In my novel, Iphigenia Murphy, the main character, Iffy, finds herself saving–and being saved by–a stray dog. Iffy remarks that she and the dog are both “black haired and skinny and scared”–they are a natural match.
As I’ve written elsewhere, Iffy’s relationship with her dog was a starting point for me when I was working on the novel. Many of us have potent memories of animals we’ve loved, feared, disappointed, or lost. Now, use your past experiences with non-human animals in order to develop a character who has very particular feelings and/or relationships with a non-human animal.
You might start by asking yourself about pets you’ve been attached to or profoundly connected with. You might remember an encounter at a petting zoo or a friend’s apartment when you looked into a non-human’s eyes and saw that there was someone at home.
Alternately, if you identify as a non-animal lover, you might describe the time a pushy cat kept trying to sit on your lap, or tell about how you were menaced by your neighbor’s otherwise-friendly pooch, or probe why you are unmoved by gifs that have others weeping.
Whatever direction you pursue, try to remember an incident that will allow you to tap into a vein of emotion: love, guilt, grief, anxiety, rage.