Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Popping In

Hello Mothership Bettys!  We got this darling gem in our email in-box and thought we had to share:

Dear 'whichever Betty is reading this'

I have recently become addicted to Betty Neels books and have enjoyed visiting your blog and reading the posts there.

Betty Neels was someone whom I'd loved to have met/shared a chat with... but as that is no longer even a possibility, I decided to 'write out' how I feel/what appeals to me about her work.

I thought you might be interested in another readers' thoughts?

In Honour of Betty Neels
A few months back, I wasn’t feeling well… in fact, I’d slipped into being pretty sorry for myself, due to a painful ear infection that still won’t go away. 
Betty Neels saved me from being miserable.
You see, whilst I was in the ‘feeling sorry for myself’ phase, I was also wanting to do nothing but read.  I love reading, can’t get enough of books sometimes, and I have a somewhat eclectic taste, too… but even my favourite ‘comfort read’ titles (romances that always have a happy ending) weren’t quite hitting the mark.  So I sat, and I thought about all the books I’d read so far, trying to pull up titles from my memory that had been sweet and unchallenging… simply a pleasure to read, with no need for character analysis or a fierce debate with myself regarding plot development.
And that’s when I half remembered a title… something from the period in my life when I used to sneak my mother’s Mills & Boons books up to my bedroom and sigh over all the gorgeous, if highly improbable, men and relationships between their pages.  A Gem of…a Girl?  Who wrote that?  Was I even remembering it right?  Out came my faithful laptop, and the search began.
A couple of days later, I’d not only found and read ‘A Gem of a Girl’ (and been surprised by how well I remembered it) but I also had ‘Sister Peters goes to Amsterdam’ sitting on my kindle, awaiting my attention… as it transpired, this was but the thin end of the wedge!  I now have four pages on my kindle devoted to Betty’s sweet and entertaining stories.  Something about them attracted me to such an extent that I was more than happy to pay £2.99 for each title.  When you consider that Betty wrote around 134 books… to buy them all would be quite an investment! 
Unfortunately, whoever put her titles onto kindle doesn’t seem to have been a fan of her work/taken pride in their job… there were errors that required careful thought on my part, in order to discover what word should have been there, some highlighted errors, and also words without spaces between them. I found it shocking that a mainstream publisher like Mills & Boon would have allowed this to happen, especially when there are so many critics out there who appear to think this is only a fault found in independent titles.
Being an author myself, I also found that I couldn’t just let the idea of ‘I enjoy these’ sit in my head, unexplored.  Why did I enjoy them?  They’re set in a time when a lot of women gave up their careers when they married, and some of the heroes would likely be classed as stalkers in today’s society.  So what was it about Betty’s books that captured my attention?
Well, the Cinderella aspect for one.  Reading is sometimes just a means of escaping reality – so why not go the whole hog and indulge in reading the reworking of a fairy-tale?  Also, the strange juxtaposition of a heroine who dreamed of being whisked away from her everyday life by a rich, handsome hero… and yet often displayed thrifty habits that had been ingrained in them by a ‘short of cash’ existence.  In Betty’s books you’ll find a make-do-and-mend philosophy, stiff upper lips, and families that pull together in a crisis… women who bake, sew and knit (something today’s society seems to be turning back to, with television programmes like ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ regularly topping the viewing charts) and there are detailed descriptions of places and buildings, written in a prosaic, yet light style, that brings them alive for the reader.
Suddenly, I have an urge to visit certain areas of England, and the Netherlands, in order to see the villages she writes about… the old houses and museums.  How much will have changed?  Will any of it still be recognisable? Are the people as friendly as she describes…
And that’s another thing about Betty’s books: the people. There are, it’s true, stereotypes galore (every leather-clad biker is obviously up to no good!) but there are also doctors and nurses performing procedures and operations that you just know the author is describing realistically (for the time), professors who are measured in their outlook on life and who know exactly what they want to achieve. Heroes and heroines who have jobs and careers that they’re pretty happy with… if it weren’t for the loneliness—Betty takes them all and weaves romances for her characters that are chaste, gentle, and respectful, with only a hint of hidden passion (buried deep) and, more often than not, the sort of love that makes one character determined to devote themselves to keeping the other happy – even if it means sacrificing something important… like their own happiness.
And for those who still consider her plots to be unrealistic – even for their time?  Well, I’d say they were more ‘rare’, but not impossible. I recently got into conversation with a woman in her seventies, who reminisced about her own ‘romance’ - between herself (she was a secretary at MIT at the time) and her soon-to-be husband (a visiting English ‘professor’) and you know what?  Betty Neels could have written that story…
Today, women who choose to stay at home and raise their children/take care of their homes are often denigrated as not contributing to society or being less worthy than those who have full-time careers… which is rather strange, when women’s liberation was surely about women having the right to choose how they live their lives?  Betty’s books champion those women – and she certainly doesn’t advocate laziness!
Add in an understated humour and the occasional, glorious, burst of temper… and you have stories that possess a lot more depth than may, at first, be apparent.
Betty Neels didn’t just have fans during her lifetime, her books continue to sell today to the next generation of readers, who are often reading on ‘e-readers’.  With millions of books available for the Amazon kindle alone, the majority of her books are well under the 100,000 ranking, with many under the 50,000 mark and some under 20,000.  There are over 134 of them, quietly continuing to sell, to a reading audience whom the press would have us believe detests this kind of fiction… If slow and steady wins the race, then Betty knew a thing or two about the wisdom of avoiding flashy plotlines and sticking to what she did best, in order to create stories that readers are still enjoying over a decade after her death.
She may have been an author who took up writing romances in response to an overheard conversation in a library, and maybe as a way of filling her retirement – but she went on to produce (on average) 4-5 titles a year across a career lasting 3 decades (continuing to write into her 90th year) and that is something I can only admire. As an author, I look to Betty Neels and authors like her, and see a wealth of possibilities.  Who knows, maybe, one day, I’ll write a love story of my own, in honour of her long-lasting career—whilst wearing, of course, an uncrushable jersey dress!

