dogAs I was reflecting this week on elements that unify us as readers, it occurred to me that many of my reading colleagues are also fellow animal lovers. I live in a house filled with rescued cats and dogs, which is by turns delightful and frustrating. Delightful because life doesn’t get much better than snuggling with a book and a kitty in my lap. Frustrating in that many of my books are now missing covers courtesy of a certain coonhound who has an affinity for ripping them off when my back is turned.

Since I am such a sucker for animals I almost always find it a bonus when a good romance features a furry companion. Especially if the author is adept at creating a unique personality to where the pet becomes an actual character in the story.

Without further ado, here are a few of my favorites:

Jennifer Crusie writes some of my favorite romances. She nearly always includes wonderfully memorable canine characters. Two of my favorites are Getting Rid of Bradley and Anyone But You.

Laura Kinsale’s My Sweet Folly features a heroine with an extraordinary pet: A ferret. I’ve never owned a ferret and never had the desire to own one. Until this book. Toot is so playful and fun that I fell head over heels. And while the rational part of me knows that a ferret would be an utterly bad idea for my household, a tiny part of me still yearns.

Hairy from Take a Chance On Me by Susan Donovan is another favorite. This pint-sized pooch plays a pivotal role in the novel by bringing the hero and heroine together and helping to solve a crime. And how totally awesome is a disco-dancing dog?

But the most memorable for me has to be Otis the parrot from Deep Waters by Jayne Ann Krentz. It has been many years since I read this one and I have long ago forgotten the names of the main characters. But I shall never forget Crazy Otis.

On a related note, I also enjoyed Nora Roberts’ Black Hills, which is mainly set in a wildlife sanctuary. Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega and Mercy Thompson series feature wolf shifters and the author demonstrates an amazing insight into canid behavior. And I must mention Rita Mae Brown’s delightful Mrs. Murphy mysteries. While not romance these novels feature an array of animal characters with their own thoughts and personalities. Plus, they have some mad skills at solving mysteries.

Do you have a favorite book or series featuring animals? Which would you recommend to a fellow animal lover? And should I attempt to teach my coonhound to “shake his groove thang” like Hairy, the disco-dancing Chinese Crested?

– Heather S. AAR