I though it would be nice to take a quick break from the more intense, research-heavy posts I usually do for something fun and lighthearted. As a lifelong animal lover, I never miss a chance to include some animals in my ensemble casts. A few of these animal characters are prominent enough to merit their names being bolded in my cast lists (because I’m that old-fashioned writer who still makes a list of characters for the frontal matter).
In no particular order, some of my animal characters and a little about them:
Kroshka (1908–27 April 1933), the little Pomeranian that could of my first three Russian novels. Kroshka’s person is Svetlana Lebedeva, who gave her the name Kroshka because it’s Russian for “crumb,” and really suited her tiny little size. All Kroshka’s people were eventually taken away, and Svetlana’s father was shocked to escape from prison and come home to find her still there. No one ever figures out just how she survived on her own, and if she had any help from people or other dogs.
It was really emotionally difficult to write her final chapter, “A Modern-Day Argos,” when she reunites with Svetlana’s cousin Nadezhda. Kroshka kept herself alive for 25 years because she knew some of her people were still out there, and once the last had come to America, she knew her time was up. She’s buried in the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, and Svetlana wears the key to Kroshka’s coffin on a chain around her neck forevermore.
Copyright José Reynaldo da Fonseca
Snezhinka (Russian for “snowflake”) is a snow-white Pomeranian whom Svetlana finds on 10 June 1933. While she and Nadezhda are taking a walk the morning before Nadezhda’s long-awaited wedding, a runty puppy Pomeranian begins following them. Svetlana, a nurse, instinctively understands she’s malnourished and must’ve been living on the streets for awhile. She wonders if Snezhinka might be the reincarnation of Kroshka, sent into her life to heal her heart.
Andryusha is a Samoyed owned by little Kittey Vishinskaya and bought for her by dear friend Pyotr Litvinov in early 1921. Kittey had polio in January 1919, and went through a long, slow process of relearning to walk. Using a guide dog was her final stage before being able to walk unassisted again. Like Kroshka, Andryusha also comes to America. He’s named after Kittey’s murdered father Andrey.
Branimir is a Kabardin horse, the last character I ever created on my first computer, the 152K Mac, in September or October 1993. For the longest time, he was unnamed. A few years ago, I finally gave him the same name I gave a little grizzly bear statuette my surviving uncle got me when I was recovering from my accident in 2003. Branimir is a Serbian, Bulgarian, Slovenian, and Croatian name meaning “peaceful protection” or “world protection.”
Lyuba and Ivan can’t bear to part from Branimir after they’ve gone through so much together, so they bring him to America and board him at a Long Island stable till they move to Minnesota in 1929. They also bring him with them when they move to Hastings (near the Twin Cities) for four years of university. I’m not looking forward to writing Branimir’s eventual death and funeral scenes!
Mängukaru (Estonian for “teddybear”) is a Great Dane adopted by Katrin Kalvik-Nikonova’s family in 1937, when he’s about three years old.
Chernika (Russian for “blueberry”) is a Pygmy goat who keeps Branimir company during those four years in Hastings. He’s named by Lyuba and Ivan’s youngest child, Tamara. Pygmy goats are excellent companions for solitary horses.
Rakushka (Russian for “seashell”) is an orange and white Papillon whom Ivan gets Lyuba as a tenth anniversary present in September 1933, when she’s pregnant with their seventh child Irina. She’s still going strong now at 15 years old. Toy breeds tend to live longer than large, giant, and medium breeds. One of the three canine Titanic survivors was a Pomeranian who reportedly lived to 25.
Nessa (Hebrew for “miracle”) is an ivory satin mouse discovered by 14-year-old Eszter Kovács in the large abandoned house she and her friends Marie and Caterina escape into in late March 1945. They don’t immediately discover Nessa, and marvel at how she was able to survive for four days with barely any food and water. When all the characters are in Béziers, France, on a strawberry farm, Nessa is accidentally bred, and thus begins the mousery by which Eszter and her husband earn a living in Newark. Nessa lives about three and a half years, very old for a mouse, and dies soon after arriving in America.
Schatzi (German for “sweetie”) is a Flemish Giant rabbit whom the girls also find in the abandoned house. She’s also accidentally bred on the strawberry farm, and forms the basis of a rabbitry. Both Nessa and Schatzi are healing balm for these young survivors’ souls. Schatzi dies in June 1959.
When her people escape to Morristown after the Newark Riots in July 1967, both Nessa and Schatzi are disinterred and reburied in their new backyard.
Bernhard (called Ben and Bentje) is a Kooikerhondje puppy found by Jakob DeJonghe in the fall of 1943. His original name was Adolf, and he was owned by one of the cretins who hurt Jakob’s mother last year. Ben is named after Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands, and serves as a war dog in both The Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies. He comes to America with Jakob in 1946.
George is a cat owned by Emeline Troy of my contemporary historical family saga. To no one’s shock, he’s named after George Harrison. Emeline frequently calls him Georgiekins. He’s a runt with beautiful smoky-blue eyes, off-white medium-length fur, and a few grey, black, and orange patches. Emeline adopts him in 1972.
Jitterbug is a black, white, and orange guinea pig owned by Granyechka Likachëva’s children. She’s a lot older than most guinea pigs now, at age eleven, and I’m not looking forward to her death either. Jitterbug is the first subject oldest surviving child Violetta draws after polio forces her to switch from her right to left hand. She figures it’s not difficult to draw a round oval with little feet, ears, and a face.