Thanks again for providing Betty Neels' fans from around the world with an excellent blog about her work.
Best Wishes for the future.
Yours sincerely
Betty Sue

The Huge Roses: Chapter Four, part three

American nurse Tory Bird, visiting Amsterdam with her sister Jane, meets Dr. Maximilan van den Nie whilst giving first aid to an injured English tourist.  After a lovely weekend, Tory returns home to the United States, daydreaming of the handsome Dutchman.  To her surprise, Max arrives in Tory's New Hampshire village a few weeks later!

Installment One - Installment Two - Installment Three - Installment Four - Installment Five - Installment Six - Installment Seven - Installment Eight - Installment Nine - Installment Ten

THE HUGE ROSES (working title)
copyright 2014 by Betty van den Betsy; not for reprint or publication without permission

Chapter Four, part three:

He didn’t waste time with the cliché of an opening joke, but thanked the dean and audience simply and directly, and gave credit to half a dozen students, interns and residents who had assisted with the research.  He then introduced the co-leaders of the project, his “valued colleagues, Dr. Caroline Frieder, who is here to answer your questions with me after these brief remarks, and Dr. Joshua Brown, who can’t be with us.  He is... in orthopedic rehab.”  Dr. van den Nie smiled in acknowledgement of the murmur of amusement, then launched into the project’s background.  Tory flipped open her notebook and started to scribble.
The lecture felt more like a conversation; the doctor was clearly comfortable speaking to an audience.  His tone was natural, his manner relaxed, and his insights were useful.  His slides illustrated key points clearly.  Most of the talk related to his work with athletes, but he brought up interesting highlights from his work with the elderly at several junctures.  Tory had filled four pages with notes when Dr. van den Nie finished up with some comments on the next steps he and his colleagues would take with the project, and Carrie Frieder joined him to enthusiastic applause.
Tory chose not to participate in the Q&A session.  She was interested, and would have liked clarification on a few points, but the lecture was really intended for students at the medical school; she and Dr. Bachman were invited as a courtesy.  She was confident, too, that as they provided data for the geriatric study, she would have opportunities to ask about the work.  Neil was a different story; after quiet consultation with Emma about different casts they’d worn over the years, he raised his hand.  Dr. Frieder pointed toward him, and Dr. van den Nie looked in their direction, too.  His eyes narrowed as he gazed toward Tory’s handsome brother, and Tory wondered whether the auditorium lighting was bothering him.  He couldn’t have been perplexed by Neil’s question; he and Emma had worked it out together, and Neil was clear and succinct – as was Dr. van den Nie’s answer.
Nonetheless, after thirty minutes of Q&A, as they gathered their coats and bags, Emma and Neil got into a heated discussion of its implications.  Emma was an advocate for enforced rest; Neil was certain the learned lecturers had proven the worth of early, light exercise for injured joints.  After Dr. Bachman had checked his watch twice and cleared his throat once, Tory put both hands on Neil’s triceps and pushed him toward the aisle.  “Let’s go,” she said.  “I want my dinner, and so does Dr. Bachman.  You can argue on the way to a pizza place.”
Both twins immediately apologized to Dr. Bachman, who shrugged with his usual good nature, grinned and said, “Less sorry, more movement!”  They made it back to the lobby with the rest of the stragglers, and found a small group gathered around the lecturers.  Dr. van den Nie, easily able to look over the heads of the people around him, saw Tory and gave a small nod that Emma witnessed.  “Right, you know him,” her sister exclaimed.  “Introduce us!”  She started prodding, and Tory perforce headed that way, insisting, “Dr. Bachman knows him.  He should introduce you.”
