Art Devoted to Dogs

AKC Museum of the Dog

If you’re anywhere close to St. Louis, head over to the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog. The museum has a Fido Friendly Visitation Policy and welcomes obedient dogs on a leash. You’ll find treats, fresh water, and ample space to exercise your dog while you’re visiting. The museum, located at 1721 S. Mason Road in beautiful Queeny Park, West St. Louis County, Missouri, is open year-round; find hours and directions here. Here’s their purpose statement:

The AKC Museum of the Dog is dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition, and interpretation of the art, artifacts and literature of the dog for the purposes of education, historical perspective, aesthetic enjoyment and in order to enhance the appreciation for and knowledge of the significance of the dog and the human/canine relationship.

It’s rare indeed to find a museum that openly welcomes our canine friends, and even more unusual to find one that actually has dogs on the presentation schedule. From the museum’s page:

Don’t miss out on Guest Dog of the Week on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, March through October. Guest Dog of the Week was started in 1987 with more than one thousand dogs presented to the public in two decades. By invitation, responsible dog owners are invited to bring canine companions to meet Museum visitors. Individuals are encouraged to ask questions about breed temperament, dog ownership, rescue programs, and more! Call the Museum at 314-821-3647 during regular hours for a current schedule of Guest Dogs.

Can’t make it to the museum?  You can also find information about the museum via the AKC website. That’s where I learned about the “queen of canine portraitists” Maud Earl, whose work attracted the attention and patronage of Queen Victoria and many others. Born in London in 1864, she moved to New York City around 1915 where, according to AKC staff writers: “Her reputation preceded her, and she quickly became the darling of America’s leading dog fanciers who wanted their great champions immortalized on canvas.” (You can read the entire article here.)

Included in that same AKC article are these images; I’m reposting them here with the AKC staff writers’ commentary–which includes quotes by the artist and experts–for all to appreciate her work.

maud_earl_1_blogBody

“Two Pointers on Point in a Field” © Maud Earl

This picture, dated 1905, hangs in the AKC collection in New York. Art dealer and historian William Secord writes: “Maud Earl acknowledged that to portray the correct conformation, expression, coat texture and other attributes of the dogs she painted, she enjoyed the tutelage of some of the greatest breed experts of 19th and early 20th century dogdom. The eminent British authority, William Arkwright, was her mentor regarding the characteristics of Pointers.”

 

“Ch. Nunsoe Duc de la Terrace of Blakeen” © Maud Earl

“Ch. Nunsoe Duc de la Terrace of Blakeen” © Maud Earl

This 35 x 60-inch canvas was commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Sherman Hoyt in 1935 to commemorate their famous standard Poodle, still considered one of the greatest show dogs and sires of all time. He was the first of his breed to win Best in Show at Westminster. (See “The Toast of Blakeen” for more on this magnificent champion.)

 

“Yorkshire Terrier” © Maud Earl

“Yorkshire Terrier” © Maud Earl

In this delightful picture from the AKC Museum of the Dog collection, Earl captures the mischief and vivacity so typical of Yorkies. “You can’t paint dogs unless you understand them,” Earl said. “I don’t mean merely from the fancier’s point of view. You must know whether they are happy and comfortable, and if not, why not. You must know how to quiet them when they become excited and nervous. You must know all their little likes and dislikes, and this knowledge comes from long experience.”

***

Want to learn more about Maud Earl? I suggest this article from Gray’s Sporting Journal, or this post from the William Secord Gallery.

Find more information about the museum and see lovely images on the AKC Museum of the Dog’s website and Facebook page. (Follow them on Twitter, too: @DogArtMuseum.)

Straight to the Heart

Maya Angelou Quote

Following up on my last post: the dogs of Bequia and the people who love them have gone straight to my heart, courtesy of the gifted author Susan Toy in her novel One Woman’s Island. 

“I must return to my boat,” she said, pointing out towards the water. “But why not come with me? I can make some tea and you could meet all my other little doggies.” She flashed me that same kind smile she had given the dog earlier, her eyes crinkling around the sides.

“Oh, no. I don’t want to put you out at all. We can make it another time.”

