Westminster Dog Show, Summer Style

Image of dog in agility competition

Meet Chet, a Berger Picard. AP Photo © John Minchillo

The pandemic has turned much of the world upside down, including many dog-related activities and special events. Of these, the Westminster Kennel Club dog show may be one of the best known. Typically held in February in Madison Square Garden with all the glitter and glamour you’d expect of a 145-year-old tradition, expect this year’s event to be different. Read on to learn more about the show that’s happening this weekend.

Quoting from the AP Wire Services:

The show was rescheduled from its usual February dates and isn’t allowing in-person spectators. Human participants must be vaccinated or newly tested. Dogs will compete as usual on green carpet for televised parts of the competition, but some other rounds will happen on an even more traditional green carpet — the lawn at the Lyndhurst estate in Tarrytown, New York….

Some off-the-beaten-path breeds are in the hunt for the big prize this year. Dog cognoscenti are keeping an eye on high-ranking hopefuls including a lagotto Romagnolo — an Italian truffle-hunting breed that first appeared at Westminster only five years ago — and a Dandie Dinmont terrier, the 15th-rarest U.S. breed, by the American Kennel Club’s count. The Dandie, named for a character in Sir Walter Scott’s 1815 novel “Guy Mannering,” is considered to be at risk of disappearing even in its homeland, the United Kingdom.

The show also is due to feature four breeds that are eligible to compete for the first time — the barbet, the dogo Argentinothe Belgian Laekenois, and the Biewer terrier.

Read the rest of the AP story online.

Want to know what’s happening and when to see events? Find a complete listing of “how to watch” events here. And to learn more about the legendary Westminster Kennel Club, visit their website!

Oh, and if you’re wondering what “dog cognoscenti” means: Merriam Webster defines this as “the people who know a lot about something.” As it’s used in the AP article, it’s all about dogs!

Houseplants and Health

Buddy & Sasha

Whether you’re new to sharing your household with cats and dogs or they’ve long been a part of your life, it’s a good time to remind ourselves of potential issues houseplants may pose for our pets. I’ve compiled a “top 5” list of some of my favorite websites with photos and vital information about houseplants you might want to learn more about. Many of these sites include the scientific/botanical names as well. And just to keep it balanced, I’ve included a link to science-based information regarding the benefits of plants in your home.

Houseplants and Pets:

From Rover.com: 15 Common House Plants Poisonous to Dogs

(Includes list of suggested alternative plants to consider.)

Pilea.com: 10 Toxic Houseplants to Avoid

(Great photos & helpful safety tips.)

Farmers’ Almanac: 30 Common Toxic Houseplants From A-Z

(One of my favorite go-to sites for all sorts of information.)

Trees.com: Keep Kids & Pets Away From These Poisonous Houseplants

(This new-to-me site is exceptionally well organized–worth bookmarking!)

Balcony Garden Web: Beware of Plants Toxic to Dogs

(This site includes short descriptions, photographs, and notes about associated toxins, severity, and symptoms. Plus: you’ll learn which part of the plant is malicious. Mystery writers, take note!)

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I’ve had many of these plants in my own home–still do–and none of my cats or dogs have ever suffered ill effects. In fact, like many people, I’ve found houseplants to be a beneficial addition to my home, and support good health and boost creativity. For more information about the positive effects of houseplants (including some listed on the website above), check out healthline.com’s article “7 Science-Backed Benefits of Indoor Plants.”

Wishing you good health and happiness with pets and plants!

Murder, Malice, and More

©Malice Domestic

Want to spend four days immersed in the world of fiction writers and fans? This year, you can participate in the legendary Malice Domestic convention–still going strong after 30+ years–without ever leaving your home. No need to worry about DC-area traffic, or hotels, or crowded venues amid the seemingly never-ending pandemic. It all happens July 14th-17th, and it’s as close as your keyboard.

Whether you’re new to the world of crime fiction or a long-time fan or writer, this could be your perfect opportunity to meet and mingle (virtually, of course) with some of the biggest names in the business. Malice is a fan-focused convention celebrating the traditional mystery–books written in the style of Agatha Christie. As described by the Malice organizers “the genre is loosely defined as mysteries which contain no explicit sex, or excessive gore or violence.” (I think the key phrase here is loosely defined. There might well be violence, or even–gasp!!!–sexual scenes, but that’s likely going to take place off-screen–or should I say off-page?)

