Friday, May 6, 2011

Mysterious Dogs

by Jean Henry Mead

Cats are usually associated with mystery novels, but dogs find their way into mine: from Bert, a retired police dog in Diary of Murder, to Miranda, an Australian Shepherd, who chews furniture in my first children’s novel, Mystery of Spider Mountain.

I’ve always had at least one canine in residence since Brenda, a small bulldog I shared with four younger brothers. The list grew to include a large variety of mixed breeds, one of them named Brillo because the lovable terrier resembled a scrubbing pad with legs. He once jumped with muddy feet into a car full of white-habited nuns, but that’s another (embarrassing) story.

Then there was Prince, a small mixed breed, who learned to dig under our backyard wooden fence to roam the neighborhood. In a matter of months there were a number of puppies in our area that closely resembled him. When I had him neutered, Prince literally disowned me for months.

For a while, we raised Shetland Sheep dogs. The Sheltie is a beautiful, hyper breed that resembles miniature black and white collies, which I’ve always longed to own. We then adopted C.J., whose kennel name was Countess Juanita de Sangria because she came from New Mexico’s Sangria Mountain area. A buff-colored cocker spaniel, she contracted cancer at the age of 12, and we drove her to the Colorado Veterinary Teaching Hospital every five weeks for chemotherapy. She did quite well for 18 months until we lost her. And as all pet owners know, it was heartbreaking.

We then adopted Mariah, an Australian Shepherd, who served as the model for Miranda, the Hamilton Kids’ furniture chewing dog in Spider Mountain. Mariah has an almost human quality about her. She’s the only dog who can out-stare me. Most canines will look away after five or six seconds, but Mariah can hold her stare for a full minute without blinking. It makes me wonder whether she’s an incarnated ancestor.

Dogs have distinct personalities and quirks of their own, which can be successfully incorporated into novels. Although Bert, my retired German Shepherd police dog, appears in the second novel of my Logan & Cafferty mystery suspense series, he’s only mentioned in my new release, Murder on the Interstate, because my two feisty 60-year-old women sleuths were visiting a friend with six cats. That could have caused considerable conflict but might have detracted from the book's theme of homegrown terroris
Then again, it may have added to it.

I plan to bail Bert out of the kennel in my fourth mystery novel, Magnets for Murder.


Mark W. Danielson said...

Dogs not only make the best pets and pals, they're the best muse.

Shane Cashion said...

Wow, Jean, that's quite a mix of dogs you've had through the years. Is there a breed you enjoy most?

Jean Henry Mead said...

Mark, I certainly agree. I have a plaque that reads, "Heaven is the place where all the dogs you've ever loved come to greet you."

Jean Henry Mead said...

Shane, I've love and enjoyed them all, but I'm probably partial to my current dog, Mariah, (pictued above). She's very affectionate, intelligent and gentle (but she has a stubborn steak.)