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 Deedsand 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!
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.
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.)
Strong storms rolling across the hills this morning brought to mind this 19th century image. If you’ve never heard the expression “it’s raining cats and dogs” you might enjoy reading the possible origins noted in this Everyday Mysteries post.
Some suggest this was inspired by tales of Odin, the Norse god of storms. While no evidence exists to support such a notion, it certainly presents a compelling image.
More plausible is the theory offered by The Phrase Finder: “The well-known antipathy between cats and dogs and their consequential fights has been suggested as a metaphor for stormy weather.”
It’s fair to say neither Buddy the Wonder Cat nor Sasha would venture out in stormy weather, although the cat did make it as far as a chair on the covered patio. Despite being sheltered on a chair well back from the patio’s edge, he was soon soaked, which led to time-out in the laundry room with Sasha for company, who wanted no part of the rain. This strikes me as funny given Sasha’s recent adventures with the lawn sprinklers–which results in me using every spare towel to dry her thick coat. She’s not picky about the towels I use, but Buddy The Wonder Cat won’t sit still if I use anything except his personal favorites.
A fan recently emailed to ask for news about the next book in the Waterside Kennels series. He added “My wife and I really enjoyed Deadly Ties and are glad to have it in our library.” I’m happy to report that Dangerous Deedsis still on track for publication this year. I’ve committed most of this summer to editing for continuity (important in any book and essential when writing a series). Balancing pace and plot lines often leads to more revising and rewriting than I’d anticipated. Some writers claim to manage this easily; alas, I am not among them, but I am persistent, and eager to share this story with you.
Today’s work focuses on the scene in which Sweet Pea finds an injured kitten. Maggie Porter—kennel owner, dog trainer, and sometime-sleuth—uses “leave it” and “drop it” to manage the situation. If you’re not familiar with these “must know” commands, these may help:
Sasha mastered both “leave it” and “drop it” early on in our time together. She was slower to embrace “take it” but we’ve made progress with that using her Puppy squeeze toy as part of indoor “fetch” and “bring it” time. I highly recommend these commands to all dog owners!
From flat-buckle to martingale collars and beyond to harnesses of all sorts–choosing the right equipment for your dog can be a real challenge! Before you go shopping, it’s a good idea to know that the dog’s breed, temperament, and strength (think “pull power”) should influence your decision.
You’ll find an ongoing debate in the dog world over the effectiveness of training tools, to include collars. My own fictional dog trainer and kennel owner Maggie Porter has firm opinions about training tools and styles. Here’s Maggie in Deadly Ties (#1 in the Waterside Kennels mystery series) addressing newcomers in a basic obedience class:
“…. Our goal is to develop good citizenship skills. 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.
“But don’t confuse discipline with punishment,” Maggie warned. “Correction is limited to what’s necessary to get the job done, and it doesn’t mean endangering your animal. I will not tolerate verbal or physical abuse of any animal, and that includes using dangerous or excessive equipment. You should use the lightest possible collar and leash. Nylon or leather leashes work best, and we’ll only use nylon slip collars during class. You’ll find all the equipment you need right here. You won’t find any prong or spike collars—I don’t allow them in my kennel.”
“My breeder told me that’s the only kind worth using,” a woman objected. At her side, a Rottweiler pup strained against his heavy choke collar and chain leash. “He says one correction with a spike collar works better than a dozen pulls on those soft collars. And besides, Adolph will grow out of a nylon collar.”
“If you correct properly, you won’t need frequent pulls on the collar. Besides a risk of damaging vocal cords, spike collars motivate through fear. That’s not the way I train.”
So…how to choose the best collar for your dog? Read on for suggestions from experts!
In this video clip, British dog trainer Victoria Stilwell discusses collar options from “great choices” to “really bad ones” (see the accompanying article for more info):
These days, there is a very wide array of dog collars, harnesses, and other contraptions made to help you walk your dog more easily. Store shelves are full of training and walking implements, and it can be confusing for owners trying to select the best one for their canine buddy.
