Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Giving animals their due

I admit I’m not very good at keeping track of these things. Had I not seen an obscure Internet reference yesterday, I would have never known that I had missed National Frog Month (April) and International Hug Your Cat Day (June 4) but could still participate in National Deaf Dog Awareness Week (September 20-26). My hard-of-hearing dog, Mocha (photo), has already circled the dates.

Groups create these observances because they love animals. So do many authors, including some who have turned stories about animals into celebrated works. These range from classics like Charlotte’s Web, The Call of the Wild, and Black Beauty to contemporary novels like The Art of Racing in the Rain.

As an author of six novels, I haven't done much with four-legged friends. Max, a 2-year-old Abyssinian cat, follows Joel Smith out of a door in The Mine. In The Show, Grace Vandenberg gives a belly rub to a golden retriever named Killer. Kevin Johnson and Sadie Hawkins ride Spirit, a gentle Appaloosa, in Chapter 44 of The Fire.

Most other animals in my books are unnamed or unappreciated. When Justin Townsend spots a West Texas pronghorn from the window of a passenger train in September Sky, he admires it for a moment and then moves on to other things.

I plan to do better in the future. In the second book of the American Journey series, due this fall, a pork-chop-loving German shepherd named Fritz will play the part of a temperamental gatekeeper.

I recently finished the rough draft of that novel and sent it to my editor for a first read. That freed me up to do other things this month, such as properly recognize some toothy and misunderstood creatures. Shark Awareness Day is July 14.

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