A Writer’s Best Friend: Ten Authors and Their Pets

For many of us, pets offer companionship, love, and a patient ear to listen to the wild thoughts we cannot share with fellow members of our species. It’s no wonder, then, that so many artists crave the company of furry (or feathered) friends, so often held in high regard as either the inspiration behind or the initiator of the creative process. Just take a look at the special relationships between the following writers and their pets for example. Either as a retreat from humankind, a reminder to take a pensive walk outside, or the means by which scraps of paper find their way into the bin, these pets are so essential to their writers, it’s hard to imagine that they did not choose their artistic owners themselves.

Read on to see for yourself, then tell us what role you feel pets can play in stirring creativity in a comment below.

Ernest Hemingway

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Hemingway had multiple cats, for which he held massive respect, remarking, “A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”

Virginia Woolf

with her dog Pinka.

“This you’ll call sentimental — perhaps — but then a dog somehow represents — no I can’t think of the word — the private side of life — the play side.”

Woolf’s dog biography, inspired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog Flush, is surprisingly her bestselling work to date.

Kurt Vonnegut

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The larger than life author with his tiny friend, Pumpkin.

Tennessee Williams

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Williams named his black cat Sabbath. He also named his best-known play after a feline in a precarious position:

“What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? — I wish I knew… Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can…”

Edith Wharton

Throughout her life, Wharton was often photographed with her dogs, of which she had many. She so loved canines, she actually helped to found the SPCA in the United States. Wharton even included her pups in her writing process, working in bed alongside them–what a picture! She also wrote a beautiful little poem in dedication to them:

My little old dog:
A heart-beat
At my feet.

Flannery O’Connor

O’Connor’s stories are full of surprises, as was her taste in pets. This writer had quite the collection of peacocks.

“When the peacock has presented his back, the spectator will usually begin to walk around him to get a front view; but the peacock will continue to turn so that no front view is possible. The thing to do then is to stand still and wait until it pleases him to turn. When it suits him, the peacock will face you. Then you will see in a green-bronze arch around him a galaxy of gazing haloed suns. This is the moment when most people are silent.”

Robert Penn Warren

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Warren’s love for his cocker spaniel Frodo (named after Tolkien’s character) was commemorated in his poem “Rumor Verified”:

English cocker: old and blind
But if your hand
Merely touches his head,
Old faithe comes flooding back—and …
The paw descends, His trust is infinite
In you …

John Steinbeck

…and his French poodle Charley, with whom he traveled the country, detailed in his book Travels with Charley.

“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”

William S. Burroughs

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Burroughs remarked of his beloved cat Ginger, “Like all pure creatures, cats are practical.”

Maurice Sendak

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And lastly, the lovable curmudgeon and creator of Where the Wild Things Are succinctly summarizes his love for his companion Herman (after Melville) with a simple phrase:

“I hate people.”

Images courtesy of Flavorwire and New York Social Diary.


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