Spotting their group, Dr. van den Nie made a gracious gesture and moved away from his eager acolytes to shake hands with his Bristol colleague.  “Excellent work, Max,” Dr. Bachman said.  “You’ve got a gift for public speaking, which makes this sort of thing much easier on your audience.  Thanks for inviting us.  Let’s see... you’ve met my nurse, Tory Bird, I think.”
“Indeed,” the doctor replied, extending a hand Tory took self-consciously, ducking her head as she mumbled, “Hihowareyou.”
“And these are her brother and sister,” Dr. Bachman continued.  “Emma and Neil are two of Bristol’s celebrities, and regular customers of mine.”  Dr. van den Nie’s eyes, usually hooded, opened wide, and he smiled warmly at the Bird twins.  They all shook hands in their turns, and Emma, after the briefest greeting, launched into questions about rest versus exercise.  Dr. Bachman interrupted immediately.  “Emma, it’s past seven, Tory and I have an hour’s drive home, and I want my supper.  Are you coming with us?  Max, if you don’t have plans you’re welcome to join us, if you can stand being badgered by these two.”
“I should be delighted,” the orthopedist replied.  “In fact, given Tory’s delightful hospitality when I first arrived in New Hampshire, and your willingness to collate data for my geriatrics research, I hope I can persuade you to be my guests.  I’ve found Pine at the inn to be excellent.  Will you join me there?”
Tory, still gazing at linoleum tiles, felt a peculiar warmth spread through her.  It would be fun to spend time with the doctor, even if she was very much the junior member of the party.  Dr. van den Nie turned around to invite Carrie Frieder to join the group.  Keeping her head down, Tory headed toward the exit with the others, sticking close to her boss.
Even in two short weeks, Dr. van den Nie had clearly made an impression at one of Hanover’s best restaurants.  The hostess greeted him with pleasure, assured him that seating a party of six would pose no difficulty, and seemed to direct two busboys and a waitress to clear a large, round corner table and set it up again without a word.  Her eyebrows alone communicated the order to be quick about it.
As they waited, Tory quietly studied Carrie Frieder, standing near Dr. van den Nie.  The researcher was about 40, dressed in a grey wool trouser suit with a quiet sage pinstripe, and a dark green cotton turtleneck with a silver chain around her neck.  Her make-up was subtle, and her glossy hair, flecked with white, pulled back into a French pleat.  She had shown herself nearly as good a speaker as her colleague during the question-and-answer session, albeit with a tendency to digress on occasion.  The two clearly had a strong working relationship, and Tory wondered idly if it amounted to more than that.  She would certainly wish someone more like this strong, smart woman for Dr. van den Nie than a Fleurie Gold or haughty Dutchwoman.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Betty by the Numbers: Pets Redux

I actually am working on new BbtN posts, but in more of a theoretical than a practical way.  Still, I'm ginormously excited by the thought of the moment I actually complete 'Betty by the Numbers:  Other Women' and 'BbtN:  Other Men.'  Goodness alone knows when that will be, though.  Meanwhile, I'm spending time with a number of charming dogs and one very bad, very cute puppy, so I thought I'd re-post a review of pets in the oeuvre.  This is one of my own favorites, as it is a subject dear to me.  I hope you enjoy it.

