Writing Animals into My Books

I’m always on the hunt for funny animal stories I can incorporate into my books. Do you have any animal anecdotes you would like to share? I would love to hear them. One commenter will win a free copy of FUR BALL FEVER.

I’m a big fan of all animals, be they furry, feathery, scaly, or leathery. Okay, so I draw the line at mosquitoes, but I find dogs, ferrets, moose, aardvarks, turkeys, even the so-called ickier creatures like snakes and toads fascinating. If you don’t believe me, I can prove it. When my youngest son was 10, I let him have a pet rat. That’s right. A white-and-tan ultra-friendly hooded rat called Ben. Ben was an extrovert who loved people. In spite of gnawing gaping holes in my sofa cushions, he won my heart. Hey, it was an old sofa. And after my son discovered girls and lost interest in all things ratty, Ben spent many an hour snuggled up on my lap or shoulder, keeping me company while we watched our favorite TV shows or read romance novels.

It’s a ton of fun to incorporate animals in my books. I try not to let the beasties steal the scene, but it’s an uphill battle. When asked recently why I write about animals, I came up with several reasons (other than the fact that I love them). I use animals in my books to reveal character and move the plot forward. They’re also great to inject humor. But mainly, I try to give readers what they crave, and it seems that the majority of romance readers love animals as much as I do. In my opinion, a tough alpha-male protagonist is ultra-sympathetic if he has a soft spot for animals.

The excerpt from FUR BALL FEVER I’m about to give you is loosely based on a real-life event involving my dog Sheena (a mostly border collie/terrier mix) from my teenaged years. Sheena, may she rest in peace, was a canine glutton. That dog ate anything that wasn’t nailed down. One Saturday, my lovely mother, a woman who could destroy a perfectly good cut of meat in the space of a few hours, decided to incinerate, ahem, I mean cook, a rolled rib roast. She succeeded in shrinking the meat down to half its size (an ancient Scottish tradition), and left it on the counter to rest while she got ready for guests, who were arriving in half an hour.

Twenty minutes later, a shriek alerted me to the fact that all was not right in the kitchen. My father and I ran toward the sound. All that was left of a 6-pound roast (make that a 3-pound roast after my mother had cremated it) was a length of butcher’s twine, a chunk of gristle, and a smear of grease. We found Sheena zonked out on the living room sofa, her stomach rock-hard and distended. I thought she looked slightly green under her fur, but it might have been my imagination.

That night, the guests ate barbecued burgers instead of roast beef. Sheena, on the other hand, didn’t eat a bite for three days. She spent a ton of time in the back yard. In the end, the dog experienced no lasting ill effects. Wish I could say the same about the lawn.

Later, we pieced together what must have happened.

  • Sheena saw her opportunity and formulated a plan (mutts are smart dogs).
  • When the coast was clear, she hopped up onto a chair, which was pulled away from the kitchen table.
  • Once on the chair, it was a piece of cake to boost herself up onto the table.
  • One four-foot leap from table to countertop, and Sheena was beside the meat.
  • Gorging happened.
  • The getaway was the easy part, what with gravity and all.

There was no other way it could have gone down.

The following is an excerpt from the conclusion of FUR BALL FEVER. The protagonists, including Murphy the dog, are in costume for the Pet ’n’ Owner Grand Parade, always the high point of the Annual Jersey Shore Fur Ball.


Murphy darted through the kitchen door, a strip of grease-soaked paper dangling from his mouth. His doggy-sized Confederate jacket had a food smear down the front. The cap hung askew, still anchored by wide elastic tucked underneath his sweet furry chin. Decked out in latex and feathers, Auntie Beth puffed behind the dog as he skidded into a U-turn upon sighting Nick.

“Down,” Nick said in a firm tone.

To Grace’s surprise, Murphy flopped down and displayed his belly.

“Easy, boy.” Nick crouched to rub a rounded tummy. Murphy wriggled, and made little whimpers of adoration.

Grace empathized.

Nick gave her a look of astonishment. “I guess the training worked.” He pried the paper from Murphy’s mouth and straightened. “What’s he been into?”

“It wasn’t my fault.” Auntie Beth’s expression dared criticism.

Grace started getting a bad feeling. “What wasn’t your fault?”

“I needed a snack or I’d never make it to the supper buffet. I skipped breakfast, seeing as how I don’t want to explode this here new dress.”

