Mysteries with dogs

Dog obsession extends to every aspect of our lives. It’s an illness we don’t want to be cured of. It even extends to reading, our favorite non-dog hobby. Except some of our favorite books are mysteries with dogs!

Hope is currently reading “Gone to the Dogs” by Susan Conant. It’s part of a series with main character Holly Winter, a dog columnist, owner of Malamutes, and Obedience devotee. One of the things we love about this series is how closely we identify with someone doing obedience training with a breed not known for its obedience. Another thing we adore about it – we’re Facebook “friends” with Conant! We’ve actually “messaged” with her to talk about dogs and books! We may even forgive her for currently owning a stellar obedience breed – she has a Sheltie now.

Lighter fare

cartoon of dog sniffing out mysteries

We’ve always been big readers – our family used to own a book store. And, despite the reputation that booksellers may have, we’ve always enjoyed “light” reading. These days we actively seek lighter fare for entertainment. We need the break from all the uncertainty this year. 

So we’re revisiting some of our favorite authors of dog mysteries – because dogs always make us happy. There’s something connective reading about a character you know you’d be friends with – you have so much in common. Or maybe absolutely nothing but your love for dogs – but that’s enough!

Lots of choices

We just searched for “mysteries with dogs” and there are bunches of them! Lots of names that are new to us. Since the family bookstore closed and we brought home all the books we didn’t sell and couldn’t part with, we’ve been “shopping” on our own shelves. Lots of the new series look terrific – we’ll have to post an update when we’ve tried some of them.

In the meantime, these are the authors/series we love. For everybody who loves dogs and enjoys a “cozy” mystery, you should give them a try!

Laurien Berenson is a Poodle person and author of the series featuring Melanie Travis and her Poodles! Her Aunt Peg is a recurring character and an absolute delight.

Melissa Cleary’s main character is Jackie Walsh, whose sidekick is an ex-police dog named Jake.

Susan Conant’s books feature Holly Winter and her Alaskan Malamutes Rowdy and Kimi.

Virginia Lanier writes about Jo Beth Sidden and her tracking Bloodhounds. 

Mysteries with dogs reviews

If you try one (or all) of these authors – let us know how you like the books! And if there’s someone we’ve missed, please let us know. The books don’t even have to feature dogs, although dogs do enhance most things in life. 

Completely and totally your dog

When we were growing up, Fran and I (Hope) were under the mistaken impression that our family dog, Spunky (a Boston Terrier), was the family dog. It turned out that wasn’t quite the case. Unbeknownst to us, our Mother and Spunky were a pair – bonded for life.

It’s probably true in many, if not most, dog-owning households. The parents tell the kids that the dog is “your dog,” and their responsibility. All the while, behind the scenes, the adults are making darned sure that the dog gets fed, walked, and cared for as he should be. Mom and Spunky had lots of time together after we were asleep. We thought he slept in the kitchen, as good dogs were supposed to back then. Not so. Especially not if it was a stormy night. Like I said, Mom and Spunks were bonded.

Possession is only part of the equation

When I was all grown up and looking to get a dog of my very own – it didn’t work out that way. When I went home on weekends, Dragon (Brussels Griffon) and Daemon (Boston Terrier) glommed onto Mom and stayed there. Until they were dragged back into the car to go back to the city. Brats.

As time passed, things changed, and I returned to the family home, I was determined that I would have a dog who was all mine. I tried with Golly herself. She wanted none of me. I smuggled her onto the plane from Louisville to Chicago. I took her through a series of veterinary visits resulting in open-heart surgery. Nursed her back to health. She was single-mindedly devoted to Fran in every way. Her dog. 

Then there came Ceilidh (Kay-lee). I really, really tried. She picked Fran. 

Success at last!

My first “my” dogs – Teddy and Roc

When it came time to think about adding another dog to the family, I was absolutely determined. Roc was Golly’s nephew, also a Brussels Griffon. While Griffs are sociable dogs, they’re really one-person pups. So Fran wasn’t allowed to touch Roc when he came home. I carried him around for four days in a carrier. Fed him. Walked him. No interaction with Fran at all for the first two weeks.

It worked! He was wholly and entirely my dog. My first obedience-titled dog. We were a team. He allowed Teddy to join the team. It was great!

Not for everyone

A couple aspects of being extremely bonded aren’t for everyone. When you have a bond this strong, you never go to the bathroom by yourself. You can never dash through the house without kicking somebody. And other family members may get annoyed when your dog whines and sits by the door waiting only for you.

The upsides more than outweigh the downs. You always have somebody who wants to cuddle. You’re never lonely. There aren’t any arguments or backtalk. Your dogs are always thrilled you came back – even if you only took out the garbage. 

Family dog

There are individual dogs and whole breeds of dogs that are family dogs. They have a special relationship with each member of the family. That’s a wonderful, special situation, too. But if you want to be your dog’s person, in our experience you have to be everything for the dog, first.

Put a leash on it!

It’s the simplest “tool” for training dogs. It doesn’t require much instruction, has few moving parts, and is one of the most basic dog essentials. And yet, multiple times this week we’ve witnessed people not using it. People! Put a leash on your dog!

Sitting in the shop, watching the world go by, we see a woman and her pre-teen child walking down the sidewalk, pulling a wagon. With a cute, little, fluffy white dog in the wagon. The dog jumps out and races across the street – with cars coming in both directions. The woman is shrieking through her mask for the dog, who’s wearing a harness (good!) but no leash (bad). Fortunately, both were fine and the dog corralled in just a few minutes.

