Do You Know Where Your Hairy Creature Came From?


I’m talking about your pet! And veterinary medicine.

Two years ago we got a cute new puppy and instantly fell in love. She’s a Bichon Frise and has the sweetest personality. Her name is Amy.

At the time, I was writing the novel, KLONDIKE WEDDING.  (Published in 2007.) I wanted to give my heroine a puppy and started looking into Amy’s history to see if her breed was around then. Lo and behold, yes! Because it was a gold rush story, I named her Nugget in the book. 

They weren’t known as Bichon Frises back then, simply bichons. (Double-check the breed names if you’re including them in your novels. The dog may have existed, but the name may have been slightly different. Many official names and standards of a particular breed were formalized later, in the 1900s, for American kennel clubs.)

One thing often overlooked in Klondike history is the huge influx of stampeders’ dogs. People from around the world heard of the gold strike and raced to get there. They brought their faithful companions not only as a remedy for cabin fever, but as work dogs. They pulled sleds, hauled supplies and people, carried mail and acted as security guards. Often times, they were the only friend a gold miner could trust. And extremely valuable. A dog that sold for $15 in the lower states could sell for ten times that amount or more in the Yukon.

When I was in the Yukon, I picked up this great book. GOLD RUSH DOGS by Claire Rudolf Murphy and Jane G. Haigh. It offers such an interesting point of view of the gold rush. For centuries prior to this, Indians and Eskimos in Alaska relied on their huskies and malamutes for transportation (dog sleds) and carrying household goods as they moved seasonally for hunting, fishing and trapping.

Stampeders brought different breeds. Saint Bernards, English mastiffs, water spaniels, Lapphunds (a Norwegian or Lapp dog that was a reindeer herder) and countless other mixed breeds. Many became legendary in the north for their hard work, incredible strength and duration. They bred with the huskies and forever changed the bloodline of northern dogs.

DOGS. Some dog breeds from around the world and their history:

Bichon – French, Belgian and Mediterranean ancestry dating back to the 1300s. Related to poodles, Maltese breeds, and water spaniels. During the 1500s, the breed became popular as pampered lap dogs for French, English and Spanish royalty.

Golden Retriever – Developed sometime around 1865 by Lord Tweedmouth of Scotland. For hunting purposes to retrieve game birds such as grouse, pheasant and quail. The dog is able to swim in cold water, push through vegetation and retrieve gently.

Saint Bernard – Very old breed. Some say they date back to the 1st century A.D. Its ancestors are herding dogs of Swiss and Italian farmers, and watchdogs. Famous for being used by Swiss monks as rescue dogs for travelers crossing the treacherous Swiss Alps. These dogs have a highly developed sense of smell to find people trapped in snowstorms and are excellent pathfinders. In widespread use until the middle of the 19th century.

CATS. Around 4,000 years ago, cats were fully domesticated by the Egyptians as household pets, and used to guard stored grain from rodents. Cats don’t have as many diverse breeds as dogs. Although some breeds are 500 years old, most are roughly 100 years old and new breeds are continually being developed.

Some cat breeds:

Persian – Originated in Persia (Iran). Believed to have been brought to Europe during the Crusades in the 1300s, though first documented in Italy during the 1600s. Introduced to North America in the late 1800s.

American Shorthair – A breed with ancestry related to English cats, which were brought on ships by early explorers (the Mayflower) to guard valuable cargo from mice and rats. Known for longevity, robust health and amiability.

Siamese – Exported from Thailand (known as Siam then) in the late 1800s, to England and America. Known for distinct beauty, intelligence and inquisitive nature.


In KLONDIKE WEDDING, I took the story one step further and made the hero a Veterinary Surgeon who worked for the Mounties. He had a lot on his plate—dealing with a measles quarantine, trapped with the heroine and several other people, while suspecting someone was using his vet supplies for poison.

You can imagine how valuable veterinarians were during those times, especially in caring for horses. Horses were desperately needed for transport, battle, hunting, and basic survival. Veterinary Surgeons became very important during the American Civil War.

Although the Royal Veterinary College was founded in England in 1791, the first college in the U.S. started in 1857—the New York College of Veterinary Surgeons. Up until then, American men became veterinarians by apprenticing with someone who was trained in England, or by practice and hearsay. Unfortunately, in some pockets of the U.S. it took several decades for good education to filter through.

In 1863, the United States Veterinary Medical Association was founded. It went through several name changes, and published the journal, American Veterinary Review, for their members.

Reference sources for this article can be found on my website

Tell me about your creatures! What pets do you have? If you’re a writer, what animals have you written into your stories?


Click on a cover to buy a book on Amazon.

