It’s A Dog’s World

It’s time to add another acronym to my collection of R words: IORs—In Order Readers; DTRs—Dead Tree Readers; ARs—Audio Readers. The new ones will be referred to SERs—Sharp Eyed Readers.

Several of those have written to me to point out that at one point in Missing and Endangered, one of Joanna’s deputies, while waiting in the outside office to see her, scratches Mojo’s ears. In actual fact he should have been scratching Spike’s ears. Mojo is the new active-duty K-9 in Joanna’s department. Spike is the retired K-9 who, after suffering a serious injury in Downfall, now spends his on-duty retirement hours contentedly dozing next to the desk of Joanna’s receptionist, Kristin.

Since I sometimes can’t keep the names of my kids or grandkids straight, I suppose it isn’t too surprising that I would occasionally slip and call my fictional dogs by the wrong names as well. Believe me, this error, after being brought to my attention, has been forwarded to my editors and will be corrected in future editions. So if you’re a late blooming SER, you don’t need to send this one along, but feel free to pass along any others you may find. After all, fixing those little problems helps make me appear to be smarter than I am.

Several readers have mentioned that there are a lot of dogs in my books. That’s true, and here’s the reason—there have been a lot of dogs in my life. In fact, some time ago, I believe I dedicated a book to the entire list—at least the list as it existed at the time–starting from almost the beginning. I don’t remember the long-coated English shepherd named Nicky who helped teach me how to walk back on the farm in South Dakota, but I do have a photo of the two of us together.

The first dog I actually remember was Daisy, a mongrel terrier puppy that I found when I was in first grade and dragged home after school. I claimed that the puppy had followed me home, but that was a lie. In truth I had carried her every step of the way. My mother wasn’t buying a word of it. No way were we having a dog! Evie told me to take the puppy back and leave her where I had found her, but that didn’t happen.

My mother’s parents, Grandpa and Grandma Anderson, were visiting us in Arizona at the time and staying in our downstairs apartment. The next morning when Grandma came upstairs for breakfast, she was wearing a loose-fitting green sweater. Whenever Evie’s back was turned, I noticed that Grandma was slipping tiny pieces of bacon and toast to something hidden under her sweater. Yup, you guessed it. Grandma had the puppy, and although Evie could certainly veto me, she couldn’t very well veto her own mother. Eventually Evie was the one who gave Daisy her name, and the dog was with us for the next dozen years.

In the course of my lifetime, I’ve had mostly large dogs—Huck, a javelina-chasing blue tick hound; Sunny, a tamale-stealing border collie; Scratch, a shepherd mix from the reservation; Specks, a garbageman-terrorizing Dalmatian; Barny, a fence-climbing black lab, and a collection of lovable golden retrievers—Mandy, Nikki, Tess, Aggie, and Daph. Our favorite pound puppy, the tiny creature who grew to be an enormous Irish wolfhound, was named Bony because he definitely was—bony that is.

It’s only in the last ten years or so that we’ve downsized to long-haired miniature dachshunds—Bella, Jojo, and Mary. Long ago Bill had an ankle-biting incident with a doxie that left him permanently traumatized. I somehow allowed his prejudice to influence me, and that leaked into my books. SERs may well recall that I sometimes referred to dogs like that as WOFs—wastes of fur. (I do like acronyms, don’t I!) Bill is over his problem with dachshunds now, and so am I.

Because my books are in many ways a reflection of my life, you may have already recognized some of my characters—Oho—Bone, in the Walker books and J.P. Beaumont’s Lucy in Proof of Life and Sins of the Fathers came from our real life Bony, Ali and B. have a fictional clone of our original dachshund, the late but amazing Book Tour Dog, Bella. And Joanna? She has a whole collection of familiar and unfamiliar dogs. Writing about these missing canine companions is a way for me to keep them in my heart.

And yes, if you happen to have kids or dogs in books there are occasionally going to be kiddie and doggy “issues.” Beau’s upcoming Nothing to Lose has just such an icky experience which, unfortunately, is based entirely on personal experience. If you’re offended by kiddie or doggie “issues” you’re more than welcome to skip those parts. That’s what I do whenever I’m reading a book and encounter an overly explicit sex scene. I simply skip it. I also don’t put fingers to the keyboard and write to the author to complain about it.

This is a new paragraph, folks, so now you’ll find that the story is about to take a sharp turn. My daughter, a widow, is a single mom with a full-time job as an essential worker and another full time job supervising her son’s freshman year of virtual non-learning. Weekends are devoted to my grandson’s bowling tournaments as well as attendance at various church-related events. So when does she shop? At the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings. She lines up the various opening times and is waiting to hit the stores the moment the doors open. (She tells me the stores are much less crowded then, but I have yet to witness that in person, and it’s highly unlikely that I ever will!!)

One of her favorite shopping venues, her local Safeway, posts a calendar of upcoming non-essential events—National Oreo Cookie Day, National Ballooning day, etc. You get the picture. Last year due, to a timely reminder from our daughter, Bill and I donned our masks, put the dogs in the back seat of the car, and made a fifteen minute pilgrimage to the nearest Krispy Kreme where we waited in the drive-up line for more than an hour to celebrate National Doughnut Day.

This Saturday, according to the Safeway Calendar, happens to be National K-9 Day—a day to remember and celebrate the canine officers and soldiers who serve our country as members of both law enforcement and the military. A few weeks ago, a K-9 officer in nearby Snohomish County was severely injured in a shoot-out and had to be medically retired.

So this Saturday, let’s make it a day to remember not only our own beloved canines, but also the ones we don’t know personally—the ones who sniff out drugs at airports and border crossings; the ones who participate in search and rescue operations; the ones who go out each night on routine patrol assignments. Like their human partners, those animals work every day to serve and protect. They deserve our gratitude.

And not just on National K-9 Day, either.