Mans best friend is not always limited to the canine relationship
Most of us have grown up certain in our knowledge as to which animals classify as pets and which do not. Sometimes the lines crossed a little, for example, rabbits are found in both garden hutches and warrens and some dogs, such as hounds and sheepdogs, are working dogs and may live in kennels rather than cosseted in the house.
Aside from a few (very) odd exceptions, such as Christian, the lion bought from Harrods department store in 1969, it was safe to say that the majority of pets were suitable domestic animals. However, in this day and age, the lines have drastically blurred, particularly in the United States, where captive tigers outnumber those in the wild. Such “pets” are no longer a feature exclusive to works of fiction or indeed fantasy sagas, nor are they always associated with a children’s story. To take a few examples of adult literature, the presence of what would be a wild animal for a pet or companion adds a layer of mystery and intrigue to certain characters.
Only By Your Touch by Catherine Anderson
To escape her abusive ex-husband, Chloe Evans moves to a small community in Oregon, to give her young son a better life. She hears of Ben Longtree, a mysterious man who lives up on the ridge, from whom others warn her to stay away. When she actually meets him, Chloe realises that, despite the rumours, Ben has a kind nature and a mystical gift with animals. He also has two pets: a wolf and a cougar. Having to clean up after our dog is bad enough… what must it be like with not one, but two, much bigger animals? Yet there are rewards: Diablo, the wolf, is fiercely protective of Ben and will not hesitate to attack anyone who may threaten his safety. Methuselah, the cougar, loves to be petted as much as any household cat.
The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale
Intent on avenging her family’s deaths at the hands of a cult leader, Lady Leigh Strachan seeks out S.T. Maitland, a former highwayman in exile, to help her. He is hiding in a crumbling castle in France, alone with his pet wolf, Nemo. In addition to having a price on his head, Maitland suffers from terrible vertigo and is deaf in one ear. Not unlike an assistance dog, Nemo is protective of and affectionate towards Maitland. According to Guide Dogs UK, the average guide dog owner may have as many as eight guide dogs in their lifetime, bringing the total cost to approximately £500,000. If we think that is a high number for a dog, imagine the cost (and training!) of a wolf. Nemo is also terrified of women and does not accept Leigh as part of their pack until long after she and Maitland have established an alliance.
Taming Lord Renwick by Jeanne Savery
After an accident in India rendered him nearly blind, Lord Jason Renwick has retreated into his house, believing himself to be less than a complete man. His only friend is a white tiger, christened Sahib, whose presence is the reason Jason’s house is known as Tiger’s Lair. For a long time, Sahib is Jason’s protector, acting as his eyes like a feline version of a guide dog. He also keeps Jason’s servants in their place and makes visitors nervous. If only we could have our own Sahib… that would keep cold-callers and scammers at bay, though we would have to make sure that he left the postman alone.
Exotic pets are not the only link between these three examples. S.T. Maitland and Lord Renwick both have a disability and their pets – wolf and tiger, respectively – could be seen not as mere pets or companions, but as compensations for their impairments. If we could choose any wild animal as our assistant – or indeed, our pet – which would we opt for?
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