As a kid, I had one major requirement for any book I read: there had to be an animal in it — and it could be a cat, dog, bird of prey, or genetically modified dinosaur so long as it was there. I've since expanded my literary tastes, but I'm still a sucker for a great story about a human-animal friendship. Here are just some of the pets from literature that I've desperately wished were real (and also mine to cuddle with).
There's a certain appeal to any book about animals, whether the animals are wild or domesticated, anthropomorphized or realistic. But I always like to see a well written relationship between a pet and its human. The great pets of literature remind us of the animal companions we have known (in my case, a cat, a turtle, and several rats). They're real characters (even the ones who can't talk), who care about their people. And they each have their own personality, despite lacking personhood. That's why we go to pieces when the dog dies at the end of the book, or when the baby fawn gets shot, or when the dire wolf is beheaded and then sewn onto its master's corpse. So here are a few of the best literary pets out there:
1. Hedwig from the Harry Potter series
Look, I love Crookshanks too, but when it comes to pets from Harry Potter, you can't top Hedwig. She's the single best snowy owl companion in all of fiction. She's a bit haughty, and she has just as much sass as Harry does, but she always gets the job done. No animal can match her when it comes to mail delivery. (And I'm just going to ignore her tragic death in book seven because I'm still not over it).
2. Toto from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Toto from The Wizard of Oz is one of the most iconic pets of all time. He's funny, cheerful, and pretty much the only shred of sanity that Dorothy has to cling to in a bizarre fantasy land. Also, he's a very discerning terrier, because in the eighth Oz book it's revealed that Toto has had the ability to talk the whole time? And he just decides not to? Um? What?
3. Polynesia from the Doctor Dolittle series
Polynesia is an African grey parrot from the Dr. Dolittle books. She speaks English fluently, and she's actually the one who taught Dr. Dolittle how to talk to other animals. She's also a bit of a sassy know-it-all, and she's potentially ancient/immortal? (She mentions witnessing historical events long before her time.) She might not be the most realistic parrot, but she's definitely the one keeping Dolittle's whole operation afloat.
4. Wilbur from Charlotte's Web
The main friendship of Charlotte's Web is more between Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the pig, but Wilbur and Fern (the human) still have a few touching moments. Fern does rescue him from being murdered as a piglet, after all. And while Wilbur is mostly a dead weight weighing Charlotte down, he's also a sweet, adorable little pig, who strives to eat slop and be a good friend.
5. Frightful from My Side of the Mountain
Frightful is a peregrine falcon from the My Side of the Mountain book series, and she will make you think that having a pet falcon is a good idea. The book centers on Sam, a 12-year-old boy who runs away from home to live in the woods, and Frightful, the baby falcon he raises as his own. She's pretty true to life, as far as being a falcon goes, but she's still so lovable that the third book in the series is just about Frightful being a falcon, with barely any human interaction.
6. Ghost from A Song of Ice and Fire
George R.R. Martin must be an animal person, because nearly all the "good guys" have pets in A Song of Ice and Fire. Daenerys Targaryen's dragons are pretty cool, but since she considers them more her children then her pets, I have to go with one of the dire wolves. And Jon Snow's wolf Ghost might just be the most unique of the wolves, with his white fur and his own private agenda. He's a loyal pet when the need arises, but he's also more than capable of taking care of himself.
7. Old Lace from The Runaways comics
As far as psychic raptors go, Old Lace is one of the best. She's a raptor from the future in the Runaways comics, and she's mentally linked to her owner. That means she's pretty well-behaved when it comes to following orders (although she's still too much of a raptor to go for a walk like a normal pet). She's not too realistic when it comes to real world animals (as we all know, raptors had feathers), but she's way too much fun to leave out.
8. Misty from Misty of Chincoteague
Misty from Misty of Chincoteague is one of the most famous fictional horses. I mean, she's no Black Beauty, but Misty is about as beloved as literary horses get. She's the little wild pony foal who's basically kidnapped by some nosy kids, but it all develops into a beautiful kid-and-horse friendship for the ages. She makes us all want to kidnap a pony and then ride her along the beach.
9. Winn-Dixie of Because of Winn-Dixie
Winn-Dixie is definitely the best dog ever named after a supermarket. Because of Winn-Dixie is all about how a stray dog comes into everyone's lives and reminds them of what's important and all that jazz, but it never comes off as cliche. Winn-Dixie is just such a big, fun, goofball of a dog, and he feels real. He's not a too-good-to-be-true book dog, he's a normal dog with a big heart.
10. Ramoth from the Dragonriders of Pern series
Long before Daenerys was messing around in Essos, Anne McCaffrey was bringing us dragon-riding girls with the Dragonriders of Pern books. In the very first book, Dragonflight, a lowly kitchen maid bonds with Ramoth, the last queen dragon on the planet, and the two of them must ride together to save Pern from the evil Thread (it's OK if you didn't follow all that). Ramoth is a giant golden dragon, and every dragon-loving kid wished for her as a pet.
Images: Warner Bros., Giphy (7), Paramount Pictures