This guide will help you decide what type is right for you and your dog!
Flat-buckle collar. This is the most basic piece of dog-related equipment — a plain collar that snaps or buckles closed. Many people use this type of collar to keep identification and rabies tags on their dogs. This is a great option for dogs that aren’t prone to slipping out of the collar and that walk nicely on a leash.
Martingale collar. This type of collar is a limited slip-type collar. It does tighten around your dog’s neck when there is tension on the leash, but it can only tighten as much as the adjustment allows. This helps protect against throat damage that can occur with traditional choke chains. This type of collar is perfect for dogs that tend to back out of their collars. You can see in the photo that the leash attaches to the control loop, which can tighten or loosen with tension on the leash.
In Dangerous Deeds(#2 in my Waterside Kennels series; now in the publication pipeline), Maggie and her entire staff find themselves embroiled in a community fight over a proposed breed ban. As you might expect, Maggie doesn’t believe specific breed legislation is effective, and she’s definitely no fan of “aversive” equipment and training techniques. When the topic of “shock” and the so-called “no bark” collars comes up, you can expect Maggie to get vocal (no pun intended) about these choices.
For the record, I personally believe in positive reinforcement and force-free training techniques. In the past 18 months, I’ve found that a martingale collar (with tags included) combined with daily training time and lots of loving attention works best for my own Sasha. In the house she wears a quick-release flat buckle collar with tags since we routinely train with leash in the house and backyard.
If you are unfamiliar with force-free training and associated equipment, I hope you’ll explore the many resources online and consider how this might improve the quality of life for you and your dog.
Like Deadly Ties, the first in the Waterside Kennels mystery series, there are multiple scenes in Dangerous Deeds (book 2) that were inspired by real events. One of those, previously described in the post There Came Along A Kitty, is the scene in which Maggie Porter’s dog Sweet Pea rescues an injured stray kitten she finds beneath the dock. Although Maggie’s initial assessment is “not much more than bones and fur” the kitten turns out to have a tiger-sized attitude and, after a brief stay at the vet, claims the kennel—and Sweet Pea—as his own. There’s another scene in which Sweet Pea briefly regrets the new addition, and it’s inspired by my own cat’s early morning shenanigans.
Buddy The Wonder Cat starts every morning at oh dark early by tapping me gently on the shoulder. If I don’t immediately get up, off he goes to do whatever cats do in the pre-dawn hours, and he’s back in 15 minutes to tap me again. Ignoring him might buy me a few more minutes of quiet time, but then he knocks whatever he can off the headboard shelf and runs laps around the room. And if none of that gets me up and moving in the direction of his food dish, he leaps straight down onto the still-sleeping dog. That’s a move guaranteed to get everybody up and moving, whether they wanted to or not. He can go from sweetly solicitous to saber-toothed snarly in no time at all. Fortunately Sasha, like Sweet Pea, is quick to forgive her feline housemate, and life goes on.
More soon! And in the meantime, here’s a slideshow of my own Buddy The Wonder Cat and Sasha, who both keep us laughing every day of our lives.
In the years since author Jim Warnockrescued a starving dog found on the Ozark Highlands Trail, Hiker-dog has become quite a celebrity at Jim’s book signings. (Longtime followers of this blog might remember I shared Jim’s story of how Hiker-dog came into his life in 2014 with an update here.) And as every author knows, it’s important to have publicity materials readily available for interested readers and fans. That’s why Jim created a resume for Hiker-dog, which I’m sharing here with permission. (Thanks, Jim!)
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. The famous Ozark Highlands Trail is almost completely on public lands, with private landowners granting OHT easement for the rest. Jim is one of the volunteers maintaining the trail, and he’s generously shared his expertise and experience, making my research much easier. (Thanks again, Jim!)
New to the trails? Wherever your journey takes you, follow Hiker-dog’s advice: “The less you carry, the better you move.”
One last recommendation: if you’ve never hiked with a dog, reading Jim’s 12-point summary of what makes Hiker-dog a good trail partner will make you appreciate this experience.