Just skid right through the bull- and bear-baiting of the Elizabethan era, past the cockfights of Regency days, and zoom by the dark, dull lives inflicted on pit ponies in coal mines well into the 20th century, and you can agree that the English are famously fond of animals.  Betty Neels was clearly no exception, and she foisted critters upon her heroes and heroines with a lavish hand; few happy homes in Neels-land are without their dog and cat, or dogs and cats, or dog, puppies, two cats, a clutch of mice, an elderly donkey, two horses and a pony.  There are never fish, and there are few young donkeys.

I hope we all agree with Francesca Arabella and Dr. Bagz den Munnie that pets are marvelous.  However unconditional one’s parent’s, child’s or spouse’s love is, there are times when that love feels tested, or at least a bit frayed.  Not so with a Labrador retriever, who adores you absolutely every single minute of every single day even if you stepped on her paw and closed her tail in the door and came home two hours after she’s supposed to have her romp and dinner.  There she is, abused, mistreated, hungry and in desperate need of a walk, and gazing at you with soft, brown eyes brimming over with love, pure love, for her marvelous, wonderful, adored you.

And then she barfs up the remains of one of your good shoes.  And starts to re-eat it.

In Neels-land, there's always a Jolly around to deal with the
snowball-afflicted spaniel.  Or else there's no snow,
or the spaniel stays out of it.  Or something.
Not where Betty lives, though!  I don’t recall a single intrepid heroine cleaning up after Moggy has rampaged through the local mouse community and then dropped rodent bits in creative places throughout the house, or throwing the full weight of her Junoesque body over a wily, thrashing Alsatian in an attempt to cut its toenails, or getting her forearms pecked to bits by ungracious chickens as she cleans their water dispenser.  Nor can I call to mind a scene in which a heroine, or hero, broke up snowballs packed into a spaniel’s luxurious fur (a 30-minute-plus labor with high risk of fingertip frostbite, plus everybody involved and the floor finish up dripping wet and stinking of wet dog), shoved heartworm or other pills into any drooling, resisting creature, or awoke violently at 4:00am as Tabby leapt playfully onto her left kidney to begin a vigorous massage of her spleen.  Yes, okay – Annis tickles a donkey’s mouth open and sticks her head in to check for an abcess, so good on you, Annis (All Else Confusion, 1982), occasionally someone wipes a dog’s paws after a rainy walk, and plenty of heroines risk their health and comfort in one-time efforts to rescue lost, hurt or abused animals.  But we hear very little about the hair-covered clothes and furniture, the gastro-intestinal issues, and the kitty dialysis that are so very much a daily part of having animals in one’s life. 

Mmmwwaaaaaawwww!  Baby kitty!
In this case, Neptune from Sun and
Pet owners know, and non-pet owners may take it from the rest of us, that all the nasty bits are worthwhile.  That said, despite a deep adoration for the many, many animals of my childhood and adolescence (rumor has it I learned to walk by clutching a patient lab named Archie), I haven’t been a pet owner as an adult.  Not home enough, don’t like vacuuming, can’t bear the vet bills... and then Melville (the former Jonkheer) located an adoptable Siamese cat in fulfillment of his largely pet-free childhood dreams.  “Fine by me,” I said, “but you need to understand that I no longer clean up animal vomit, and that will be your job alone.”  Oh, famous last words...

But enough about me.  Bring on the heroes and heroines, and their tabbies, Old English sheepdogs, tomcats, labs, moggies and Jack Russell terriers!

Let me tell you, this one was a bear (ha ha!)  to calculate.  There are a lot of animals in the oeuvre, and a good bit of variety amongst them.  I cannot guarantee the accuracy of any of my previous, or future, analyses of the Novels Neels, but I’m extra likely to have miscounted or overlooked something on this one.  I also have no idea what the standards are for capitalizing the names of breeds, so I’ve applied a random variety of caps and lower-cases.  With those caveats: 

We’ve got 135 heroes and 135 heroines.  Between them, they’ve got approximately 446 critters, including horses and hens (“hens,” “kittens” and similar un-quantified descriptors only count for one each in my “system,” rendering it extra-unreliable), for an average of 1.7 animals per person.  The men outstrip the women, averaging 2.1 apiece to the heroines’ 1.2 each.  Note that the heroes are also more likely to have household staff.

