I have two of the little darlings devils. Before I became a cat person, I was (and still am) a dog lover. From my earliest memories, my parents owned dogs.

My father’s favorite breed was German Shepherds. Perhaps that’s part of the reason for my fondness of them. Not only are they are beautiful animals, they are intelligent and loyal. My husband and I have also owned a few of this breed and currently have a twelve-year-old German Shepherd mix.

Therefore, it wasn’t hard for me to write a dog into Allison’s story. But how does music tie in with pets?

Shortly before I turned sixteen, I came home from school to the announcement we were getting a German Shepherd puppy. You can imagine my excitement! Not only could I call this dog my own, but I got to choose her name.

I didn’t want Princess, Duchess, or any common “dog” name. I thought long and hard before deciding. One afternoon, while listening to the stereo, I sorted through a stack of vinyl 45s. (Yes, I’m THAT old!) I came across the song “What is Life” by George Harrison. George was married to Pattie Boyd at that time. I decided to name my dog Patti, with a slight spelling change.

Never did I imagine I would start a family tradition. Since then, we’ve named almost all our dogs after songs or singers. Among those are Dylan (Bob Dylan), Winston (John Winston Lennon), Penny (Penny Lane), Susie (Wake up Little Susie), Maggie (Maggie May), and Amaro.

Amaro? Where did that name come from? Amaro, pronounced aah ma row, was the next German Shepherd to come into our lives after Patti. In fact, they were very good buddies before her death.

My brother got the name from a song, although the actual name and spelling don’t match. It came from a line in Van Morrison’s song “Caravan” on the Moondance album. Over the years, we’ve googled the lyrics and most all sources say “Emma Rose.”

Amaro was a black and gold German Shepherd. He looked like a little bear cub when he came to live with us. He was devoted and loyal to our family and readily accepted my brother’s future wife as well as my future husband. I think he sensed they would be a part of the family from the first time he saw them.

He was fiercely protective, a wonderful watchdog, and lived to be ten-years-old. Needless to say, we all missed him when he died.

Are you a dog lover? A cat person? What do you think of the idea of using animals to help define something about a character’s personality? Please share in the comments.

Three of our “musical” dogs are in the above photo. Amaro is in the foreground to the left. This photo was  taken about a month before he died. For some reason, his ears never stood up, so he didn’t look like your typical German Shepherd, although he was AKC registered. Penny is the Shepherd/Collie mix and was an offspring of Amaro. Susie is the lab-mix puppy to the far right.

  • I love dogs. We have two labs, the first pets either my husband and I have ever owned. I can’t imagine my days without them.

    Loved your post today, Joan.

    • Thanks, Staci. I enjoy reading about your dogs and they are beautiful! It would be hard to imagine my life without a pet of some type. (I’ve even had a couple of parakeets in my life.)

      Animals are great companions and I think are therapeutic. They don’t judge their owners, but love unconditionally. Something we humans can learn from.

      Thanks for the visit and I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  • They are all beautiful dogs, Joan. When I was a kid we had a shepherd/collie mix. I always had dogs growing up, but by the time I reached my teen years we had cats, too. Now I’m a cat fanatic and have been for a long time. I’ve used cats in a few of my books, including one where the cat is a central character (Food for Poe). I adore those little furballs! 🙂

    BTW, love the music tie-in too, with all the names coming from songs or artists. What a fun tradition!

    • Thanks, Mae! We sure miss those dogs – they were great companions. I do love my cats – they are so cozy and cuddly. There is a cat in my WIP, inspired by one of my current cats and his long whiskers. I’ll have to check out your book, Food for Poe.

      I love music and although we haven’t used the tradition to name our cats, we’ll probably name our next dog after a singer or song. Thanks for the visit!

  • NancyHVest

    Enjoyed your post, Joan. We had a cocker-beagle when I was a kid. She was tri-colored and cocker sized and she howled like a hound dog. She was a great dog. 🙂 My own family has had two dogs – a black lab and a poodle. Both were great dogs, too, but in very different ways. Now we have a cat. I am not a cat person, but Rusty is a pretty good cat. I love the idea of animals and music in stories. Both add depth to characters, and music alone add depth to the settings.

    • Hi Nancy, I’ll bet your dog was a great one. I love beagles and hounds in general. I’ve always liked cats, but in the past few years really became a cat person. I think raising them from kittens makes a difference – they tend to be more affectionate. And yes, I agree with your comments about adding pets and music in writing. Both add depth to the characters and/or settings. Thanks for the visit!

  • Don’t know if you already know this but “amaro” in Italian means bitter and, by association, liquor.
    Your dogs seem wonderful! I’d love to have a dog but we always thought that a dog deserves to be in company and we all leave home early in the morning and come back late in the evening, so we never had one. Insted I had various cats, especially when my grandparents were alive. Phoebe was the last one, a grey tabby European cat I got from a schoolmate. She was the most tender and lovely cat I ever met, she used to have breakfast with me and she waited for me at the door when I came back from school. After she died I never took another one.
    Now I’ve been without a pet for so long that it doesn’t come natural writing about them.

    • I didn’t know that, Irene! These were all good dogs and I do miss them, especially Amaro. I do love my cats – they bring a lot of joy to our lives. Lots of people think cats aren’t lovable, but they are as in the case of your Phoebe. My cats love to cuddle and most every day they are waiting for me at the front door.

      Thanks for stopping by!