Scenes from the home front

In the post titled “A cat with a dog of his own” I shared a few memories of the challenges of convincing Buddy The Wonder Cat to share his home and his people with Sasha. There were a few early bumps in the road, but the two of them have happily settled down to life together. In fact, we’ve now reached the point where Buddy The Wonder Cat stands vigil whenever Sasha leaves the house without him:

It’s fair to say the cat takes a personal interest in anything the dog does. Training time? Buddy’s right there to supervise.  Yard patrol? They share sentry duty. If Sasha overlooks a treat during the Find It! game, Buddy finds it for her. Feeding time creates shared moments, too, although the cat doesn’t share the dog’s passion for cucumbers and Sasha seems puzzled by Buddy’s penchant for ice cubes in his water bowl.

You’ll see quite a bit of Buddy The Wonder Cat later this year–or at least his fictional counterpart. In Dangerous Deeds (Book #2 in the series), Maggie’s dog Sweet Pea finds an injured kitten and carries it to safety. Some of the injuries mirror the real-life accident suffered by Buddy The Wonder Cat a few years ago.  Confession: it was a traumatic experience for the cat, me, and the staff at the Crossover Veterinary Clinic.  On the other hand, our vet (Beth Stropes, DVM) was remarkably cheerful throughout, assuring me that this wasn’t her first cat rodeo. It was then that I decided that if we all lived through the experience, that scene was going in a book.  We all lived, and I kept my promise; Dangerous Deeds will be released this fall. In the meantime, here’s a slideshow of Buddy The Wonder Cat through the years. Enjoy!

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It’s a Great Book Giveaway!

Thanks to the generosity and kindness of many writers, my own entry into the world of publishing has been a joyful experience. Bestselling author Laurien Berenson is one of those authors, and 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! And today you have the chance to win an advance copy of Ruff JusticeThis new addition to the series comes out in June and is available for pre-order now. Even better, Melanie has 2 advance reading copies of RUFF JUSTICE to give away! To be eligible to win all you have to do is comment on Laurien’s FB page and share the news. The contest ends today 4/25 at 5 pm with winners announced Thursday morning 4/26/2018. U.S. addresses only please. 

Here’s a look at Ruff Justice:

As owner of prize-winning Poodles, Melanie Travis knows how to handle fierce competition. But when a conformation show turns deadly, it’ll take every trick in the book to outsmart a murderer who refuses to lose . . .

With the excitement of the spring dog show season sweeping Connecticut, Melanie is determined to help her son finally lead his Standard Poodle toward a championship title. Aunt Peg even skips the judging panel to exhibit a pup of her own, and she’s set on standing out from the pack with a handmade leash from Jasmine Crane, a talented canine portrait artist who also crafts stunning accessories for discriminating show-goers. Jasmine’s handiwork is to die for—but Aunt Peg didn’t expect to discover the woman murdered behind the concession booth, strangled by one of her dazzling custom creations . . .

Another shockwave ripples through the close-knit show community when Amanda, Aunt Peg’s longtime dog sitter and a renter on Jasmine’s property, ominously vanishes that same day. While nosing around for clues, Melanie suspects a dangerous connection between Amanda’s disappearance and the homicide case—a hunch that grows as her investigation reveals sketchy secrets about the late artist. Juggling a demanding teaching job, the pressures of the show ring, and a daunting suspect list, Melanie finds herself entangled in a mindboggling murder mystery . . . and hot on the trail of a desperate killer . . .

If you want a chance to win one of those advance copies, remember to comment today on Laurien’s FB page.  But don’t fret if you miss the giveaway; you can pre-order your own copy now. For details on this book and all the books in the Melanie Travis series, be sure to visit Laurien’s website. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Here’s to good health!

A neighbor stopped by this morning. “Are you training Sasha to be a therapy dog?”

“No,” I responded. “But she’s certainly good therapy for me!”

Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha

 

Sharing your life with a dog really is good for your health and overall well-being. Consider, for example, this info from Harvard Healthbeat:

Pet ownership, especially having a dog, is probably associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. This does not mean that there is a clear cause and effect relationship between the two. But it does mean that pet ownership can be a reasonable part of an overall strategy to lower the risk of heart disease.

Several studies have shown that dog owners have lower blood pressure than non-owners — probably because their pets have a calming effect on them and because dog owners tend to get more exercise. The power of touch also appears to be an important part of this “pet effect.” Several studies show that blood pressure goes down when a person pets a dog.

There is some evidence that owning a dog is associated with lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. A large study focusing on this question found that dog owners had lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than non-owners, and that these differences weren’t explainable by diet, smoking, or body mass index (BMI). However, the reason for these differences is still not clear.

Dogs’ calming effect on humans also appears to help people handle stress. For example, some research suggests that people with dogs experience less cardiovascular reactivity during times of stress. That means that their heart rate and blood pressure go up less and return to normal more quickly, dampening the effects of stress on the body.

If circumstances limit your ability to share your own home with a dog, consider volunteering at your local shelter. Visit Adopt-A-Pet online or Volunteer Match to find opportunities near you.

 

Dangerous Deeds

One of the most common questions asked of writers: “Where do you get your ideas?”

As a professor and research geek, I love this question. Maybe I’m genetically wired this way; my dad was brilliant with crossword puzzles and my mother excelled in finding creative solutions to vexing problems. That’s as good a reason as any to explain why I’m prone to wonder who and how and why and what if. I might see a headline, visit someplace new, overhear a conversation, sift through photographs, encounter someone unusual, or dream a tall tale—any or all of these  become grist for the proverbial mill. For me, the answer to  “Where do you get your ideas?” changes from one writing project to the next. The idea of breed bans as a plot for Dangerous Deeds (book #2 in my series) started with news headlines.