Jonkheer Feno Raf Jake van der ter Schloopsa's
household beasts -- Beeker is minding the fish
and bird for a nephew or something; the others
are all Baronial dependents.

Two books include no furry friends:  Heaven Around the Corner (1981), in which Louisa is fleeing a Mean Person (stepmum) at home and Simon is working near the North Pole, and only shows us his Wiltshire home and household help for the five final paragraphs – one suspects there’s a Norwegian elkhound waiting in the kitchen – and Magic in Vienna (1985), where our heroine is fleeing Mean People (stepmum, step-sibs and half-sibs) at home and our hero is living abroad in a rented flat whose furnishings he finds oppressive.  Only ten heroes fail to present animals, so 93% are blessed with non-human companions of one sort or another.  The heroines are more likely to be lonely; just two-thirds are credited with critters, while 46 have none.  Of course, about 28% of those ladies enter into MOCs and acquire step-puppies as a result.  Heroes have more than twice as many dogs as cats.  Heroines have 65% more cats than dogs.

The redoubtable Augusta Brown (Tulips for Augusta, 1971) can manage not only private patients, vast bouquets of tulips and large Dutch doctors, back home near Kingstag she handles a menagerie that encompasses one spaniel, two Jack Russell terriers, a donkey, and two cats – one regular, one Persian.  Their names, respectively, are Stanley, Polly, Skipper, Bottom, Maudie and Fred.  She and Amelia Crosbie should be friends; Amelia (The Silver Thaw, 1980) wrangles Fred the lab, Sorrel the mare, Trooper the elderly workhorse, her dad’s great skewbald and a pair of elderly donkeys who keep the three horses company.  Julia Mitchell (At the End of the Day, 1985) manages to catch up to Augusta and Amelia; initially she can claim only a dog, two cats, a pony and a donkey, but then adds on an extra cat in order to match the award-winning six animals.  Julia’s friends, by the way, are Gyp, Muffin, Maude, Star, Jane and Wellington.

The hero with the largest home zoo is Alexander van Zeust (A Star Looks Down, 1975), who keeps eight beasts.  Well, he has six – two labs, two horses, a cat and a donkey – but then he adopts Beth’s kidnapped Beauty and Sugar.  That’d be horse and pony to you. 


There are 233 dogs represented across the 135 books.  He introduces 179 of them, for 1.3 dogs per hero; she has a mere 54, or 0.4 per heroine.  Of her dogs, four are acquired in the course of the story; five of his are.  She has eleven generic ‘dogs,’ i.e., breed unspecified, and six mutts; he has 20 ‘dogs’ or ‘puppies,’ 33 mutts, and one Alsatian-retriever mix.  If we assume “dog” means mixed-breed, 31% of hers and 30% of his proudly display a polyglot ancestry.  Of the purebreds – go ahead and guess which breed’s most popular.  Go on – you’ll get it.

That’s right, Labrador retrievers, and by a significant margin.  More significant for her than for him; 35% of heroines’ dogs are labs; 21% of heroes’ are, and 24% of all of Betty’s dogs are labs.

Betty had some weird ideas about some things, but on the best dog breed she was spot on.  Nowhere, no way, never will you find a more loving, loyal and loveable critter than the magnificent Labrador retriever.  Nor one more capable of chewing up everything you own (smaller-than-a-breadbox division) as a puppy, viz: two weeks to about three years old.  After that they mellow a bit, though remain speedy and voracious in the presence of food – which they define generously.  They may also help teach your youngsters to walk; a mixed blessing indeed.
Now here’s something I find slightly curious:  the second-most popular dog for heroes is the Alsatian, at 13.5, or 8% (that’s 12 Alsatians, one German Shepherd (they’re the same thing) and one Alsatian-retriever mix, and never mind that I’m double-counting the A-r mix).  Heroines, however, claim zero of these intelligent, effective guard dogs who double as affectionate companions.  Are they too butch for the ladies in Betty’s view?  Or too – you know – German, there being some affection deficit for Britons of Betty’s generation toward their former foes?