But Solfrid assured me she would enjoy having human company onboard her boat for a change.

She repacked her bag then said, “Come!” in a rather forceful command, almost as though I was one of her “little doggies.” So I heeled, following Solfrid to the jetty where she’d tied her dinghy.

We owe special thanks to artist Anna Landry for allowing us to see the dogs of Bequia. You can see several of her paintings and photos here. This is one of my favorites:

© Anna Landry

© Anna Landry

Read here: Excerpt ONE WOMAN’S ISLAND by Susan Toy

Want to know more about Susan and Anna and the people who inspired them? More at this post.

Follow Susan on Twitter, browse her website,  catch up with her on Goodreads, and check out her Amazon author page.  For more information about Susan’s books and where to find them, visit islandeditions.wordpress.com. Happy reading!

For the Love of Island Dogs

Last year, I was honored to be recognized by Susan Toy and included in her Reading Recommendations. As a result, I met some wonderful authors and found fabulous books for my own “must read” stack.

Susan Toy photo

Susan M. Toy, Author & Publisher

I include Susan as one of those wonderful authors, and anyone who enjoys a good story set in an exotic locale will love her work, too. Here’s a mini-version of Susan’s bio:

Susan M. Toy is a Canadian author and publisher who shares her time between Canada and her Caribbean home on the island of Bequia. She has previously published Island in the Clouds, a mystery novel set on the island. One Woman’s Island is second in the Bequia Perspectives series and will be ePublished in 2015. Susan’s life has always been filled with cats, but she numbers many dog-lovers among her friends. (Read more about Susan and her literary journey here.)

I love this teaser for Island in the Clouds: “Part travelogue, part mystery, Island in the Clouds takes a long, hard look at the reality of living in a place that seems perfect — from the outside, anyway.” Who can resist that sort of book? Even better, it’s the start of a series that will offer an up-close view of island living, with characters (both two- and four-legged) we’ll want to spend time with. (You can read the first chapter here.)

The second in the Bequia Perspectives series is One Woman’s Island, and Susan has generously sent along an excerpt for us to enjoy. (Find that at the end of this post.) As a reader, I love fiction that gives me the opportunity to learn about different places, customs, and traditions (even the not-so-happy ones). As a writer, I appreciate the authors willing to tackle those issues when they fit the story, as Susan has done so well in her work. I felt as though I’d been transported to that island, that boat, and wanted to bring those dogs home with me.

In addition to sharing this excerpt, Susan also sent along some fabulous work by the artist Anna Landry. She has this to say about Anna:

Anna Landry, Artist

Anna Landry, Artist

Inspired by her parents’ interest in art and stimulated by a lifetime of travel, Canadian-born artist Anna Landry was painting and drawing from a very young age. In the mid-90’s, a two-week painting holiday in the sun resulted in nine years spent living, working and continuing to paint on the island of Bequia in the West Indies. Anna has most recently been busy sailing…discovering, photographing, collecting inspiration from the Windward and the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. Most of her paintings are created in her Bequia studio she has shared with many dogs over the years.

One of the truly great things about talking with artists (and I include writers, poets, painters, sculptors, and the like in that category) is the opportunity to hear the inspiration for their work. For both Susan and Anna, one source of inspiration was a Norwegian sailor named Mariann Palmborg. Susan tells me Mariann called Bequia home for several decades where she was a friend to many, “but especially to the numerous dogs and cats on the island. She was the inspiration for the character Solfrid (Mariann even named the character!) and the subject of one of Anna’s paintings. Mariann sadly passed away in 2009 and is still sorely missed by all her many two-and-four-footed friends.” Here’s Mariann, as painted by Anna:

Mariann WhyKnot by Anna Landry

Mariann WhyKnot © Anna Landry

In addition to sharing the image above, Susan scanned other paintings and photos by Anna, with an invitation to include as I wished. I couldn’t choose between them and so included them all in a slideshow. I hope you enjoy both the excerpt and the images as much as I did, and add Susan Toy to your own “must read” list!

