Most of us have heard about the health benefits animals can have for those who care for them. Scholarly articles round up studies that show that pets offer therapeutic value for people struggling with depression or chronic illness, as well as soothing loneliness and isolation. Ask any pet lover and they’ll tell you how much they treasure their companions, or tell tales of animals that simply “know” when they’re hurting.
As the owner of three cats, I can tell you about many times where they offered comfort in difficult times. Recovering from abdominal surgery a few years back, I was bedridden and in pain. My oldest cat, Gravity — never a lap cat, but affectionate — gently walked up to me and laid down, resting her head perfectly between my incisions so as not to cause pain, one paw stretched to gently cover the sorest spot. A second cat took residence between my feet. Their love was of great comfort.
We know about the power of the bond with a pet. So why do pets seldom come up in the discussion of supporting characters? With their lack of human language and their honesty, animals can serve several critical roles in a book.