The Plot Challenge

Breed specific legislation (BSL) has been a controversial issue in many communities, including mine. A nearby town’s efforts to ban pit bulls caused an argument that went on for months. When unleashed dogs attacked cyclists and joggers on roads and trails, elected officials were challenged to reconsider the county ordinance. They struggled to find reasonable common ground, balancing owner’s rights with public safety. Not an easy task! These and similar events prompted me to wonder how the folks in my fictional world would react to a proposed ban.

Search the Internet and you will likely find hundreds of articles and stories and websites focused on this issue. Tempers run hot on both sides of this controversy, and the thought of researching a topic steeped in such graphic violence left me downright queasy. Still, the idea lingered. I spent months searching for credible information about BSL from advocates and opponents alike, trying to figure out how to tackle the issue in a way that wouldn’t offend readers or my own sensibilities. The AKC’s issue analysis of BSL published in 2015 gave me the hook I was looking for. Read on for a glimpse of how the AKC position and citizens’ comments at public hearings inspired the primary plot line of the book.

Excerpts

There’s a scene early in the book where the sheriff warns my protagonist, Maggie Porter, about a sleazy local attorney:

“Simon Tate claims to have a client whose dog was attacked at the county park.  No witnesses, mind you, and no injury to the dog according to the vet. Still, the suit claims negligence on the part of the county, and he’s demanding we outlaw what he calls vicious breeds. He convinced the Quorum Court to hold a public hearing. My gut tells me he’s after a whole lot more than just a county ordinance, but darned if I can figure out his motive here. Gotta say, that worries me some. Seems like whenever Simon Tate profits, somebody loses.”

Fast forward to the public hearing, where Maggie does her best to explain her opposition to breed ban.  She’s blindsided, though, when Simon Tate uses the event to attack her reputation with a barrage of lies and innuendo. Here’s an excerpt from the end of the scene:

“These breeds have a known history of attacking others. Killing machines, that’s what they are, and you let them in your kennel, side by side with beloved family pets.” Turning to face the crowd, he had to shout to be heard. “Until we get the Dangerous Dog Ordinance signed into law, I challenge everyone to take a stand, show your support for our community. Vote with your wallet—boycott any place that puts profit over safety! Don’t take your business to any animal clinic, pet shop, groomer, or kennel that won’t stand up for our pets, our children, our community!”

Simon pointed to Maggie. “We’re going to shut you down.”

***

Maggie soon discovers the boycott is just the start of trouble. When a body is found on her property, suspicion turns to Waterside Kennels where everyone has motive and nobody has an alibi. Can Maggie unravel the web of deceit in time to save herself and everything she loves?

Dangerous Deeds is scheduled for publication this year. Stay tuned!

A Tribute to Shadow

Taking Flight ©2015 Tom Hidley

If you’ve been following this site, you already know I’m a big fan of the Doodlebugged Mysteries and its award-winning author, Susan J. Kroupa. Doodlebugged is that rare sort of series that appeals to people of all ages and is truly a delight to read over and over.

What you may not know is that Doodle was inspired by Sue’s real-life dog, Shadow. Shadow passed away last month, and I wanted you all to know more about this wonderful dog. As Sue writes in her blog (and shared here with permission):

Shadow, with his keen intelligence, his independence, his often maniacal energy, and his always amiable spirit, was truly the most interesting dog I’ve ever had. Admittedly, sometimes he was interesting in the Chinese curse sort of way.

He was a study in contradictions. He liked everyone, but was not especially affectionate with us, at least not until the last couple of years. He was a dog who liked his space.  He loved treats, but often would not work for food, and would thoroughly sniff anything we offered him, because, hey, THIS time it just might be poison.  He was loyalty impaired—a go-where-the-action-is kind of dog—and not averse to abandoning me during a walk if it started to rain, and race to the shelter of the porch.

A true country dog, he was equally at home in the city, attending soccer games and events with my grandkids.

His antics taught me how little I knew about dogs and sent me in search of more knowledge. He learned early on to hold still if I was holding a camera. After all, as I used to joke, he had “his public”, the many people from neighbors and friends to field workers and service people that he befriended. More than once I had the occasion to meet someone for the first time only to discover they already knew Shadow. “He has more friends than we do,” I would complain to my husband. And it was true.

Shadow inspired a host of nicknames: Motormouth, the Barkster, Boing-Boing, The Ever-Ready Labradoodle, Jumping Jack, Bear-Bane, and Possum-Bane.  Oh, how he loved to catch possums! I often said finding them was his super power.

He inspired a book series. The Doodlebugged Mysteries came directly from observing Shadow, who would stare up at me, never breaking eye-contact, with an expression that clearly said, “Seriously?” He was his own dog, not a people-pleaser, even though he was always pleased to be around people. Doodle’s oft repeated mantra that “smart and obedient don’t go hand in hand” came straight from Shadow’s actions.

Seriously?

Fly away, home, Shadow. May you find woods to race through, logs to leap over, possums to catch, and bears to chase away, and may you live on, at least in part, in Doodle.

♥ ♥ ♥

You’ll find the complete post with more photos and links to previous posts at Fly Away Home. Shadow will live on in our hearts and in the Doodle stories, and I am grateful to Sue for allowing us to be part of Shadow’s public.

♥ ♥ ♥

Available in print and Kindle editions:

Bed-Bugged (Doodlebugged Mysteries Book 1)

Out-Sniffed (Doodlebugged Mysteries Book 2)

Dog-Nabbed (Doodlebugged Mysteries Book 3)

Bad-Mouthed (Doodlebugged Mysteries Book 4)

Ruff-Housed (Doodlebugged Mysteries Book 5)

Keep up with Sue at https://susankroupa.com/