When did humans begin to treat dogs as part of our families? Experts say that dogs have been wagging their way into human homes and hearts for tens of thousands of years. But our modern relationship to dogs really began to form in the Georgian era and grew significantly during the Victorian period, as organizations developed to support and promote animal welfare and pet ownership transformed from something for elites only.
Georgian-era dogs were typically working dogs, tasked with everything from catching rats to herding sheep. Wealthy men provided their prized hunting dogs with good food and comfortable kennels. Those dogs still weren’t pets as we think of them today, however. Usually only small breeds or “lap dogs”—originally so-called because they sat close enough to draw fleas away from their owner—enjoyed the kind of pet privileges familiar to us, such as treats, careful grooming, and a comfy place on the sofa. Georgian ladies were caricatured for pampering their pooches while neglecting more serious responsibilities. Think of what Jane Austen reveals about Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park, for example, by telling us she thinks “more of her pug than her children.”
Victorian ladies continued to prize small breeds as fashion accessories. But as middle-class Victorian attitudes about domesticity came to dominate at all levels of society, keeping dogs as pets became a popular way to demonstrate the care and comfort to be found within the ideal Victorian home. Paintings increasingly depicted dogs of all breeds as part of the family, welcome within the living spaces and even at the table. In return, dogs offered loyalty, affection, and even protection.
In my latest Regency-era romance, Who’s That Earl, the heroine’s Toy Spaniels, Aphrodite and Athena, aren’t the typical watchdogs. The hero jokes that the worst they could do is lick an intruder to death! Thankfully, their comic attempts to guard their mistress’s heart help the hero realize what he must do to earn her love. Where would we be without our faithful canine companions?
A love affair with historical romances led Susanna Craig to three degrees in literature and a career as an English professor. When she’s not teaching or writing academic essays about Jane Austen and her contemporaries, she enjoys putting her fascination with words and knowledge of the period to use writing Regency-era romances. She makes her home among the rolling hills of Kentucky horse country, along with her historian husband, their unstoppable little girl, and a genuinely grumpy cat. Visit her at SusannaCraig.com.
About Who’s That Earl
Will scandalous secrets stand in the way of a second chance at love?
Miss Jane Quayle excels at invention. How else could the sheltered daughter of an English gentleman create lurid gothic novels so infamous that someone wants their author silenced forever? Fortunately, Jane has taken steps to protect herself, first by assuming a pen name, and second, by taking up residence at remote Dunnock Castle, surrounded by rugged scenery that might have been ripped from the pages of one of her books. Her true identity remains a secret, until one dark and stormy night.
After years of spying for the British army, Thomas Sutherland doubts the Highlands will ever feel like home again. Nevertheless, thanks to a quirk of Scottish inheritance law, he’s now the Earl of Magnus, complete with a crumbling castle currently inhabited by a notorious novelist. When the writer turns out to be the woman Thomas once wooed, suspicions rise even as mutual sparks reignite. As danger closes in, can Jane and Thomas overcome their pasts to forge a future together?