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And now as promised: Excerpt ONE WOMAN’S ISLAND by Susan Toy 

You can follow Susan on Twitter, browse her website,  catch up with her on Goodreads, and check out her Amazon author page.  For more information about Susan’s books and where to find them, visit islandeditions.wordpress.com. Happy reading!

Fireworks & Fido: Reducing the Fear Factor

dog fireworkAs a kid, I loved fireworks celebrations. Loved the colors, the artistry, and the music that often accompanied the big events. I still enjoy the celebrations, although my appreciation is tempered by the effect fireworks may have on our furry companions. Some reports suggest dogs can be frightened by the fireworks and often escape the yard, winding up lost, injured, or worse.

If you’re likely to hear a barrage of fireworks as people celebrate the holiday weekend, consider how to make the experience a bit less scary for the pets in your family.  At the end of this post you’ll find a terrific infographic from the American Kennel Club with important reminders for us all. To begin, here are some useful tips to help keep your dog safe, courtesy of the Such Good Dogs blog:

Have ID on your pet:
This is the number one most important thing!  More pets run away on July 4th than any other day of the year.  Be sure that your pet has proper identification tags with updated contact information.  On the 4th, be sure to keep your pet on a leash and keep a close eye on him when out and about.

Preparation:
The best thing to do for a dog that gets nervous, anxious, or fearful during fireworks is to properly prepare BEFORE the day arrives.

Try Lavender Oil:
Lavender is a naturally calming scent for both humans and dogs.  I have recommended lavender in the past for dogs with arthritis.  To use lavender for your dog, take some time to give your dog a massage and give some good petting.  Put just a little dab of lavender oil on your hands before massaging your dog and/or petting him in his favorite spots.  Use nice, calm, slow strokes.  Slowly massaging the outsides of the spine from the neck down is another proven approach.  Be sure not to use a lot of lavender.  A little dab will do just fine.  You do not need a lot to get the smell, and we do not want to have dogs licking excessive amounts of oil off themselves.  The point of this exercise is to associate the smell of lavender with a nice calm, relaxed state of mind.  You should do this for a few days (or more) prior to the fireworks on July 4th.  Your dog will build an association to the smell of lavender and being relaxed and calm.  Before the fireworks begin, put your dog in his “safe place” with the scent of lavender.

Have a “Safe Place” for your dog:

For many dogs the thing that makes them feel best and most safe is to be able to get as far away from the sights and sounds as possible.  Have a spot ready that your dog will enjoy and be comfortable in.  Make it somewhere far away from outside walls and windows.  This will make it easier for him to relax.  The best thing would be a kennel or crate.  Dogs generally enjoy den-like enclosures, and having your kennel or crate set up before the 4th will help them have a nice spot to go.  It is also helpful to place sheets or towels over wire crates to help block sound and lights.  Be sure to take the temperature into consideration.  It is summer and things get hot quickly.  Do not make your “safe place” uncomfortable for your dog by making it too hot.  You are most looking for a den-like area for your dog to feel safe.  If possible feed and/ or treat your dog in this area prior to the 4th.  Make sure the area is lined with a bed or comfy blankets for your pup as well.
Also remember to try and give your dog something he enjoys to help occupy him such as a chew bone or Kong filled with some yummy treats or peanut butter.

Communication & Energy:
If you will be around your dog during the fireworks, the best thing you can do for them is to remember to remain calm and feel like the fireworks are no big deal.  Dogs react to energy.  If your energy is telling your dog that you are calm and not at all worried about the sights and sounds, your dog will feel that it is okay for him to relax as well.

Exercise your Dog before Dusk:

A fantastic way to help your dog is to thoroughly exercise him before the fireworks begin.  Be sure to get your evening walk in before it starts to get dark.  The less energy your dog has, the less energy he has to put towards being fearful.  A tired dog will be more comfortable and will be able to more easily ignore the sounds and sights of the night.
Read the entire article at the Such Good Dogs blog.
***
The American Kennel Club always has helpful information about canine care, and they’re put together a sensible list that’s worth keeping for year-round reference. (New Year’s Eve, for example, often ends in a frenzy of fireworks.) Find that here. And here’s a great graphic, courtesy of the AKC, that sums up the key points to help keep our beloved pets safe. Wishing everyone a happy and safe celebration!
INFO_Fireworks_201507_Infogfx