Then there’s the neighborhood guy around the shop who insists on walking his dog without a leash. We’ll admit that our shop is on a side street, in our suburb’s downtown. It’s not the busiest street around – but it is in a very urban area. Our town borders Chicago and has about 60,000 residents. It’s not the middle of nowhere. So this fellow thinks his dog will stay with him. He’s wrong. Whenever we’ve been outside, the dog comes running up to us to say “hi!” It’s a nice dog. He should put a leash on it.  

What’s the attraction?

Frankly, we don’t understand the desire to walk a dog off leash. Maybe because we know our dogs, despite their obedience/rally/agility titles, would take off after any bunny stupid enough to cross our path. Or maybe it’s because we know that people drive crazy, even on residential streets. Maybe it’s because we’re control freaks. But we just don’t get it.

A few months ago there was a viral video featuring a man with his “pack” of German Shepherd Dogs walking around. They seemed to be on city streets and the dogs surrounded him and shadowed his every move. Not a leash in sight. Frankly, we found it creepy. None of the dogs looked happy. They all looked like they were slinking around, as if they’d been beaten. And yet we saw lots of comments exclaiming how “wonderfully” those dogs were behaving. We didn’t see it. We have a friend who has German Shepherd Dogs. Hers are marvelously well-trained, with titles in multiple dog sports, too. And her dogs walk joyously, tails waving, ears erect, eyes bright and interested. On leash. 

Not instead

A leash doesn’t replace training. Dogs still have to be taught to “walk nicely” with you. In fact, the “rule” for using a leash in Obedience and Rally competition is that it should form a “J” between the dog and person. There are deductions for “tight leash” handling. 

Picture of a man walking his dog on leash at a beach

We look at the leash as a security measure – for us and our dogs. No worries about where our dogs are or what they’re doing if we can’t see them. We can always find them. And when another dog comes charging up the path, no owner in sight, we can reel in our dogs, pick them up, and yell bloody murder until a responsible party shows up to take charge. 

Hope will never forget the time when, as a young woman living single in the city, she was walking her dogs (Dragon, a Brussels Griffon and Daemon, a Boston Terrier) down a city street and a big mongrel came running up. She was trying to pick up both her dogs (Dragon was barking away, Daemon wanted to play) and yelling “Who owns this dog? Loose dog! Get your dog!” A guy sauntered around the corner and had the gall to say “don’t worry, he’s friendly!” 

Really? Why does that matter? How do you know my dogs are “friendly?” And why does anyone believe that leash laws don’t apply to them?

Rant over

It’s such a simple thing. Hook up your dog. If you’re alone, in an unpopulated or no-traffic area, take it off if you want to. But please, don’t make me worry about your dog running out in front of cars. Don’t make me worry about getting sued when my dog takes objection to your dog running up on us. If you love your dog, put a leash on it.

Preparing for your dog’s death

Four of our friends are blessed to have old dogs. They celebrate each day and acknowledge their good fortune. And we can tell each is trying to prepare for her old dog’s death.

Death isn’t a pretty word. We don’t use it a lot and there are tons of euphemisms so we don’t have to. It’s shocking and stark. Exactly how it feels, no matter how much preparation you do.

Celebrating the oldies

Our friends with the old dogs are all over the country, have different breeds, and, as far as we know, only a couple know each other. What they have in common is dealing with the creakiness and vet bills for old dogs. And none of them would change a thing.

The healthiest of the group is also the oldest. This dog just celebrated his 17th birthday. Yes, you read that right. 17th. And, aside from being a little slower, a little creakier, he’s trucking along just fine.

Another friend’s dog is 14. This dog is a rescue, adopted at about one year old. She’s been a lifeline for our friend, who has been through some tremendous life changes since she got her dog. And the dog recently started suffering some seizures. They’re working to keep it under control, but there are good days and not-so-good ones.

Our third friend’s dog is about 12+ years old – we know we recently wished her a “Happy Birthday,” but we don’t remember which one it was. She scared her “mom” recently by having a stroke, but she seems to be, slowly, recovering. This dog has made a practice of scaring her mom. She’s the miracle dog of the bunch.

The fourth friend’s dog just turned 12 this week. And it was his birthday that got us thinking about this stuff. His mom didn’t think he’d make it this far. He’s suffering from Addison’s Disease as well as a list of other ailments. 

Signalling their thoughts

Our friends have all made comments that let us know they’re trying to prepare themselves for their dog’s death. Saying things like “as long as she’s happy.” Or “he still loves his walks, they’re just shorter.” And posting videos of treats lovingly hand-fed and a dear old dog munching happily.

The thing is, and they all probably know this, there’s no way we’re ever ready. Personally, we’ve been lucky enough to have dogs who lived to ripe old ages. And we’ve been gut-punched losing younger dogs suddenly. It’s always a shock. The house is always empty – even other dogs and people are still there.

One of our friends has been sort of expecting her dog to die for a while. Her dog was never the healthiest, and many conversations have been gloomy. We know she’s been trying to achieve a state of mind to accept what’s going to come, but it’s not possible.

Shoving it aside

Death is a reality of all lives. Some of us focus on it more than others. And some of us (our personal tendency) is to push the thought aside, as best we can, for as long as we can. We figure that it’s time enough to deal with grief when it happens. And in the meantime, we’ll cuddle, and play, and train, and enjoy the company of dogs. We don’t know how much time we’ll be granted with our dogs, so we let them know we love them every day.