Dogs, Mystery, & More!

Thanks to the generosity and kindness of many writers, my own entry into the world of writing mysteries has been a joyful experience. Bestselling author Laurien Berenson is one of those authors who offered  support and encouragement when I published my first novel. (In fact, I can thank Laurien for helping me unravel the mysteries of Facebook and social media!)

In return, I’m delighted to recommend her books to anyone who loves amateur sleuths and dogs in mystery fiction. Laurien has been nominated for the Agatha Award (recognizing the best in the cozy mystery genre) and the Mystery Readers International’s Macavity Award. She’s earned the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award and is a four-time winner of the prestigious Maxwell Award, presented by the Dog Writers Association of America. And in the totally unofficial but equally important (to me) category, Laurien’s books were a longstanding favorite of my mother, who loved the entire series.

Laurien has entertained readers for many years with her canine mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Melanie Travis and her beloved Poodles. The cast of supporting characters is equally engaging, and each book’s mystery is a well crafted, downright delightful read. Some series fizzle out over time, but not this one! In fact, check out what Publishers Weekly has to say about Gone with the Woof (#16 in the series):

“A sprightly pooch-packed escapade. With unexpected twists, humor, and a wealth of information about the story’s milieu, Berenson wraps up this caper in a tail-wagging finale.”

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If you’re new to this series, you’re in luck! You can find every book in the series in paperback (and some in hard cover), will soon be available as audio books, and are now available as ebooks! Even better, her publisher,  Kensington Publishing Corp. is offering the first 16 in the series at super-low prices for the month of May. The first three in the series (A Pedigree To Die For, Underdog, and Dog Eat Dog) are just $1.99 each. Get #4, 5, & 6 (Hair of the Dog, Watchdog, and Hush Puppy) for just $2.51 – $2.99 each. And catch the rest of the series through #16 for $3.99.

Laurien Berenson's photo.
We don’t see publishers like Kensington offer sale prices like this every day, so don’t miss out!

Canines Make Good Citizens

In Dangerous Deeds (forthcoming), community members are taking sides over a proposed ordinance to ban “dangerous” dog breeds. Waterside Kennels owner Maggie Porter’s no fan of breed specific legislation, so when BSL opponents ask for advice, she encourages them to get involved with the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program.

Note: while the Waterside Kennels series is a work of fiction, many plot lines come straight out of the news. Breed-specific bans, for example, can be found in many states and countries.   While the Pit Bull may be the most commonly banned breed, many other breeds have been the target of legislation. The AKC opposes such bans, arguing that “Like racial profiling, BSL punishes responsible dog owners without holding owners of truly dangerous dogs accountable.”

A better answer is to develop good canine citizenship skills. As my protagonist Maggie says in Deadly Ties:

“That means teaching your dog to be well-mannered in all situations, and not to be intimidated by strangers, other dogs, or unfamiliar noises. A well-trained dog is a happy dog. And that takes dedication, patience, and discipline.”

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The Canine Good Citizen program (commonly known as the CGC) is fast becoming known as the standard of behavior for dogs in our communities. The CGC is open to all purebred and mixed breed dogs. To pass the test, dogs must demonstrate ten basic skills, copied here from the AKC website . Each item links to a super-short video.

The CGC test includes:

  1. Accepting a Friendly Stranger
    The dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler.
  2. Sitting Politely for Petting
    The dog will allow a friendly stranger to pet it while it is out with its handler.
  3. Appearance and Grooming
    The dog will permit someone to check its ears and front feet, as a groomer or veterinarian would do.
  4. Out for a Walk (walking on a loose lead)
    Following the evaluator’s instructions, the dog will walk on a loose lead (with the handler/owner).
  5. Walking Through a Crowd
    This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three).
  6. Sit and Down on Command and Staying in Place
    The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay.
  7. Coming When Called
    This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler (from 10 feet on a leash).
  8. Reaction to Another Dog
    This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries.
  9. Reaction to Distraction
    The evaluator will select and present two distractions such as dropping a chair, etc.
  10. Supervised Separation
    This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, “Would you like me to watch your dog?” and then take hold of the dog’s leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness. Evaluators may talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts (e.g, “there, there, it’s alright”).

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 Go here  to find a CGC evaluator near you. Already have your CGC certificate? Share your experience in the comments. Photos welcome!

Celebrate Life, Land, and Beauty

April 3rd has been named Save the Ozarks Day by the city of Eureka Springs in honor of all those who worked together to preserve the beauty of our region and stop the wanton destruction of our way of life. From Doug Stowe, Vice President, Save the Ozarks:

We are coming up on the second anniversary of AEP/SWEPCO’s application to destroy a huge swath of Northwest Arkansas to build an unnecessary 345 kV power line. Its towers, placed 6 to the mile, would have dwarfed our tallest oak trees, and the clear cut right of way would have been kept sterile of natural forest growth for generations by the use of toxic herbicides….

[R]ather than gathering together as we have done in the past, we urge everyone in our community to breathe in the beauty of that which would have been destroyed. Please stand with friends or alone if you choose, in a spot of overlook or of intimate beauty and hold fast in joy and celebration the image of what you see. You have taken part in saving for generations yet to come, the beauty, sanctity and serenity of this special place..” [Read the entire post here.]

For those of you who may not have the opportunity to celebrate the moment here in the Ozarks,  here are images generously shared by Ozark photographers. Enjoy!

At this time of year, every day brings a new surprise in the woods. You have to look closely to see some of the blooms tucked among the leaves and rocks of the hillsides. Take, for example, these tiny beauties from the Viola family, captured by Madison County photographer Billy Baker Whorton:

Viola blooms Madison County Billy Baker Whorton

© Billy Baker Whorton

Turn up your speakers for this video and listen to the sound of water rushing through Bear Creek Hollow in Newton County. This was shot in the Ozark National Forest by Dan Nash, who’s with Hiking The Ozarks:

 

If you prefer a mix of old and new, check out Jim Warnock’s article in the magazine Do SouthAnd find more great photos and stories by Jim (with Hiker, the Wonder Dog) on his website http://ozarkmountainhiker.com/. Here’s one of my favorite shots from Jim’s website:

Cascade at Bliss Spring  ©  Jim Warnock

Cascade at Bliss Spring © Jim Warnock

Trust me when I say that water is COLD–as I learned to my chagrin when I slipped not long go when crossing a creek and water rushed over the top of my boots. (Tip: always pack extra socks!)

Here in the Ozarks, wintry conditions are still a definite possibility all through March and April or beyond. Last year, it snowed the first week of May. Some years back, we went camping one Easter weekend and the temp hit a low of 19 degrees. (The dog’s water froze in the tent!)

More often, though, April will bring sunshine and warm temperatures. And all too often those warm temps will usher in some wild weather. When I saw this fabulous photograph by Larry Waterman I was reminded of this line from Deadly Ties: “Weather in the Ozarks is notoriously unpredictable.” This shot says it all:

Heber Springs © Larry Waterman. All rights reserved.

Heber Springs © Larry Waterman. All rights reserved.

As we come to the end of our virtual tour, let me leave you with a view of the Buffalo River Valley and a line from Dangerous Deeds, the forthcoming book in the Waterside Kennels mystery series: “If I’ve learned anything since settling here, it’s that land and family are the heart of the Ozarks. The legends, the history—it all comes back to the hills and the people, doesn’t it?”          

Buffalo River Valley © Dan Nash at Hiking the Ozarks

Buffalo River Valley © Dan Nash at Hiking the Ozarks