Celebrating Creativity

creative-blogger

I’m honored to know that another writer sees me as a creative sort. That’s particularly inspiring as that writer, Jack R. Cotner, is one of the most creative souls I’ve ever encountered. He writes poetry, short stories, and novels in addition to painting and sculpting. You can see his work and learn more about his stories on his blog at https://jackronaldcotner.wordpress.com/. You can find his short stories published here, and his novel here. Jack writes compelling fiction that pushes the boundaries of traditionally recognized genres. I previously mentioned his Celtic murder mystery here on this site, and I hope we’ll soon see the next book in that excellent series.

Following the pattern for this award, I’ll share five facts about myself. Then, in my own adaptation of the Creative Blogger award, I’m “nominating” 15 sites that I frequently read and hope that you will enjoy, as well. No obligation to either bloggers or readers—just an invitation to browse interesting sites and celebrate creativity in different forms!

Five Facts…

#1. When it comes to writing, I’m a world-class procrastinator. This post is proof—I should be pushing my current WIP toward the finish line, and instead I’m writing this. I keep meaning to create a character who shares this lamentable trait but somehow there’s always something else to do first…<wink>

#2. I’m a binge reader, with books in every room of the house. Novels, textbooks, anthologies, children’s books, journals, how-to books. Books by authors (both famous and obscure) in myriad genres and categories and styles. From  leather-bound classics to treasured first editions to tattered  paperbacks, you’ll find them all here.

#3. My passion for detail has led to some interesting adventures. Topping that list would be a private cave tour when I was researching Deadly Ties; we were a quarter-mile underground when somebody up top switched off the generator powering the lights in the cave passages. Fortunately, we each had a small flashlight, which saved us from taking a nasty tumble more than once as we inched our way back to the surface. And that’s the backstory to how I came to develop a character who’s afraid of the dark.

#4.  I can claim just a few athletic achievements in my lifetime. The best one? A bike race during an annual aerobics test. I came in first, ahead of every single Marine in the pack. I would have hollered for joy if I hadn’t been too busy gasping for breath…

#5. If asked to describe myself in one word, I choose “happy.” I love where I live, what I do, and who I share my life with. I’ve travelled much of the world and met wonderful people in magical places. These hills I call home have an enchantment all their own, and every day is an adventure.

Here are my 15 recommendations* for your own virtual enjoyment: 

  1. Dog lover? https://nodogaboutit.wordpress.com/
  2. If you’re a writer and/or fan of paranormal: http://jamigold.com/blog/
  3. Love photography? Outdoors? http://stevecreek.com/blog/
  4. Because you can’t have too much beauty: http://www.toddphotos.com/photo-blog/
  5. Follow the hunt for looted antiquities in the world’s museums: http://chasingaphrodite.com/
  6. If you’re an eclectic reader, you’ll want to see http://doranna.net/wordplay/
  7. Mystery & humor abound at http://www.marjamcgraw.blogspot.com/
  8. “Because you can never have too many books” go to http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/
  9. Looking for new-to-you books? Check Susan Toy’s https://readingrecommendations.wordpress.com/
  10. Enjoy Pat Gilgor’s view of mystery and suspense: http://pat-writersforum.blogspot.com/
  11. Victorian fans will want to visit the Front Parlor: http://mlouisalocke.com/blog/
  12. Interested in Irish mythology and contemporary fantasy? http://aliisaacstoryteller.com/
  13. Meet more writers: http://evelyncullet.com/
  14. “Tales of a former indie bookseller” at https://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/
  15. Did I mention you can never have too many books? http://www.shelleyreadsandreviews.blogspot.com/

*Note: I tried my best not to double-tag any blogger nominated by previous award recipients.

Nominees: if you’d like to participate, there are just three simple things to do: 1) acknowledge the blogger who nominated you by name (me) & URL (http://dogmysteries.com/); 2) share five facts about yourself; and 3) nominate 15 bloggers whose sites you enjoy.  (Apologies if I inadvertently included any “award-free” blogs)

Readers, jump in! Have a site you’d like to nominate? Post the link in the comments!