         Wanted in Alaska…coming Feb 2009

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38 thoughts on “Do You Know Where Your Hairy Creature Came From?”

  1. I have a short hair brown/black/gray cat with marble markings. Not sure how to describe that..she’s not a typical striped tabby.

    We got Miscellaneous- aka Mizzy or Moo Moo, when I was pregnant with my daughter 6 years ago. She’s my furbaby, and also my writing companion- she can usually be found under the desk near my feet when I’m writing or laying in the recliner close by.

    As for animals written into my stories- I’ve had a golden retriever and a couple of tabbies, horses, a himilayan cat with big blue eyes, and a finch. Probably more that I can’t think of at the moment.

  2. Fun blog, Kate. Your new book sounds wonderful (I love Mounties!).
    My two cats, Walter and Sadie, were shelter buddies that I found on line. Walter is a huge brown tabby whose favorite spot is between me and my computer. Sadie is a tiny, red, longhaired beauty. I don’t know her background but I recently saw a photo of a new breed called a Somali. She looks exactly like one.
    If my cats were people they would be John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.:)
    Bet you’re going to get lots of comments today!

  3. Hi Taryn! Your cats sound gorgeous. It’s amazing to me how many different colors and patterns cats come in. It’s nice to have a writing companion, isn’t it? It sounds like you’re an animal lover with all the ones you’ve included in your stories!

  4. Hi Elizabeth! Thanks for the comments. It was a fun blog to write and I kept falling in love with every animal I researched. LOL. Hey, I love the personality of your cats as John and Maureen! That’s so interesting about the new breed of Somali. I googled her breed–she’s beautiful. Funny how many new cat breeds are out there. I never realized.

    Thanks for the comment on my book. It was published last year, though. I should have made that clear–so I just went in and added that minor note. Thanks for mentioning!

  5. So much interesting info. My animal research is more focused on horses usually…big surprise. 🙂

    We have had one real dog in our married life. Dingo, an Australian Shepherd. He was a great job. When we bought him…he was mis-marked. A tri-color, but instead of having this perfect white stripe down his face, the stripe was too wide and covered one eye. He was so CUTE.

    But his sire was a perfectly marked tri–color and that guy was so beautiful, I was tempted to buy a correctly marked Australian shepherd out of the same puppy pack…except Dingo cost us $50 and his least expensive brother was $300.

    So we settled for imperfection. 😀

    The lady who sold him to us knew we had cattle and we were interested in having a working dog.
    She told us where to go to have him trained as a cattle dog, but she said if he went there and was trained, he’d be a fantastic cattle dog, but not as good a pet, because they are always watchful, ready to obey a command and they’re just a different kind of animal then.

    So we had to pick pet or work dog. And we picked pet. Dingo was good working cattle, but never great. But he was a great pet.

  6. Hi Mary–what an interesting story about your dog, Dingo. Wow, you could’ve trained him to work with cattle. I’ve only read about this in books and thought it happened long ago. Nice to hear it’s a fairly modern thing, too. Sounds like a Disney story to me…. 🙂 MY DOG DINGO. Or a YA novel. I would’ve settled for imperfection, too.

  7. Hi Kate!
    I have 4 dogs: 1 is a collie/pug mix named Moochie, 1 is a black lab/rottwieler mix named Bear, 1 is a german shepard/lab mix named Doobie, and the last 1 is a black lab named Ginger.

    Bear is my dog… or should I say he owns me lol… the rest of the pets own other members of my family… Bear is a VERY big dog(about a size smaller then a great dane) and he is very goofy and clumsy and makes me laugh constantly…

    I also have 5 cats: BoBo-pure white and yellow cat (he looks like a toasted marshmallow lol), Chance- black and white cat he’s also the fattest of the bunch, Puss- mostly grey, light brown cat, Grippy- is a minx breed (ones with no tail) and is mostly white with light brown, tan, dark brown coloring, and last but not least… Monkey- who is a white/gray/silver cat and the tinest of the bunch…

    I have A LOT of pets… most of them are rescues… this is a GREAT post by the way… i love talking about my pets and hearing about other peoples pets as well!

  8. Hi Kate,

    Love your blog today! Pets are so special to their owners. I can’t imagine anyone mistreating one but sadly they do. I used to have a beautiful rescue border collie named Daisy. She was so loving and really protective. She definitely didn’t like strangers. She died of old age two years ago and I miss her so much.

    I have a soft spot in my heart for dogs and have put them into two of my single titles. One was a golden retriever and the other was a wild wolf dog. They really added depth to my stories.

