Great reads at terrific prices!

“Cozy fans who love dogs are in for a treat!” (Publishers Weekly)

Sale Alert: Digital editions of the first 20 books in the Melanie Travis canine mystery series are on sale for just a few more days. Get your copies here.

Image may contain: dog and text

This is a fabulous series from one of the best authors in the business. She’s an Agatha and Macavity Nominee, winner of the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, and four-time winner of the prestigious Maxwell Award presented by the Dog Writers Association of America.

Learn all about the Laurien’s work at her website. You can also follow her on Facebook and on Twitter ‎@LaurienBerenson. These are perfect gifts for dog lovers who are fans of mysteries written with wit and style!

Breed and Behavior

Photo courtesy of PetPlace.com

In Dangerous Deeds, residents are divided by a proposed ordinance to ban what some consider “dangerous dogs” in the county. Those in favor of the ordinance believe some breeds can never be trusted, while others disagree and refuse to endorse the proposal. When asked her opinion, dog trainer and owner of Waterside Kennels Maggie Porter has this to say:

“Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s only breeds on somebody’s banned list that can be dangerous. Any dog that’s not properly trained or supervised or exercised regularly is capable of harming others. The answer isn’t a ban. The answer lies in better training for dogs and education for everyone in the community.”

Maggie’s stance on Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is similar to the positions held by the American Kennel Club and the American Veterinary Medical Association. The AVMA’s published position statement argues that “breed does not predict behavior” and offers a thoughtful and comprehensive review of BSL and offers cogent alternatives.

And while some people think bans are limited to what they consider dangerous breeds, research by groups such as the Responsible Dog Owners of The Western States suggests at least 75 breeds are listed as either banned or restricted. You might be surprised to learn that two of the most popular breeds—the Golden Retriever and the Labrador Retriever—are included on the list. Even more troubling, many bans extend beyond named breeds and instead rely on physical descriptions. Consider this excerpt from the article Why Breed Bans Affect You published by the AKC this year:

Does your dog have almond shaped eyes? A heavy and muscular neck? A tail medium in length that tapers to a point? A smooth and short coat? A broad chest? If you said yes to these questions, then congratulations, you own a “pit bull” …At least according to the City and County of San Francisco’s Department of Animal Care and Control.

The American Kennel Club takes exception to this generalization. In fact, AKC does not recognize the “pit bull” as a specific breed.  However, across the country, ownership of dogs that match these vague physical characteristics are being banned – regardless of their parentage. The City of Kearney, Missouri, for example, only requires a dog to meet five of the eight characteristics on their checklist before they are banned from the city. Would your pug with its broad chest and short coat be in danger of getting banned under these requirements?

Whether you support or oppose breed bans, I hope you’ll agree that responsible ownership can go a long way toward improving the quality of life for people and dogs alike.

Responsibilities evolve over the lifespan of your dog. Check out the AKC’s 75 Ways to Be a Responsible Dog Owner for a comprehensive overview. A great read for anyone new to sharing their life with a dog, and a great reminder for all of us!

Photo courtesy of AVMA.ORG

Playing it safe

Hurricane Florence photo provided by NOAA

Wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters can strike anywhere, anytime. Even if you’re currently high, dry, and safe, it’s important to have a clear action plan to get you and your pets to safety in times of trouble.

Have a plan! This 2-page checklist from the CDC is one of the best I’ve seen; print a copy and keep it with you. For more information about pet-focused disaster planning, check out this page.

RedRover has an updated list of resources you may find helpful. They include a disaster kit checklist and a list of US-specific and international pet-friendly accommodations. You’ll also find links for detailed information about dogs, cats, horses, and birds as well as reptiles and amphibians.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has information and helpful links worth reviewing. Check them out at FDA’s animal/veterinary resource page. And speaking of veterinarians, the not-for-profit  American Veterinary Medical Association has a wealth of information to help you develop a comprehensive plan to care for your pets before and after disasters. Here’s one video on their site:

Keep ID tags current. Microchips are one smart way to ID your pets. My Sasha and Buddy The Wonder Cat are both microchipped and registered with AKC Reunite. Make sure you complete your registration and keep your contact info current.

Take photos today of your pets. Photograph them standing, left and right profiles, and face-on head shots. Take additional photos showing you with your pets. If you can tag or add metadata to each photo, that’s even better. (To learn how, click here.) Save copies to Dropbox and/or email them to yourself and others. That way, if you lose your phone or computer, you can easily retrieve them.

Build your own “Go” bag.  Use a backpack or small tote to stash extra kibble, leashes, collars, and basic first-aid supplies. Collapsible bowls are a great addition and don’t take much space. Put paperwork in sealed waterproof bags, and make sure to include your name! Remember flashlights and batteries. Keep your bag handy so you can grab and go.