The Rev. John Russell, the ‘Sporting Parson’
credited with developing the energetic,
aggressive and largely-white terrier, used
for fox hunting, that bears his name.
When not out with Labby, the heroines tramp the fields of Dorset with five spaniels, three Jack Russell terriers, and two each of unspecified retrievers (which could be more labs, actually), English setters, basset hounds and corgis, plus one whippet and one dachshund.  The heroes have 11 Jack Russells, ten bouviers (called Bouviers des Flandres in the US) and eight each of Great Danes and bull terriers.  Then there are six Old English sheepdogs, requiring a hazardous-conditions bonus for Tweedle and Mrs. Tweedle each year. 


They need to be mostly white so you don’t
confuse them with the fox and chase
the wrong animal – though it’s a pretty lousy
fox-hunting terrier who’d be careering off
in a different direction than the fox. Incidentally,
there are now separate breeds called
“Parson Russell terriers” and “Russell terriers,”
an example of the persnicketiness of kennel clubs
and those who embrace them (dog shows were
a large and often-confounding
element of your author’s girlhood).
The heroes’ kennels also contain:  four Irish wolfhounds, three St. Bernards, three corgis, two mastiffs and a bull mastiff (slightly smaller than the truly-massive regular mastiff), two each of dachshunds, bulldogs, Gordon setters, greyhounds and basset hounds, plus a spaniel, a bloodhound, a border terrier, a Welsh collie, a Dalmatian, a thoroughly-Dutch keeshond, a thoroughly-Flemish Schippershond and a golden retriever.

There’s a semi-consistent theme to the breeds here.  They are mostly types you might still find working today: hunters (retrievers, spaniels, setters, most of the terriers and hounds, including bloodhounds, originally bred to hunt poachers), guardians (Alsatians, bouviers, mastiffs, dalmatians, the honds Schippers and Kees) and herders (bouviers again, sheepdogs, bulldogs and corgis if you’re willing to stretch the point, and that Welsh collie).  St. Bernards were bred as rescue dogs, but in household use they’re mostly just good for drooling.

We don’t see these dogs at work for the most part in the book – no labs leap into frosty canals to retrieve fresh-shot ducks – and dalmatians, corgis, OE sheepdogs and a few of the other breeds are not often seen working today.  But Betty clearly doesn’t approve the toy breeds; no Lhaso Apsos or Pekingeses make the canon, except perhaps in the arms of an ungracious and lazy employer.  The one exception to the worker-dog ethic is the bull terrier.  “Bullies,” while descended from fighters and ratters, were bred as “gentlemen’s companions,” and they can be quite the sweetie pies.  They’re also awfully useful for household destruction (powerful chewers) and bruising and contusing humans, as their skulls are roughly equivalent to cast-iron wrecking balls (and they’re about as bright).

Note, please, that the Alsatian=manly rule holds with all the guard dogs:  heroines get only hunting-type dogs and the occasional herder.  What is with that?


In British use, a moggy is any mixed-breed cat.
It may arise from Lancaster slang, in which ‘moggy’
once meant mouse, so cats became moggy-catchers,
or moggy-terminators, or some such,
eventually shortened just to moggy.

Maybe Moggy is enough to protect Loveday Katrina’s hearth, home and person.  Heroines own 89 cats, or 0.7 felines each; heroes have 85, just 0.6 apiece – and that’s counting housekeepers’ cats as amongst the doctors’ tribes, since they live in his house.  Only three breeds get specific mentions:  Augusta ‘Roly’ Brown has a Persian (beautifully fluffy, breathing problems, lots of grooming), Lauris van der Wagema (At the End of the Day, 1985) has a Burmese (beautifully sleek but shrieky), and Marnix van Hessel (Henrietta’s Own Castle, 1975) and Annis Fothergill have a Siamese cat each, while Sarre van Diederijk (Sun and Candlelight, 1979) has the Siamese kitten, Neptune (also beautifully s. but s.).  You are welcome to do your own analysis of colors, sexes and ages.


Emma Hastings (Wish with the Candles, 1972) keeps hens.  There are a total of 13 donkeys on my Betty bookshelves, including Queenie and her newborn Prince, acquired by Caroline from abusive gypsies in Caroline’s Waterloo (1980).  Her husband, Radink, also keeps one of the oeuvre’s 19 horses and one of its five ponies.  There are a clutch of mice and a single gerbil in Sun and Candlelight.  That’s it, I think.  No pet snakes, potty-mouthed parrots or pigs named Henrietta (David Mamet book; Cambridge, Mass. restaurant – look it up.  Probably has a great cheese board...) 

