Dogs in Stories and in Life

Kathleen Delaney and FriendsKathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today with a few thoughts on how important pets are in real life and in books.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now.


Yesterday Maggie came to live with me. She is an Italian Greyhound and weighs less than 10 pounds. IG’s are shown in the toy group and are small, but 10 pounds is grossly underweight even for them. She was turned into a rapid kill shelter by the people who had her because, the lady said, she snapped at her five year old child.

I sympathize with the woman. The dog was wrong for their family and placing her somewhere more appropriate was called for. Setting her up for almost certain death, wasn’t.

Millie the mop also lives with me. She is a small black bundle of hair with endless energy. She is no longer underweight. She was, however, when she was thrown out of a car behind Tractor Supply in a small South Carolina town. Luckily for her, someone saw what happened and called rescue. Not a kill shelter. A close friend, who rescues dogs, sent me an email with a picture telling me about her, as she did with Maggie. The rest is history. Both of them are playing on my bed as I type this, watched closely by Lefty the three legged wonder dog, who is forbidden my bed because of his size. A rule not always observed. The only one not joining in the fun is the cat, who sits on my lap watching it all with great distain.

Kathleen's grandkids, Ronaldo and Dalia, with Maggie

Kathleen’s grandkids, Ronaldo and Dalia, with Maggie

These dogs got lucky because I had suddenly found myself dogless, a condition I don’t seem to be able to tolerate. My beloved shepard, Shea, passed away a couple of years ago, and that left just Laney, also an IG, and me. And the cat. I told myself that suited me just fine. I didn’t need to have a house full of animals. Or kids. Or books. I had too many of all those things. At my age, I needed peace, quiet, no responsibilities.

So I left South Carolina and moved to Georgia to be nearer to two of my grandchildren, who are here every day. I also moved I don’t know how many books, but they fill the bookcases in the living room and in my small office. Boxes of them remain unpacked in a closet, and more boxes, mostly ones I have written, are stacked on the floor. But I was down to two animals.

Then Laney died. I knew she was in a bad way and I think she was glad to go. We did everything we could, but in the end, old age was more powerful than any drugs available. She is at peace. However, I’m not. My house once more overflows with children, books, and dogs. How did this happen, I wonder, and why do I do it?

I’m not alone. Especially about the dogs. I recently heard a report on what Americans spend each year on pet supplies and was amazed. I’ll bet they spend that much, and maybe more, in England and France and possibly other European countries. Dogs are everywhere you look in Europe, even on buses and trains and in restaurants. No, I’m not alone.

Murder by SyllabubDogs populate books as well. Especially cozies. I don’t think Sam Spade had a dog, and come to think of it, neither did Miss Marple. They are, however, in plenty of other books, often with starring roles, as are cats. I’m sure you can think of many, some who solve crimes, some who help solve crimes, some who narrate the story. We do love our animals.

I am among those who include animals in their books. Mine don’t narrate nor do they solve the murder, but they help out in various ways. In Murder by Syllabub, the IG, Petal, one of the dogs that reside in the eighteenth century plantation house, digs up a vital clue. Jake, a yellow tom cat, saves Ellen’s life in the first of the Ellen McKenzie real estate mysteries, Dying for a Change. Jake actually didn’t mean to save her life and wasn’t one bit happy about how it happened, but I’m quite sure he was glad she didn’t die. She’s the one who supplies the cat food.

The second book in the series, Give First Place to Murder, deals a lot with horses but if you have horses you also have dogs and cats. They go together. Not sure why, but they do.

And Murder for Dessert features a standard poodle and Jake reappears in Murder Half-Baked.

We’ve set things up over the years so that the animals we’ve made pets or have domesticated in some way can no longer live without us. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but it’s a true one. However, they’ve turned the tables on us. We’d be hard pressed to live without them either. At least, evidently I would.

How about you?

Kathleen with Lefty, Millie and Maggie

Kathleen with Lefty, Millie and Maggie