Friday, June 10, 2011

Mysterious Dogs

by Jean Herny Mead

Cats are usually associated with mystery novels, but dogs find their way into mine, from Bert, a retired police dog in Diary of Murder, to Miranda, an Australian Shepherd, who chews furniture in my first children’s novel, Mystery of Spider Mountain.

I’ve always had at least one canine in residence since Brenda, a small bulldog that I shared with four younger brothers. The list grew to include a large variety of mixed breeds, one of whom was named Brillo, because the lovable terrier resembled a scrubbing pad on legs. He once jumped with muddy feet into a car full of white-habited nuns, but that’s another (embarrassing) story.

Then there was Prince, a small mixed breed, who learned to dig under a wooden fence to roam the neighborhood. In a matter of months there were a number of puppies in our area that closely resembled him. When I had him neutered, Prince literally disowned me for months

For a while, we raised Shetland Sheep dogs. The Sheltie is a beautiful, hyper breed that resembles miniature black and white collies, which I’ve always longed to own. We then adopted C.J., whose kennel name was Countess Juanita de Sangria because she came from New Mexico’s Sangria Mountain area. A lovely cocker spaniel, she contracted cancer at the age of 12, and we drove her to the Colorado Veterinary Teaching Hospital every five weeks for chemotherapy. She did quite well for 18 months until we lost her. And as all pet owners know, it was heartbreaking.

We then adopted Mariah, an Australian Shepherd, who served as the model for Miranda, the Hamilton Kids’ furniture chewing dog in the Mystery of Spider Mountain. Mariah only chewed the legs of our new dining room suite and has an almost human quality about her. She’s the only dog that ever owned us who can out-stare you. Most canines will look away after five or six seconds, but Mariah can hold her stare for a full minute without blinking. It makes me wonder whether she’s an incarnated ancestor.

Dogs all have distinct personalities and quirks of their own, which can be successfully incorporated into novels. Although Bert, my retired German Shepherd police dog, appears in the second novel of my Logan & Cafferty mystery suspense series, he’s only mentioned in my new release, Murder on the Interstate, because my two 60-year-old feisty women sleuths were visiting a friend with six cats. That could have generated plenty of conflict but would have detracted from the book’s main theme of homegrown terrorism. But you can be sure that Bert will be bailed out of his kennel in my fourth Logan & Cafferty mystery novel, Magnets for Murder.


Morgan Mandel said...

I did the stare thing with Rascal last night.
It took a while but she finally gave up.

Morgan Mandel

Jean Henry Mead said...

Morgan, I think most dogs are intimidated by people who stare at them. My friend, Sue Owens Wright, writes about dogs. I think I'll ask her why dogs usually break off eye contact. :)

Helen Ginger said...

Dogs in books are almost always a great addition.

Eyes in both humans and dogs are very expressive. Perhaps that's why dogs look away, so you can't read their minds.