When I checked the convention website this morning, here’s what I found:

Picture

​Go to the website to see information, cost, registration, Agatha Award nominees, and more.

Have you attended Malice in the past? If you’re so inclined, use the comment section to share your experience and talk about this year’s virtual venue.

Celebrate!

 

My Sheltie Sasha’s best friend is Buddy The Wonder Cat, and he’s 10 years old today!

Buddy the Wonder Cat came to us as a feral kitten, 10 weeks old and weighing just 2½ pounds. Since he joined our household, we’ve discovered he’s a champion jumper (as long as he doesn’t have to jump higher than the laundry room counter). He’s capable of holding a grudge when he thinks he’s been wronged, and he mumbles and grumbles and flat-out worries whenever Sasha goes to the vet clinic or groomers without him.

He’s taught Sasha how to play hide-and-seek as well as the muffin tin game. Since I started teaching Sasha tricks, Buddy has turned into quite a coach. When Sasha achieved Novice level, Buddy promptly claimed the ribbon and dragged it up the stairs. (Upstairs is HIS territory.)

Our boy is an avid TV fan, too. He loves to watch The Detectorists, The Brokenwood Mysteries, and Midsomer Murders with the original Chief Inspector Barnaby. And he never misses the Westminster Kennel Club dog show  or a soccer tournament. (Sasha, on the other hand, sleeps through it all.)

When he’s not watching TV or chasing catnip treats, you can find Buddy tending to his collection of strings. He keeps them by his kibble dish and likes to drag them, one at a time, into his food dish or water bowl. His current obsession, though, is sliding and surfing across the oak floors on sheets of shipping paper.

In celebration of life ongoing, here’s a slideshow of the best of Buddy the Wonder Cat through the years.

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Writing, Dogs, and Change

I’m delighted to welcome award-winning author Sue Owens Wright back to the blog. She is a twelve-time finalist and three-time winner of the Maxwell Medallion–that’s the Dog Writers Association of America’s prestigious award for excellence. She joins us today to talk about writing and dogs, along with photos and a commentary on life, loss, and change.

It’s been a while since your last visit to dogmysteries.com, and it’s possible some readers haven’t yet discovered your delightful dog-themed fiction. So let’s backtrack a little…what led you to create the Beanie and Cruiser mystery series?

The Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series, featuring Native American Elsie “Beanie” MacBean and her basset hound, Cruiser, has been inspired by many things in my life. Since childhood, I have loved dogs and reading books about dogs. I adored the Albert Payson Terhune classics about his Sunnybank collies. I also read all the Judy Bolton Mysteries by Margaret Sutton. Secretly, I dreamed of writing a book of my own. When I was eight years old, I tried to write a chapter of a mystery, but decades would pass before I actually wrote the first novel in what would become an award-winning mystery series.

My writing has been greatly influenced by James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small” series about a Yorkshire veterinarian. I once aspired to be a vet myself, but at college I did much better in English than science courses. In the 1990s, I had the thrill of visiting Thirsk, the picturesque village that inspired the fictional Darrowby, and seeing the location of Alf Wight’s (James Herriot’s) veterinary surgery. [Click to enlarge the photo below for more detail.] I also toured the set where the original British TV series was filmed. (The latest adaptation is currently showing on PBS “Masterpiece.”) I bought several of the author’s autographed books at the village bookstore.

Touring the TV set of James Herriot’s surgery for All Creatures Great and Small (from the first 1970s series); in front of James Alf Wight’s surgery in the village of Thirsk. Photos ©Sue Owens Wright; used by permission.

It so happened that the owner of the lovely cottage where my husband and I stayed was a close friend of the famous author. She said he often passed by on his walks up to Sutton Bank, an outcropping that overlooks the breathtaking panorama of the Yorkshire Dales. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to meet him.

Vale of Pickering in Yorkshire Dales seen from Sutton Bank. Photo ©Sue Owens Wright; used by permission

What’s the setting for your own series?