Advice From Hiker-Dog’s Trail Partner

In addition to featuring dog-related fiction and information, I also showcase writers, photographers, and bloggers who live and work in the Ozarks. I find it’s a great way to introduce readers to the beauty of this place I call home, and readers tell me they enjoy learning more about the Ozarks region.

Hiker-dog says, “The less you carry, the better you move.”

Hiker-dog says, “The less you carry, the better you move.”

As I’m working on Dangerous Deeds, the second book in the Waterside Kennels mystery series, I’ve been researching hiking trails across the Ozarks. Many are on private lands, accessible with permission to individuals and groups for hiking and camping, often in exchange for trail maintenance. Other trails, including the famous Ozark Highlands Trail, are almost completely on public lands, with private landowners granting OHT easement for the rest. Much of that trail is maintained by volunteers. One of those is Jim Warnock of the ozarkmountainhiker.com blog. Longtime followers of this blog might remember I shared Jim’s story of how Hiker-dog came into his life last year with an update here. Since then, Jim has generously shared his expertise and experience on the trails, making my research much easier. (Thanks, Jim!) With his permission, I’m reblogging his advice to novice hikers. Even if you’re a veteran of the trails or live beyond the Ozarks, you’ll find some good information here.

“Hike anywhere your feet will take you.”

What do I wear? What do I take with me? Where should I go?

When should I go? What are the dangers? Will a bear get me?

Many questions come to mind when you consider taking a hike for the first time. We’re going to consider these questions and be sure we have some simple answers before heading out. A few good questions can keep us out of trouble and ensure that we want to continue hiking after our early experiences.

Disclaimer: This is not an all-encompassing day hiking guide. These are just my thoughts based on personal experience and a few mistakes along the way.

What do I wear?

You can wear almost anything and get away with it on the trail. Don’t worry about fashion, but function. We’ll look at this from the ground up since feet are very important to hikers.

Oboz hiking shoes

Oboz hiking shoes

  1. Socks are among a hiker’s most important pieces of clothing. I use SmartWool socks, but there are other options. Don’t wear cotton socks unless you like blisters and soggy, smelly feet. Any tennis shoes of reasonable strength are fine for day hiking. Don’t go purchase a heavy pair of hiking boots unless you just want to. I don’t even wear heavy boots when backpacking. I use low-top hiking shoes. I like Oboz right now, but whatever feels good on your feet should guide your decision.
  2. Pants – If the weather is nice, any pants will do. If it’s cold, I prefer anything but cotton pants. Cotton gets wet (making you colder) and then will not dry out in the humid Ozarks until a few days later. When hiking in the Ozarks I almost always wear long pants because of undergrowth, briars, and ticks.
  3. Underwear – For a short day hike, you can use cotton, but as you work up to longer hikes, you’ll want a pair of undies made from a fabric other than cotton.
  4. Shirt – A cotton shirt in summer is alright but if there is a chance of colder temperatures, something like an UnderArmor t-shirt will keep you warmer than cotton.
  5. Hat – A hat is good for sun protection and heat retention, depending on the weather. I accidentally left my hat in my car at the Grand Canyon once and was thankful I had a bandana to tie into a makeshift hat. In some conditions, a hat is a necessity!
  6. Rain protection (especially in cooler temperatures) – A light rain jacket can be wadded up in the bottom of your daypack and forgotten about until needed.
  7. Gloves – Anything but cotton and only if needed. I wear some cheap army surplus wool glove liners when I hike, and they’re fine. I also have some nicer gloves for colder weather but am nervous about losing them. They hook together which is nice for storage in my pack. Finding one glove is more irritating than finding one sock in the drawer.

What do I take with me?

As little as possible is my short answer, but there are some essentials you’ll want to have depending on the conditions.  This list is drawn from the ten essentials that are published in many forms. Below is my list roughly by personal priority.