If you have space in your vehicle, add extra jugs of water–essential in all emergencies. Pack tarps, ropes, and bungees; if you have to evacuate on foot, roll up the tarp and fasten it to your backpack with those ropes or bungees. If you are stranded on the side of the road or have to camp outdoors, find the highest ground possible.

It seems ironic, but water is often the most difficult resource to acquire in flooded areas. The CDC offers a quick “how to” for making water safe for drinking here and here

Communicate. Let family, friends, and co-workers know your plans. Social media can be a great tool to help you stay in contact. Always have a back-up plan, to include alternate routes and destinations. And remember: cell towers and Internet providers may be impacted by disasters, so share info ahead of time and take print copies with you in waterproof bags.

Practice! If you had to leave home without advance notice, how long would it take you to grab your gear and herd people and pets into your vehicle?  Tip: keep travel crates, leashes, etc. where you can quickly grab them.  Keep your go-bag in your vehicle or at least in an easy-to-grab location. Make a habit of keeping your shoes, keys, laptop, phone, and chargers in one common location.

When you think you have everything ready, run a drill. (Remember those fire drills from your school days? Same concept.) Practice in the daytime. Practice in the dark. If your pets don’t like their crates or balk at the idea of the vehicle, turn this into a game and reward them for playing along. The more often you practice, the easier it will be when an emergency does occur.

Plan ahead. Practice. Be safe!

The Beautiful Ozarks

I love traveling the winding dirt roads through the Ozark hills where homesteads, farms, and woodlands passed down through the generations form the landscape for my Waterside Kennels series. When I can’t get out to explore on my own, I find inspiration in the tales and photos of people like Jim Warnock, author, photographer, and avid trail trekker. In addition to many articles on hiking and travel published in regional magazines, he also authored the book Five Star Trails: The Ozarks which is a “must have” resource for anyone interested in hiking.

I turned to Jim for advice while I was writing Dangerous Deeds and his thoughtful suggestions provided the details I needed when crafting trail scenes. I also drew inspiration from his photographs. Here are a few from one of Jim’s 2013 adventures; you can read the entire post here. I hope this inspires you to go out and explore, wherever you are!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The trail passes the oldest known structure along the Buffalo River.  Built by Alvin and Greenberry Parker between 1847 and 1849, the structure is now known as the Parker-Hickman cabin because it was occupied by the Hickman family from 1912 to 1978.

Parker-Hickman Cabin

Jim shared this bit about the cabin from Ken Smith’s Buffalo River Handbook:

Newspapers and magazines were used to cover the inner walls and some print can still be read. Mud and wood pieces were used to fill between some of the large timbers.  The cabin was skillfully built with precisely cut half-dovetailed log corner joints.

As shown in these two photographs, the wall coverings still exist (click on image to enlarge the view):

 

 

Video lovers will appreciate this 7-minute virtual tour of the beautiful Ozarks:

When not hiking and writing about trails, Jim might be found maintaining his adopted 4-mile section of the Ozark Highlands Trail from Jack Creek to Dockery Gap. He shares many of his trail adventures with his black Lab, Hiker-dog. (I shared part of Hiker-dog’s rescue story here and here.)

Want more beautiful photographs and stories? Be sure to check out Jim’s blog at https://ozarkmountainhiker.com/.

Recommended Reads

A few weeks ago, I received a note from a reader who loves my book (thank you!) and was in search of the next in my series. Since life events have pushed back my publication date for Dangerous Deeds I shared a few of my own favorite writers with her. I also turned to social media to solicit more recommendations from readers and authors alike.

Long-time readers of this site will recognize some of these authors from earlier posts. Most (but not all) of the following suggestions fall in the “cozy” side of mystery fiction. I’ve included links so you can check these out for yourself!

Laurien Berenson Melanie Travis Canine Mysteries

Laura Childs Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbook Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries

Susan Conant Dog Lover’s Mysteries

Judith Cranswick Fiona Mason Mysteries

Diane Mott Davidson Goldy Shulz Mysteries

Leighann Dobbs Mystic Notch Mysteries and other series

Carola Dunn Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries

Doranna Durgin Dale Kinsall Mysteries and other series

Frances Evesham  Exham on Sea Mysteries

Charlaine Harris Aurora Teagarden Mysteries and other series

Miranda James Cat in the Stacks Mysteries

Susan J. Kroupa Doodlebugged Mysteries

Patti Larsen  Fiona Fleming Mysteries and other series

Jerry Last Roger and Suzanne Mystery Series

Graeme Simsion Don Tillman Books (romantic comedies)

If your reading preferences stretch beyond the books mentioned here, be sure to visit Susan Toy’s blog Reading Recommendations. Susan’s own work, by the way, has also been featured here on my site.

You can ask your local bookseller to order any of these authors for you. Find a list of independent local bookstores here.

You’re welcome to leave a comment and add your own suggestions. If you’re an author, please recommend the work of another writer in addition to your own books.