No Fur or Feather Babies

By Lois Winston

When I was asked to write a cozy mystery series, I knew I should include a pet. Cozy readers love books with pets, especially dogs or cats. Sometimes the pet is even an integral part of helping to solve the mystery. I also have many friends who write cozy mysteries, and most of them are pet owners.

I’m the outlier. I don’t have a fur baby. Instead, I have allergies. Allergies to just about all pets. At least the kind you can pet, cuddle, and play with. Tropical fish would probably be safe, but I consider those pretty things to watch swimming around rather than pets. If it has fur or feathers, I need to steer clear, and chances are, I’d probably also have issues with amphibians and reptiles. I’m even allergic to certain people—or at least to some of the grooming products they use.

I used to have pets. When I was a teenager, we had a dog. I walked around sneezing and coughing and suffering with horrible sinus headaches for several years until I left for college. Once I had my own apartment, I tried kittens. What was I thinking? The headaches, sneezing, and coughing returned with a vengeance.

When my kids were young, we got them a pair of gerbils. Even though I stayed far away from the cage, I still suffered.

So, unfortunately, I remain petless. My protagonist in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries is far from petless, though. Not only does Anastasia’s household include her mother-in-law’s French bulldog Mephisto and occasionally Catherine the Great, her mother’s Persian cat, but Anastasia has also inherited her great-aunt Penelope Periwinkle’s African Grey parrot.

However, Ralph is no ordinary parrot. Having spent most of his life in Great-aunt Penelope’s classroom, listening to lectures on the works of William Shakespeare, Ralph possesses a unique talent. He has the uncanny ability to squawk situation-appropriate quotes from the Bard of Avon.

Is this even possible? Some African Greys do have huge vocabularies, but even though I’ve read up on the species, I’m no parrot expert. It doesn’t matter, though. I write fiction, humorous fiction. If readers can suspend their disbelief enough to accept a protagonist who stumbles across more murders than the average cop in an entire law enforcement career, why not a Shakespeare-quoting parrot?

Ralph is also very protective of his adoptive family. I hope you’ll check out how he proves his worth in Guilty as Framed, the 11th book in my humorous Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series.


USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.

21 replies
  1. Saralyn
    Saralyn says:

    I’m drawn in by pets, and pets serve as characters in my books, as well. I’m smiling about your Ralph. My Detective Parrott has a cockatiel named Horace, who adds frivolity and fun (and sometimes meaning) to scenes. Perhaps we should have a Ralph-Horace “play date” sometime soon.

  2. Kathryn Lane
    Kathryn Lane says:

    Great posting! I’ve written about dogs, horses, crows (who can also learn a few phrases) and falcons in my novels. I always enjoy having “pets or companions” in my stories, since like you, I have allergies and cannot have pets in the house.

  3. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    Pets are complicated to write – especially if you don’t any of them. I like how you talk about the reader suspending belief, but I think the author owes it to the reader, much as you indicate, to get the basics right — and then let the reader embellish the pet within the framework of their own experiences.

  4. Susan Oleksiw
    Susan Oleksiw says:

    I have used pets in some of my books but I like them to have a purpose in the story, more than a distraction for the main character or a time filler while she struggles with a problem. To my surprise I developed allergies in my 50s, which included allergies to pets after having grown up with them. I’m told this is common, but certainly annoying.

  5. Ashley-Ruth Moolenaar Bernier
    Ashley-Ruth Moolenaar Bernier says:

    Whew—certainly a dilemma! I write cozies also, but so far, my MC does not have a pet. A recurring character will have a guide dog in upcoming books, so it’s been a lot of fun researching what kind of dog to give him. I love how you included an unconventional pet in your stories! I have a sweet and goofy boxer mix at home, but I’ve also (surprisingly) really loved owning hermit crabs as well. Yes, they do have personalities! Maybe my MC might get some sweet little crabbies in a future story…

  6. Lois Winston
    Lois Winston says:

    Ashley-Ruth, you’ve certainly expanded my knowledge with your comment. Who knew hermit crabs had personalities? Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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