The setting for my mysteries came about from my love for Lake Tahoe, where I’ve visited since I was a child. My family owned a cabin that was surrounded by the El Dorado National Forest. In the late ‘90s, I began writing the first book, “Howling Bloody Murder” while sitting on the deck gazing out into the dark, mysterious woods, which sparked my wild imagination. The plot began with one question: What might be lurking out there?

Lake Tahoe has a wealth of history and local lore to inspire a writer. Whenever I stayed at the cabin, I worked on my Beanie and Cruiser novels. Many of the adventures I write about in the books were based on my own. One example is the forest fire that breaks out in “Ears for Murder,” winner of the 2018 Maxwell Award for Best Fiction from the Dog Writers Association of America. I was at the lake in 2010 with my two bassets when the Angora firestorm forced us to evacuate. It was terrifying! That catastrophic event impressed upon me for the first time since I’d been coming to admire the Jewel of the Sierra, with its pine-covered landscape, that forests can and do burn.

Why Basset Hounds?

I’ve had eight basset hounds over the years, so naturally one or two would end up featured in my series. Cruiser and Calamity are canine characters based on my own dogs. They have provided me with endless plot twists and plenty of humor. My easy-going male bassets, first Bubba Gump and later Beau, were the real dogs who inspired the fictional Cruiser. They embodied all the delightful qualities and quirks of this funny, endearing breed. Cruiser is the star of the first three books, but I later introduced Calamity, who is the polar opposite of laid-back Cruiser. Calamity is a composite of my two most challenging rescued bassets, Peaches and “Crazy” Daisy, as I often called the wackiest dog I ever knew. Crazy Calamity causes plenty of trouble for Beanie. She has many of the same experiences I had with my own dogs, not all of them good.

Like Cruiser and Calamity, my bassets were rescued from shelters. Shelter dogs are often unfortunate victims of past lives with people who don’t understand the breed and can’t tolerate their obstinate nature. Buyers who are charmed by adorable basset puppies with those long, floppy ears don’t do their homework before embarking on becoming a basset slave, as fanciers laughingly refer to themselves. Don’t be fooled by the basset hound’s laissez faire demeanor; there’s a keen mind inside that pointy noggin, and it’s plotting the next assault on your dinner table. They are also champion counter surfers. Truth to tell, basset hounds are much better at training us than we are them.

Peaches, our last in a long line of beloved bassets, sadly had to leave us for Rainbow Bridge on July 3, 2019 at the age of 16, a very long life for a basset hound or any dog. Three months later, my mother passed on. We adopted her dog, Piccolo, an aging Shih-Tzu/Yorkshire terrier mix, or a “Shorkie,” as we call him. In 2011, I took Mom to the local SPCA, where she rescued him, so he’s actually been rescued twice. But who rescued whom? Piccolo turned out to be a 10-pound blessing. He has seen me through the traumatic loss of my mom and Peaches and the deadly pandemic of 2020. I caught the virus early in March, which fortunately did not require hospitalization, but it took me a month to fully recover. Piccolo may be a mutt, but he’s a registered Emotional Support Animal (E.S.A.), or Extra Special Animal, as my husband and I call him. We both adore that sweet, little guy. We’ve downsized from 60-pound hounds to our first toy breed, but I confess I’m still a basset lover to the bone. I fully expect that another one may waddle into my life at some point.

Meet Bubba Gump, the main inspiration for Cruiser’s character. Photo ©Sue Owens Wright; used by permission

What’s next in your Beanie and Cruiser series?

A sixth Beanie and Cruiser Mystery is in the works, though progress on the manuscript has been slow this past year. I do my best writing in coffee shops, and I can’t wait until they can open up again. I have more books to write!

Like my Sierra sleuth, Beanie, I’ve never met a dog I didn’t like, even crazy ones. Other dogs besides basset hounds have found their way into the series, including a Newfoundland, a Pomeranian, and a Scottish terrier. You never know, my little E.S.A. may inspire a new canine character that will join Cruiser and Calamity in a future Tahoe adventure.

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Beanie and Cruiser Mysteries, in order of release:

Howling Bloody Murder

Sirius about Murder

Embarking on Murder

Braced for Murder

Ears for Murder

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They are available wherever books are sold, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Waterstones (Britain and Ireland), Booksamillion, and Walmart.

Visit www.sueowenswright.com for more information.