Filtering water from Spirits Creek with a Sawyer Filter

Filtering water from Spirits Creek with a Sawyer Filter

  1. Water and access to water – Put your water in a bottle or a bladder in your pack. One expert hiker friend, Grey Owl, swears by prune juice bottles. He gave me a couple, and I use them all the time. I carry a small Sawyer water filter in my daypack in case I run low. It doesn’t add much weight and has made me a few friends on the trail when others needed water.
  2. Food – Snacks that you’re used to eating are what you should take on the trail. This is no time to try something new in the food department.
  3. Extra clothing – Think protection from the elements. If it looks like rain, carry rain protection. If it looks like cold, carry an extra layer. My all-time favorite is an insulated vest. Stuff it in the bottom of your pack and it’s like a little insurance policy against a cold snap.
  4. Navigation – Don’t assume that you can’t get lost on a well used trail. Like Jeremiah Johnson, “I’ve never been lost, just confused for a month or two.” Fortunately, I’ve only been confused an hour or so, but it can be a little scary if you’re not prepared. A trail map of the area you’re hiking can make or break your trip. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Sometimes I just copy the appropriate pages from a trail guide and put them in a zip-lock bag. A compass is important. Even a general idea about directions can save you some grief. Don’t count on the compass app on your phone or GPS. Batteries don’t last. I have a small compass/thermometer that ties to a belt loop or my day pack. It’s always there.
  5. Illumination – A small headlamp or flashlight in your pack can be a big help if a hike takes longer than anticipated and you’re walking the last part of your trail in the dark. I carry a small LED light in my day pack at all times.
  6. Sun and bug protection – A little sunscreen can make you a happy and healthy hiker. Bug spray around the cuffs of your pants can discourage ticks. A little spray around your hat area can discourage deer flies and mosquitoes if you’re hiking in summer. Check for ticks often. If they get attached and stay awhile, your chances of getting one of several tick-borne diseases increase. I can usually feel the little guys climbing up my legs and pick them off before they attach.
  7. First Aid supplies – I like a zip-lock with some bandaids and any medicines I might need if stranded for a while. Keep it simple and light and then forget about it until you need it. Avoid purchasing a first aid kit because it will not be customized for your needs and you’ll be carrying unnecessary stuff.
  8. Fire – I carry a lighter. Don’t smoke, but I always have a lighter with me just in case I need a fire.
  9. Emergency shelter – This is simple to do. Cut a 8-10-inch hole close to the bottom of a large trash bag. I stuff it in the bottom of my pack and forget about it. I can put the bag over me and sit inside for shelter. The small opening allows me to see and breath but protects me from the elements. I’ve never used this but it’s like that cheap insurance policy I mentioned earlier.
  10. Most ten essentials lists include repair kit, but for day hiking I don’t carry any tools other than a small pocket knife. One of my hiking poles has some duct tape wrapped around it for emergencies. I’ve used this twice to reattach a shoe sole for other hikers.

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novice hiker guide photo 4

Link to the rest at ozarkmountainhiker.com, to include an important reminder to always tell somebody where you’re going. Sign in at the trailhead, leave a note, and tell a friend. And as Arkansas Parks & Tourism likes to say: “Go Outside & Play!

Nosing Out a Series

Mysteries, amateur sleuths, and dogs: a common combination, some might say. Browse the shelves of any bookstore (physical or virtual) and you’ll find a fascinating collection of mystery fiction, with no two books alike. Each of us brings a different twist to the story; sometimes it’s the regional setting, or perhaps the sleuth’s occupation, and it’s certainly the dogs! You’ll find all sorts featured, to include Basset Hounds, Beagles, Labrador Retrievers, and Poodles. Then there are hybrids, mixed breeds and of who-knows-what dogs, all equally loved and cherished for the wonderful companions that they are. That’s certainly true about the dog in the series featured today.

First, an introduction to today’s honored guest:

KroupaSue&Shadow400Susan J. Kroupa is a dog lover currently owned by a 70 pound labradoodle whose superpower is bringing home dead possums and raccoons and who happens to be the inspiration for her Doodlebugged books. She’s also an award-winning author whose fiction has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, and in a variety of professional anthologies, including Bruce Coville’s Shapeshifters. Her non-fiction publications include features about environmental issues and Hopi Indian culture for The Arizona Republic, High Country News, and American Forests. She now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia, where she’s busy writing the next Doodlebugged mystery. You can find her books and read her blog on her website, as well as her Amazon Author page.

