Monday, January 23, 2017

Puppies are Killer

By Tracy Weber

Life sometimes imitates fiction. I send my completed manuscripts to my publisher over a year before they hit the shelves. A Fatal Twist was out of my hands in mid-December of 2015. I decided to include two puppies (Mutt and Jeff) in the book, because … well, because I like puppies. And nothing is funnier than crazy puppy antics. At least if those puppies belong to somebody else.
My own dog, Tasha (who inspired Bella, the German shepherd in my Downward Dog Mystery Series) was eleven when I wrote A Fatal Twist. Tasha was an unbelievably easy puppy, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Calm, never destructive. She always wanted to be by my side. If I told her not to do something, once was enough. Don’t get me wrong: She had lots of behavior issues as an adult, and she was impossible to potty train. Other than that, she was a dream puppy.
So I had to reach deep into my imagination to create Mutt and Jeff, the two tiny labradoodle monsters introduced in A Fatal Twist. Mutt and Jeff love to chew—everything. They dig up Kate’s garden. They abhor confinement and make it their life’s work to escape. They adore other dogs, especially when they’re biting them in the face, and they play-attack shoes—while people are walking in them. When I finished the book, I wondered: Did I make the puppies too unbelievable?
In July of 2016, my lovely girl Tasha passed away. A few weeks later, I adopted a new best friend. She’s an all-black German shepherd puppy named Ana, and as I write this, she just turned five months old. Her name is short for Ananda, which means “unending joy.” When I chose her name, I failed to consider what unending joy might look like in the eyes of a puppy.
She loves to chew paper—$20 bills and unfinished manuscripts are her favorites. She digs holes in my yard faster than my husband can fix them. She refuses to be confined. Thus far she’s learned how to wiggle out of three styles of harnesses and jump four-foot fences. Yesterday, she decided to start opening doorknobs. She likes to play “bitey-face” with all other canines, whether they enjoy the game or not. She attacks my pant legs when I walk. I’ve had to replace half of my wardrobe.
See any parallels?
My Facebook friends tell me to train her. Believe me, I’m trying. Her trainers (two primary and an additional three at puppy camp) look at me, shake their heads, and smile. “Ana is very independent,” they say. “Ana is a challenge. When she wants to do something, she figures out how to do it.” Then they add. “Ana is fearless.” Her breeder told me the week before I got her, “Ana is adventuresome,” and “Ana is brilliant.”
Ana can also be a pain in the patootie.
She is going to be a fabulous adult, not at all plagued by the fears that haunted Tasha. She’s smart, confident, loving, athletic, empathetic, and stubborn.

I adore her.
But I have to admit that as I re-read the scenes describing Mutt and Jeff’s chaos, I wonder if I was somehow channeling my future. Did I subconsciously know that my next puppy would be one that “shouldn’t go to an inexperienced owner?” Tasha taught be how to love, help, and learn from a flawed, fearful, health-compromised being. Maybe Ana is here to teach me the opposite: how to embrace, love, and learn from an independent soul who thwarts me at every turn.
My gut tells me yes.
My readers often ask if Ana will show up in my future books. I answer yes, and with great confidence.
She already has.

Tracy Weber

All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!


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