    I love your Klondike series books and have ravished every one. I sure found a new appreciation for mounties! They’re quite similar to our western cowboy. And I didn’t know that. Thanks to you I found out they weren’t stiff and stuffy. Not a bit. In fact your mounties are sexy as all get out and hot-blooded! I can’t wait for your next book. You can bet I’ll be at the bookstore in Feb. 🙂

  9. Hi Kate!

    We have several cats and dogs and we love them all. I’m away from home right now and have Georgie with me — a cat I rescued here in Florida. He’s an unusual cat — not your regular alley cat — he’s a kind of cat that originate in Ethopia — something that begins with an A.

    We also rescued a couple of dogs on the Blackfeet reservation.

  10. Hi Danielle! Nice of you to post, and thank you for the kind comments! Wow, you’ve got a lot of pets. I see you like big dogs. I’ve never had a Lab but I understand they’re very gentle and love families, so the mixed breed must work great for your large selection of animals. Your cats sound like a lively bunch, too. Great of you to have rescued them. I had a shorthair gray cat we rescued, too, several years ago as a kitten. Loved her!

  11. Hi Linda, sorry to hear about Daisy. It’s always hard to lose a beloved pet. The dogs in your books sound like they had some great personalities.

    Thank you for the generous comments on my Klondike books, LOL. Love those Mounties, too. I remember you said you’d read Klondike Wedding. Now you know all the research that went into the animal and Vet part of the story. It wasn’t inundated with facts, it just takes a lot of research to put such a small portion of it into our writing. But we love the research, that’s why we’re historical writers, right?

  12. Hi Karen, Wow you rescued a cat while you’re on the road and away from home? That’s a true animal-lover! It’s funny how many writers have pets. They break up the isolation from writing at home, plus they’re wonderful companions. Your dogs sound wonderful, too!

  13. Oh my, where to start. Currently I have three rescue dogs, an elderly Shih Tzu and two Australian Shepherd sisters (dumped at the pound for bad behavior). They are now incredibly good. As for animals in books, I have animals in all but a very few. Among them a monkey called Socrates, a parrot called Merlin, a pig named Caroline and a chicken named Henrietta. And dogs, dogs, dogs. Even a few cats here and there. Since I’m a huge animal lover, I can’t really write people who aren’t besotted themselves (g).

  14. Hi Kate,
    We’re cat lovers here, but I like dogs and we had our share while growing up. My boy Charger, was human almost, and I know that’s what all dog-owners say about their loving dogs. We had him for many years and I took him with me when my parents couldn’t care for him anymore more. He was a shepherd/collie mix.
    Your little Amy is adorable! And what a cute name for your story’s dog, Nugget!

    I did design a dog like Charger in Winning Jenna’s Heart and he played a major role in the story. He could predict the weather (just like Charger). We always knew days in advance when it would rain, Charger would lick his paw over and over again. We think he had arthritis, but it never failed, if he paid great attention to his paw, even if the day was sunshine bright, we knew rain was on its way!

  15. Our first dog was a beagle and then we had a mixed breed for 17 yrs. and she was such a sweatheart. I then started saving strays and ferals. My oldest passed at 17 this year but I currently have 6 inside cats and take care of 3 permanent ferals and usually a couple more. One of my cats is a maine coone and I’ve been told that they are a breed that can show up at any time and were first found in the new england states (I live in PA) – basically cold weather areas.

  16. Pat–I love the variety of animals in your books. Must make for entertaining reading (and writing.) I knew you were a big animal lover when you posted that blog about your dogs. Thanks for dropping by!

  17. Charlene, that must’ve been fun to include Charger in your book. I can totally believe that he had arthritis and that’s what predicted the rain. Thanks for saying Amy’s cute–I’ll pass the message on to my daughter, who was the one holding her in the picture!

  18. Jeanne–17 years is such a long life for a dog. You were lucky. I googled what a main coone looks like–they’re very attractive. I’ve seen many of those kind around these parts over the years (Great Lakes area). I didn’t know they lived in the colder regions, must be their type of fur.

  19. Hi, Kate!

    I’m really not much of an animal lover, but we’ve had a dog since the girls were young. Our first was a salt and pepper schnauzer named Charlie. He died of old age, and I thought I’d enjoy not having to step around a dog dish in the kitchen or seeing poop in the back yard. Alas, that lasted 2 months until Ann Marie talked me into going to the Humane Society where we both fell in love with a retriever mix. His name is Spencer, and he’s right here beside me. 🙂

    I wrote about a frou frou dog that my heroine absolutely adored in my last book with Dorchester, Broken Blossoms. Of course, the hero *hated* that dog, until the end but by then, the heroine had to give him a more manly dog, so all four of them had a happy ever after!