Gah! This was like pulling teeth. “I get it. You were hungry. What happened, Auntie Beth?”

“There was this leftover pizza, you know, the kind I love with hot banana peppers, spicy Italian sausage, olives, and high-fiber crust.”

Grace stalked toward her aunt. “Please don’t tell me you let Murphy—”

Auntie Beth eyed Grace cautiously. “I go to the fridge for the pizza, and there’s the extra cheese steak from last night and a bunch of Krispy Kremes too. So I pile everything on the table. I was only going to have one teeny-tiny taste.”

Grace tensed, held in place only by Nick’s warning arm squeeze.

“Go on, Beth,” he said in an encouraging tone.

Auntie Beth licked her lips. “I’m unwrapping stuff, then the phone rings, and it’s Milt. I go outside so’s I can have some privacy in case he wants phone sex.”

Nick made a muffled snort that sounded like a laugh. Grace shot him a quelling glance, and turned to Auntie Beth. “Are you telling us that while you and Milt had telephone sex, Murphy chowed down on the pizza?” she asked, her voice all breathy due to corset compression.

“There were only six slices left,” Auntie Beth said.

Grace eyed Murphy. His furry tummy bulged as if he’d swallowed a basketball. “Please, please tell me he didn’t eat anything else.”

Murphy released a low moan followed by a quiet burp.

Auntie Beth gnawed her lower lip. “As God is my witness, I was on the phone for less than five minutes. Milt’s pretty speedy for a man his age.”

Grace tapped her toe, knowing guilt would loosen her aunt’s tongue. Sure enough, after turning as pink as her dress, Auntie Beth admitted, “Okay, so maybe a couple of donuts too.”

She glanced at Grace, who glared back.

At last, Auntie Beth said, “Make that five donuts.”

When Grace grabbed the strip of greasy paper and waved it, Auntie Beth heaved a sigh. “And a twelve-inch cheese steak plus most of the wrapping.”

“What goes in must come out,” Nick muttered. “Heaven help us all.”


 I’m always on the hunt for funny animal stories I can incorporate into my books. Do you have any animal anecdotes you would like to share? I would love to hear them. One commenter will win a free copy of FUR BALL FEVER.


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6 Responses to Writing Animals into My Books

  1. That scene is hilarious! And I agree with your thoughts on why you incorporate the animal scenes.

    I have put all three of my dogs in my books. However, I haven’t used them to up the humor but rather to show character and to facilitate the romance. In My Life as the Ugly Stepsister, she sleeps outside with her dog at the neighbor’s house when her stepmother won’t let him live inside. In Stirring Up Trouble, she brews a potion to save an injured dog. These fictional dogs are more loveable than the real dogs at my house.

    Most of my funny dog stories involved vomiting. Sometimes the dog first. Then me. So I will spare you the details.

    Looking forward to reading more of Fur Ball Fever!

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      Thanks, Juli. Must check out your books. I must confess, there is a scene involving certain bodily functions. The dog’s, that is.

  2. Roxy Boroughs says:

    We once had two baby budgies, which we kept in a cage by the patio doors in the living room. When they were learning to fly, they would climb up the drapes (which was quite a funny sight) – little birds doing the splits, at times) then glide back down to the top of their cage. They’d repeat that over and over until they felt confident with their wings. We never had them clipped. When they got older, they’d do loops around the living room but spent most of their time sitting on top of their cage.

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      Budgies are lots of fun. I had one called Tony. He loved tomato soup, used to sit on the edge of the bowl and dip his beak in. One day he slipped and fell in, had to have a budgie-bath.

  3. I’m with you on how a person reacts to an animal shows a lot about their character. Which adds a lot of depth to our fictional characters. My spirit guide Odessa, also a character in most of my books) an over the top fondness for snakes. She’s a snake charmer and the slithering creatures return the love.

    Ruthie, the Rottie in my Ring Dreams series, is based on a dog that shared a part of my life. The real life Ruthie actually opened the oven door and was about to make a dive for the Thanksgiving turkey before I caught her in just the nick of time.

    • Maureen Fisher says:

      I fully endorse the idea of spirit guides. They are here to help us if we are willing to listen to their guidance. Ruthie sounds like a kindred spirit to my dog, Sheena.

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