Be they specially trained to offer support or naturally inclined to comfort us, animals have a special knack for helping us heal and feel less alone. No one knows what we’ve done to deserve such kind and loyal companions, but we know we’re lucky to have them. For your consideration, here are five novels that explore healing with the aid of our four-legged friends.

The Butterfly Effect (Alcove Press 2020)
by Rachel Mans McKenny 

An entomologist, Greta far prefers the company of bugs to humans, and that’s okay because people don’t seem to like her all that much anyway, except for her estranged twin brother, Danny. When Greta learns that Danny has suffered an aneurysm and is hospitalized, she abandons her rainforest research and rushes to his side. Coming home means confronting all that she left behind, including her lousy soon-to-be sister-in-law, her mother and her ex-boyfriend Brandon. Amid Greta’s perfectly cataloged and compartmentalized world she bonds with Franz, Danny’s dog, who keeps her company as she navigates her messy life and tries to remain emotionally grounded through her insects. Greta will have to ask herself if she has the courage to open up for the people she loves, and for those who want to love her.

The Bright Side of Going Dark (Lake Union 2020)
by Kelly Harms

As one of the most popular influencers on social media, Mia Bell has lived her life online for years. She’s planning the ultimate virtual wedding — expensive, elaborate and entirely paid for by sponsors. But off-camera, her world is far from picture-perfect. After being jilted by her fiancé and faking her nuptials to please her sponsors, Mia finally has had enough. She heaves her phone off a cliff and retreats into the offline world with her dog, Mike, a devoted and trustworthy companion who, despite being a huge Instagram star himself, could never betray her. But in Mia’s sudden absence, techie loner Paige Miller hacks the internet celebrity’s account and begins impersonating Mia. When she grows too bold and is caught in the act, a fiasco ensues that could forever change Mia, Paige and the people who love them. Somewhere amid the chaos is an invaluable lesson — one that only real life can teach. (Read our review here.)

Lost & Found (Willliam Morrow 2007)
by Jaqueline Sheehan 

Rocky’s world changes forever when she discovers her husband lying cold and lifeless on the bathroom floor. Choosing to leave her career as a psychologist behind, she chops off all her hair, leaves Massachusetts and reinvents her past to take on a job as Animal Control Warden on Peak’s Island, a tiny speck off the coast of Maine, far away from everything she’s lost. Rocky soon discovers that the healing process can be agonizingly slow until she meets Lloyd, a large black Labrador retriever who lands in her world with a primitive arrow sticking out of his shoulder. A remarkable friendship ensues as Rocky investigates the mysterious circumstances of Lloyd’s accident and his missing owner, discovering that grief can be transformed and joy can be found in unexpected places.

Wildland (Crooked Lane 2020)
by Rebecca Hodge 

When Kat Jamison retreats to the Blue Ridge Mountains, she’s counting on peace and solitude to help her make a difficult decision. Her breast cancer has returned, but after the death of her husband, her will to fight is dampened. Now she has a choice to make: face yet another round of chemotherapy or surrender gracefully. Self-reflection quickly proves impossible when Kat’s quiet seclusion is invaded by the happy confusion of a pair of abandoned dogs and two children staying nearby. When lightning ignites a deadly wildfire, Kat, the children and the dogs must flee on foot through the drought-stricken forest and away from the ravenous flames. Determined to save four innocent lives, Kat drives the party deeper into the mountains, but Kat will have to decide just how hard she’s willing to fight to survive — and what’s worth living for.

The Distance Home (Forge 2017)
by Orly Konig 

Sixteen years ago, a tragic accident cost Emma Metz her two best friends: one human and one equine. Following her father’s death, Emma has reluctantly returned to the Maryland hometown she’d left under a cloud of guilt. While sorting through her father’s affairs, Emma uncovers a history of lies tying her broken family at Jumping Frog Farm and finds herself drawn back to the stable after all these years. It is easy to win forgiveness from a horse, but less so from her former friend Jillian, their once strong bond destroyed by secrets and betrayals. To exorcise the past, Emma will have to release her guilt, embrace an uncertain future and trust again in the healing power of horses. (Read our review here.)