  20. Hi Pam! That’s funny about your happy ever after for man and dog! 🙂 That book sounds wonderful!

    Kids sure love animals, don’t they? You were great to go the Humane Society. Actually, I’m really surprised how many posters here today have done that. 🙂

  21. I used to have a male and a female Pekingese and a male and a female Yorkshire Terrier They have passed from old age.
    I now have very old cats, one, 19 years old, 2, 18 years old and 2, 11 years old.

  22. I’ve almost always been around dogs, mostly of the ‘terrier mix’ variety. 🙂 I have had some wonderful mini dashunds, too. Schnoozel will always be one of my favorite little fellows. Ruatha, who ended up living with my brother, was a mutant–and then had to take steroids for back issues. He wasn’t a weiner dog–he was a bologna dog!

    At the same time my bro had a chow lab mix named Noid. Noid was a great big slobbery fellow who became a reoccuring character in my series of Keltic books. I’m using dogs in a couple works in progress–a seeing eye helper named Cricket and a couple of doxie therapy dogs.

    Right now my housemate has two shelties and the queen of the household, Gracie the cat. I have fish. 🙂 I love ’em all! And if I could talk my way around it, we’d probably have more. 🙂

    Waving hi to Cheryl and Puppers!

  23. Over the years we have had many pets including a blind white rat, a cat that took care of me when I was on bed rest, and our current dog, Amedeus. She is an unusual dog in that she climbs trees. I have so many pet stories that I could probably do a book just on our pets, if I were a writer that is.

  24. Hi Lizzie! Your books sound so lively and interesting. Those are great descriptions of your pets–I can see them so vividly. I enjoy seeing fish and find the tanks fascinating. Don’t know if yours is big or small, but seasalt ones seem amazing (in the pet store when I’m browsing.)

  25. Connie, your pets have such personality! A blind white rat? Oh, the poor thing. Your cat was sure loyal. And I’ve never seen a dog that can climb trees. I’ll have to tell my daughter, she’ll get a kick out of it.

  26. What an interesting and ADORABLE post, Kate 🙂

    We have a an German Shorthair Pointer, Howie. He’s our total sweetheart. Has showdog parents and it shows in Howies good manners. We also have a Fox Terrier (Roxy)–she has total pet-store manner *lol*. Sadly, we are down to two cats, Sparky and Milkyway. We used to have ten but we lost eight over a short time to kitty luekemia–was very sad. We also have a Sacata African three spur tortoise named Bowser.

    I have a dot who plays a big role in my upcoming MOUNTAIN WILD book (Wild 3 – new title!!). Garret’s dog Boots is in nearly every chapter and saves Garret a time or two 😉

    Thanks for all the super info!!

  27. oh Kate, I am soooooooo late getting here today! With a houseful expected for Thanksgiving, we got up first thing and started to get ready.

    I have started a new story featuring a “horse doctor” and this vet info is soooo helpful!!

    We have had to say good-bye to two of our beloved Labrador Retrievers in recent past, my little black Lab girl (age 10) just in August. My heart still breaks. Our boy black Lab is 11 and not all that sturdy, takes more medications than any human I know. But is happy and content. Oh, I love animals.

    Does anybody know about Balto? The snowdog that brought the medicine to the dying community? I think Alaska? There’s a statue of him in Central Park.

    My first dog ever (I was a newlywed who had kitties as a child) was a black and white Border collie named Schatzi…and there’s a black and white pup named Schatzi (go figure) in Marrying Minda due out in June.

    Kate, thanks for a wonderful post.

  28. Stacey, Tanya and Danielle–I never watched the movie Balto, but I’ve heard of it (and now will see if I can rent it for me and the kids). So I googled him. He was famous! For those who don’t know–he was a Lapphund (reindeer herder) and in 1925 brought diphtheria serum to Nome Alaska to save a lot of lives. That’s so cool that they have a statue of him in Central Park!

    Stacey–your doggie addition to Mountain Wild sounds great!

    Tanya–those horse doctors were very interesting men! 🙂

  29. I have way too many animals thanks to my youngest daughter who has now left home. She will not let a stray or dumped cat go hungry.
    I have two inside cats which are neutered. There is Bathsheba who I had to save from dying. I fed her pasta blended up and then started adding cat food to it to get her to eat. She is now big and lazy. Then there is Precious who is 8 years old who is Russian Blue.
    I have one dog, Chester, who is part German Shepherd and Saint Bernard. My Saint Bernard/Rotweiler mix dog – Shadow – died of a tumor this past year. She was so sweet.
    Then there are the outside cats that keep the mice away and the moles, snakes, and whatever.

  30. We have pet snakes and tarantulas here at our house so not too many people will come for a visit. LOL!
    Not really our friends live too far away they don’t like the big city where we live.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

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