Actually a French donkey and horsie friends,
living at the Musée Vivant du Cheval in Chantilly –
don’t tell Betty (or Betty JoDee)!

Speaking of names... 207 of Betty’s pets share a name with at least one other, and 95, or 21%, are unnamed, leaving about 144 uniquely-name beasts.  The repeating names total 69 as some of them show up over and over – like Prince, which appends to a mastiff, a lab, a bouvier, a mutt, an Alsatian, a horse and a baby donkey.  Charlie is also popular:  an Alsatian, a Great Dane, a lab, a mutt, a cat named Charles and another named Charlie Brown.

We’ve got six cats and zero dogs named “Mrs.” something (the Missuses Whisker, Simpkins, Mopp, Trot, Mogg and Smith), six Georges (two cats, an Old English Sheepdog, a Great Dane, a dachshund and, unsurprisingly, a lab), six Caesars (a Gordon setter, an unspecified ‘dog,’ a specified mutt, the ubiquitous lab, one cat and one horse), and six variations on Bert, including labs named Bert, Cuthbert and Bertie, a bull terrier also named Bertie, an unspecified dog named Humbert, and a Jack Russell named Albert.

Two horses, two labs and a cat are lovely enough to earn the sobriquet “Beauty,” and there are also five Mabels, including a lab, a St. Bernard and three cats, and five Thomas/Toms – four cats and a dog.  Then there are four each of Fred, Henry, Maud/Maudie, Muffin, Percy, Podge/Podger, Smith, Willy/Willie and variations on Moggy (two Moggy, Mrs. Mogg, Moggerty) and Rob (Rob, Robby, Robbie, Robinson).

Is it my imagination, or are pets more likely to be named for unsatisfactory ex-boyfriends and valued household help than for heroes and heroines?  For the former, in addition to the previously-noted Fred, Maud and Maudie, Percy, Mrs. Trot, Charlie, and various Berts, we get two or three each of Bess, Horace, Nell/Nellie, Simpkins/Mrs. Simpkins, Toby, Biddy, Digby, Humphrey, Meg, Miep, Monty, Nelson, Solly, Tinker and Watson; for the latter, there are Daisy, Jason, Ben (more a brother or nephew than a hero), Kate, Mary, Max, Sam and William. 

If classed together as large, hairy, drooling charmers instead of separately as
St. Bernards, Old English sheepdogs, and bouviers, these guys would total 19,
putting them ahead of Alsatians as the #2 breed.  Please do note that only heroes
have any of these critters.  Yep, heroes -- the ones who pay someone else to clean.

Occasionally a pet is named a cutesy “Neptune,” as it was rescued from drowning, “Nelson,” since it’s missing an eye, or “Lucky” since it was rescued at all; there are also the unbearably adorable twin labs Gem and Mini (get it?  Gem-mini?  Twins?  Get it?)  My faves are the Greenslade family’s The Blot and Titus.  When Jonkheer Max first meets them (on the bumper of his Bentley), the dialogue runs:  “’Blot,’ he said.  ‘Escutcheon or landscape?’  ‘Landscape,’ said Sophy.  ‘We haven’t got an escutcheon.’"


He follows up by asking why the cat is named Titus, and Sophy replies that he likes porridge.  Max gets it after a moment, but sadly, I don’t.  Or I didn't, until I confessed to not getting it right here on The Uncrushable Jersey Dress!  Better-read Betties volunteered either 17th-century slimeball Titus Oates (expelled from school, imprisoned for perjury, thrown out of the Navy, he went on to condemn dozens of Roman Catholics to death by fabricating a Jesuit conspiracy for no apparent reason, which eventually got him imprisoned again) or early-20th century soldier and explorer Lawrence 'Titus' Oates (sick and dying, he told his companions on an Antarctic expedition "I am just going outside" and headed into a blizzard to die alone in the hope they would travel more successfully without him, but the three remaining all died despite his nobility.  Oops, he may also have fathered a child, when he was 20, with an 11-year old as the mother.  Who names a perfectly nice cat for either of these people?)

Final note:  Always remember that only vile step-relatives, cold, mercenary fiancées and nouveau riche vulgarians don’t like a friendly, furry bundle o’ love in their laps.