Animals play a big role in the Sleuth Sisters Mysteries, starting in Book 2. I didn't get how much pets and livestock affected me until I started writing this series. In my life I only spent one span of time without a pet, and that was my freshman year of college, when I lived in a dormitory. Other than that I had chickens, cows, horses, pigs, geese, dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and a few temporary "pets" like an baby raccoon or a fawn whose mother was killed by violators.
Like Faye in the Sleuth Sisters books, my younger sister was a horse nut. We started with ponies in the '60s and graduated to horses. Dad wintered a few cart horses that worked on Mackinac Island in the summers, and we learned to ride on their wide backs. We also learned about their tough mouths and distinct personalities. Eventually my sister was allowed to keep one for her own. Soon that horse was going to shows all over northern Michigan, and she often won top prizes despite some judges who sneered at her size. No, she wasn't really a saddle horse, but she'd do anything my sister asked of her, so she left with blue ribbons more often than not.
Drawing on those long-ago experiences has been fun, and I think it enriches the series. How about your favorite childhood animals?