My husband and I grew up in households with pets, so early in our marriage we adopted two dogs: my old family dog and a puppy (a St. Bernard/Australian Shepherd mix) from the shelter. We lived on two and a half acres of pines in Colorado. My family dog thought he had died and gone to heaven. The puppy grew into a funky-looking dog that loved the snow. She would run, nose down, through the drifts.

As our family grew, we adopted cats, hamsters, frogs, lizards and snakes. One child even had a rat. The rat was sweet. I was okay with it as long as I didn’t look at its long, fuzzy pink tail. My least favorite pet was the rosy boa. My feelings were not shared by the rest of the family. One daughter actually cruised through our home with the boa slung across her shoulders. It was a baby at the time!

I actually liked the green tree snake. One day it disappeared from its aquarium. After two weeks, we figured the snake was a goner – until it appeared one morning in my bathroom slithering out from behind the baseboard. Not what I expected to see upon exiting the shower!

My husband came home with a orange tabby he bought for $9. The cat liked to hide under the dining table and pounce on one child in particular. That child returned the favor by “baptitizing” the cat with wet pieces of toilet paper and dressing  the cat in doll clothes.  Of course, the cat loved to sleep on her bed. Cats! Go figure!

One summer we cared for the school science lab’s guinea pig. Stinky! Another summer we took care of the school’s chameleon. Cool! We also contributed to the school science lab when I donated our bearded dragon lizard. My husband wasn’t quite ready to part with it, but I was. Goodbye lizard! Goodbye crickets hopping all over the house!

It’s not that I’m against lizards. I caught a blue-bellied lizard when I was a child and brought it home. The lizard burrowed under the bedding material my parents bought for it. When it didn’t emerge, they figured it was dead, so put it in the garden. Were they surprised when it ran into the house the next Spring.

I like writing pets into my novels. I learned early on that readers will never forgive or sympathize with a character who is mean to an animal. The character can be a murderer, but he or she cannot mistreat an animal. I heard the author of ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain” was asked by his editor to rewrite and soften the wife’s relationship with the dog. She apparently was nasty to the dog in the original draft. SPOILER ALERT!! I cried when the dog died but not when the wife did. Guess she wasn’t nice enough to the dog after all! (at least not nice enough for me)

Now we have one dog and two fish tanks. One tank is 150 gallons with some very large fish. There’s a designated splash zone when the Arawana (the silver fish) is fed. The tank is near our kitchen table. Once while we were eating dinner, the Arawana decided to grab one of the other large fish. My husband wrestled the fish away from the Arawana. Sadly, the fish didn’t live. No. I didn’t cry. I might though when the Arawana comes to the end of its fishy life. We’ve had it for more than seven years, and I’ve grown quite attached to its antics.