by Bethany Maines
If you’re friends with me on Facebook then you know of my picture-snapping obsession with my dog Kato. He’s a two-year old Lab Rottweiler mix with a belief that people-chairs are really dog beds and that dishwashers are where we put the silverware to be licked. We named him after Inspector Clouseau’s surprise attacking valet, so that we could yell, “Kato, now is not the time!” whenever he jumps out at us, which he does frequently. My friends, acquaintances, and frequently strangers are forced to listen to my “hilarious” dog stories and occasionally shown the “baby” photos on my phone. Yes, I’m that “pet parent.” I try not to be, but my dog is just that darn cute. (See photographic evidence below.)
However, it occurred to me, as I tried to integrate a dog into my latest manuscript that pets are rather like the bathroom in most books – they never get mentioned. That is, unless they’re important to the plot line or they ARE the plot line (see The Cat Who… series by Lillian Jackson Braun). Both bathrooms and pets are important features of everyday life. Pets require feeding and water and are generally greeted immediately upon entering a house, as well having a host of other little ways of integrating themselves into their owner’s lives. Bathrooms, for obvious reasons, are visited multiple times a day and usually have their own attendant routines of make-up, showering, and dressing. But both rarely rate a mention in most books. What gives?
Well, like all the strangers I accost with my Kato stories, most readers probably just aren’t that interested in the heroine’s pet. And really, who wants to spend that much time with a protagonist in the restroom? And of course, with space at a premium, it’s a bit hard to justify giving paragraphs of space to the pet while the plot languishes about looking for a little attention. But is a well-written story with a fast moving plot mutually exclusive with pets and bathrooms? Can’t a character blurt out, “I have to pee,” when faced with shocking news? Can’t the dull routine of feeding the dog, feed a characters wish for excitement and adventure? Why should the pets and restrooms not at least get the recognition they deserve for being a meaningful part of our lives?
All of which makes me want to write a story that takes place in the bathroom… with a dog. I just need a plot and some characters and I’m golden.