Now here’s Susan, sharing the background that inspired her terrific series:

Doodle, the highly independent labradoodle who narrates the Doodlebugged mysteries, is not afraid to admit he’s a service-dog flunkee. “Smart and obedient don’t always go hand in hand,” he says unapologetically about his “career change.” In the series, he works as a bed-bug-detecting dog for “the boss”, Josh Hunter of Hunter Bed Bug Detection. Doodle and Molly, the boss’s ten-year-old daughter, who’s equally independent, always seem to end up in trouble and with a mystery to solve. Bed-Bugged cover

I can see you crinkling your nose already. “Bed bugs?” you ask, barely suppressing the “euwww” that comes to mind. “How did you happen to write about that?”

The answer lies in the misfortune of one of my sons, an attorney who lives in the Arlington, VA. He called one day, quite upset, to tell me he was covered in tick bites.

“Ticks?” I asked. “Are they still attached to you?”

“No,” he said. “Just bites.”

“Can’t be ticks, then,” I told him. I live in the woods near the Blue Ridge Parkway where there’s no shortage of ticks. Inevitably, a tick bite comes complete with a tick, at least for the first few days. (And can also come complete with months or years of disease, but that’s another story.) “Could the bites be from bed bugs?” I asked.

bed-bug-dog (1)At the suggestion, my son investigated the possibility and discovered that bed bugs had infested the apartment directly over his. He complained to the manager, who promptly sent out a bed bug inspector. With a dog. The sniffer dog, as scent-detection dogs are often called, promptly found evidence of a substantial colony of bed bugs in my son’s apartment.

Bad luck for him, but great for me, because I’d been toying with the idea of writing about a scent detection dog that—how should I put it?—wasn’t in one of the glamour jobs of nose work. And I envisioned the books to be light cozy mysteries, suitable for dog lovers from kids through adults. Sniffing out bed bugs wouldn’t put Doodle in the potentially gritty situations that being a narcotics or police dog would.  Plus, I’d already decided that he would be a labradoodle, a cross between a poodle and a Labrador retriever, not the kind of dog that generally works in those professions. As Doodle puts it in Dog-Nabbed, when an undercover cop asks if he’d like to be a police dog, “Not sure what he means, since everyone knows German shepherds are the ones who go into police work. A little too intense for my taste, but in my experience German shepherds are all about intensity.”

I set out to do research and discovered that while sniffer dogs in the bed bug profession generally tend to be beagles or Labrador retrievers, there were, in fact, some labradoodle bed-bug dogs. I already had a model for Doodle in mind—the extremely independent, often challenging, and sometimes affection-impaired labradoodle we’d adopted as a puppy a few years earlier. His antics gave me plenty of material for a starting point.

ShadowPuppyX400

But I wanted the series to be more than “cute dog solves mystery”. Other than the fact that he’s the narrator, with some admitted stretching of his understanding in certain situations, Doodle acts like a dog: nose driven, literal (as in metaphor-impaired), attuned to body language more than words, and prone to misunderstanding what the humans around him are saying. He can’t speak except through his own body language, and he’s the first to complain how clueless humans are in understanding that.

And more than having him be a semi-realistic dog, I wanted him in a real family who has real problems outside the mystery of the moment. Though Molly drives the action and is the one who solves the mysteries, throughout the course of the books, the reader sees “the boss”, Josh, struggle as a single parent, sees his own fears and triumphs, and the budding possibility (beginning in book two) of romance—all filtered through the eyes of a dog, who sometimes gets it and sometimes doesn’t.

The series now has four books with a fifth one due out in the fall. You can read an excerpt of Bed-Bugged, the first Doodlebugged mystery, here. And you can read all about the books on Susan’s Amazon sales page or on her website.  And here’s a special offer from Susan:

And, for a limited time, you can get Bed-Bugged for only $0.99 at most ebook retail sites and learn just how Doodle got himself into the bed bug detection business, and, more importantly, how he met the boss and Molly.

Doodle would call that a win-win situation. I hope you will too.

Doodle