I’ll admit it: I’m a dog person. That’s not to say I’m not fond of cats. I’ve lived with cats, will go out of my way to pet a cat, have fed and cared for stray cats—and let’s face it, there’s nothing more adorable than a kitten, except maybe a litter of kittens. But at the end of the day, the animal at the foot of my bed (or upside down in the middle of my bed, snoring) is a dog. Three dogs, to be exact.
Consider the people in your life. I bet if you think about it, you’ll be able to categorize nearly everyone you know. In my case, my mom is a dog, my dad was a cat. My husband is a true, could-survive-in-the-wilderness-with-only-one-eye cat; my boys are dogs’ dogs—some big, goofy breed that greets the world with a madly wagging tail and a slobbery tongue. Or play the game with television characters. Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island was a dog. The Professor was most definitely a cat. You get the drift.
In fact, if you really want to have fun with it, the “dogs” can be broken down into breeds—consider a Golden Retriever (friendly, good-natured, a little needy) versus a Bassett Hound (stubborn, loyal, and slow-moving) versus a Poodle (intelligent and dignified). Personality differences, certainly . . . but all still dogs. You can do the same with cats.
Of course, there’s a shadow side to dogs and cats.
For those of us who are dogs, the risk of wearing your heart on your sleeve is having it crushed, and
I use these categories when I write. Despite my dog-like nature, most of my female protagonists are cats. I respect their independence. It makes them good heroines in thrillers and mysteries, and their shadow selves are ripe for development as a novel progresses. But dogs are needed as well, and it’s fun to pair the two on the page. As in the real world, a dog provides emotional openness and a nurturing nature that can help bring life to a novel and provide a good counterpoint to a cat.
Ultimately, neither is better—they’re just different. That’s why in fiction, as in life, there needs to be yin and yang, Mars and Venus . . . dog and cat.