Monday, September 12, 2016

Dog Days



A little change of pace this week.

Most people would automatically think of the “dog days of summer” when reading the subject line, but in my case it means I have three needy dogs in the house. I have two large yellow Labrador retrievers and my daughter has a Chiwienie. For those who don’t know, a Chiwienie is half Chihuahua and half Dachshound. Sugar weighs in at 90 pounds and Murphy weighs in at 120 pounds. Clementine is an 11 pound whirlwind, and I’ll give you one guess who rules the roost in this house.

 
 Sugar
 

Murphy

 Sugar and Clementine had a battle of wills initially, but Sugar finally gave up. Now she occasionally growls at the little one, but it’s half-hearted. The funny side? Clementine has a doggie crush on big ol’ Murphy and drives him to distraction sometimes.

 Clementine

 Why would I write about dogs? Because they play a large role in my life, and most of my books include dogs. Animals, in general, can play characters in books, and pets can add both humor and drama. Many authors include cats in their stories, but I’m a dog person. My husband used to occasionally refer to me at the Crazy Dog Lady of our neighborhood. If the shoe fits… I didn’t argue the point.

In How Now Purple Cow (which is actually about elderly spies), there’s a scene that has to do with Sherlock and Watson, two yellow Labs, being afraid of the dark. (I sure wish I’d picked different names for the dogs, but it’s too late now.) Anyway, this scene came from real life, just with different circumstances. Yes, Sugar and Murphy are afraid of the dark.

In the Bogey Man series, Sherlock often races Chris to the phone when it rings, sliding across the floor and into the wall. Real life? Yes, but different circumstances. If my daughter is out of the house and the phone rings, all three dogs go nuts because they think it’s her and she’s coming up the driveway. Weird, but true.

After moving from Arizona to Washington, the dogs seemed to forget everything they ever learned. At the moment, walking them is impossible. They’re out of control, but I’m working on a new formula for polite dog walking. Cross your fingers. In one of the Bogey books, Chris took the dogs for a walk and they managed to wrap their leashes around his legs. You can imagine what happened next. Again, a true story.

 Bubba - He didn't like the camera. I had to get him to lie on his back 
and I had to tickle his belly for this smile.

Bubba, in the Sandi Webster series, is also based on a real dog who was half wolf and half Golden retriever. He belonged to my boss and spent much of his time in the office with me. He was so big that he puts Murphy to shame. Bubba was a happy dog and he smiled frequently. Unfortunately, his smile was very toothy and he looked like he was baring his teeth at people. He was very protective of me, and when strangers came into the office he’d sit in front of me and smile. While it made me laugh, it made strangers keep their distance.

I’d be willing to bet that a lot of the dog or cat stories mystery writers include in their books are based on reality. Maybe loosely based, but still mostly true.

I believe that if a pet can participate in a story, even to a small extent, it can enhance the storyline, and I have a feeling that a small Chiwienie may soon add a new element to the Sandi Webster Mysteries.

For some reason the dogs have been very “needy” today. They’re on my mind and that’s why you’re hearing about them.

Afraid of the dark? Sliding into the wall when the phone rings? Imagine finding a King Snake in your backyard, and the dogs are so busy barking at the kids next door that they don’t even notice it. Uh, I noticed it and when I told the dogs to get in the house, my tone of voice told them I meant business – one of the few times they’d listen to me without an argument. Yes, when I tell Sugar to be quiet, she always has to get the last word (or bark) in. All I can do is shake my head.

Well, that’s enough about animals. Let me just say that I’ve read many books where a pet added a pertinent element to a story, whether it was humor or drama.

Until next time, remember how important pets can be both in life and in fiction. Watch them sometime – and take notes.

 Comedy Relief - Do you think Murphy really wanted the lasagna?

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Choosing One Moment – A Time Travel Mystery, is a lot of fun, but believe it or not, there aren’t any pets included in the story.

14 comments:

  1. Marja, great post and even greater photos! I have to say I'm probably a dog person. I have two cats, but I feel more like their staff than their family member. But my dog? She is my constant companion, my protector, my listener. I mean, my husband fills those roles, too, but sometimes he tells me things I don't want to hear--my dog never does.

    One of my favorite authors is James Herriott. His books were the reason I started out in college in the animal science program. His stories about animals are heartwarming, funny, sad, and beautiful. They made a huge impact on me when I first read them, and they continue to do so.

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    1. Thank you, Amy! I feel the same way about my dogs. In many ways Sugar is my best friend. I also read the James Herriott books and still remember individual stories after all these years. If you want to know the truth about Labs, read Marley & Me by John Grogan. It made me laugh and cry, and the personality of Marley reminds me so very much of Sugar and Murphy. Thank you so much for commenting!

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  2. Nice post! I'm a dog person too, Marja. :)

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    1. Thank you, Pat! I can't say I'm surprised to hear you're a dog person. : ) Thank you so much for commenting!

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  3. Dogs and horses appear in my Vv Tiger stories. After all, the family lives on a ranch near the Navajo Reservation. And the horses on the covers of the books were drawn by my youngest granddaughter when she was 10-12 years old! My son grew up with a dog and a zillion cats. I think the dog thought she was a cat. But yes, pets are an integral part of life and should naturally appear in our stories.

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    1. You portray animals quite well, Pat, and I've enjoyed the Vv Tiger series. I also have to say that your granddaughter did a wonderful job! Thank you so much for commenting!

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  4. My sleuth, Hazel Rose, moved cross-country with her calico in tow. Her creator did the same. Navigating an airport with a cat is NOT fun---not for me, for Hazel, and especially not for the cat.

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    1. Maggie, I moved to Alaska with two dogs. I can commiserate. Thank you so much for commenting!

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  5. Love all your dogs, especially Bubba, even though I know he's really Sandi Webster's dog. I only have one, a 60 pound black lab mix, and the biggest baby who ever lived.

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    1. Thank you, Evelyn. Labs really are big babies, aren't they? But so much fun. Thank you so much for commenting!

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  6. I've also included dogs in my Logan & Cafferty series and have a beautiful husky-Australian shepherd mix named Mariah, who weighs 80 lbs. and owns me. I don't know what I'd do without her. She served as a model for Miranda, a couch-chewing dog in my children's series, Hamilton Kids' Mysteries, although Mariah is well past the chewing stage. :)

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    1. Oh, I understand that, Jean. My dogs own me, too, and now my daughter's dog has adopted me. I once had a dog with such strong jaws that not only did he chew up an overstuffed chair, but he dragged it into the kitchen. LOL Thank you so much for commenting!

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  7. I miss Charley, my 110 pound Bernese/lab mix, who died six years ago. He was my exercise mate and, boy, have I slacked off on that. I published an essay about him, My Travels with Charley (inspired by Steinbeck and his dog). I'm down to one 18-year old tabby cat, Boris, who is my best companion. Thanks for the lovely blog, Marja.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Eileen, and sorry for your loss. They really are like members of the family. Because I'm not a cat person (allergies), I had no idea they live so long until a friend's cat became ill. He's over 20 years old. Thank you so much for commenting!

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