Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to share tales of the dogs she’s known and loved.
Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. Purebred Dead, the first in a new series, will be out in August 2015.
It started when I was maybe twelve. My brother and I had been pestering my parents for a dog a long time. However, we lived in an apartment (nothing like the big complexes of today, but still, an apartment) and a dog was out of the question. But not after we bought a house. They were out of excuses and my brother and I started searching for a dog. Not just any dog, mind you, but an Irish setter. I’d been given Big Red for my birthday and convinced my brother that was the kind of dog we wanted to own. We found her, too. An undernourished, filthy thing living chained to a dog house in the Hollywood hills. She had marks on her neck from a too tight chain, and a burn on the end of her tail from her owner’s cigarette. My mother was appalled, my brother and I were determined. Penny rode all the way home on my lap. She got a sorely needed bath before she entered the house and for her first month she ate anything she could scrounge. She even ate the soap in the bathroom and gave the fake fruit in the bowl on the dining room table a try. She was a wonderful dog.
I married young and while my husband was finishing up his college degree and I was working we couldn’t afford a dog. Then the children came but somehow a dog didn’t. A cat claimed us, but finally my oldest daughter made him promise if she found a sheltie for free, we could have a dog. Enter Mindy. My daughter, who was a 4 H member, took Mindy to obedience training. Mindy took to obedience like it was the best game in town. She sat, stayed, came, heeled with a smile on her face and her tail held high. She was with us once at a county fair. My daughter put her on a bale of hay and told her to sit, stay. We all went to the ring to watch her show her calf, and forgot about Mindy. When we returned, jubilantly waving the blue ribbon my daughter and Poly Jayne, her calf, had just won, Mindy was still there, sitting on her bale of hay. Now that’s a good dog.
After that, dogs seemed to flow through my life with great regularity. There was Roxie, my oldest daughter’s Seeing Eye dog project for 4H. She went back to the institute when she was about a year old to start training for her career, but had hip dysplasia and was washed out of the program. We were all despondent when Roxie left, but one day the phone rang, it was the director saying she would be put up for adoption, were we interested. We all were there to meet her plane. Then there was Ira, an English cocker spaniel, who I found walking down the middle of the road, almost tiptoeing his pads were so sore, full of burs and other filth. Ira loved calves and spent a lot of time at the fence that separated us from the pasture next door, licking the calves’ noses. And Thea, who was tossed out of a car at the top of our hill. She crept down toward my barn, apology for what I don’t know written all over her, wondering if she might have a bite to eat. I thought I was fattening her up nicely until the day she presented us with 6 puppies. And then there was Bandit, an Italian Greyhound, the first of 5 IG’s who would eventually share my home and bed. Bandit, however, was the only one who was insane. But I adored him, and he me. Bandit’s unconditional love got me through some tough times.
Then came Shea, another German Shepard and a very special dog. Shea and her companion, Laney, the shyest of all my IG’s, crossed the US three times with me by car. They loved to travel, were really good in elevators, and I felt very safe with Shea by my side.
She passed over the Rainbow Bridge a few years ago, followed not too long after by Laney. I decided I wouldn’t get another dog. I would just keep the cat and make my life easier. However “the best laid plans of mice and men…” There are 3 dogs stretched out on the floor of my office, keeping me company as I write this. Lefty is missing a left leg (hence Lefty but that wasn’t my idea) after an unfortunate encounter with a car. His owners never claimed him, so now he spends his days at my home and nights and week-ends at my grandchildren’s. Maggie, another IG, came to me just in time to escape the gas chamber. She’s wild, is fond of leaping into my lap as I write. I blame all my typos on her. Millie, ah, Millie. She was tossed out of a car behind Tractor Supply and was smart enough to go into the store looking for help. She found it. We’re not sure of her ancestry, but think she may be a cocker/poodle mix. But maybe not. What she is, is wonderful, loving, very hairy, and very cute. She was partly my inspiration for Purebred Dead.
There were others, all deeply loved and loving. After all those dogs, I had to write a book where the dog is a main character, now didn’t I?
Purebred Dead is the first in the new Mary McGill canine mysteries. Mary McGill, retired school teacher, is a pillar of the community. She has a finger in every pie, a seat on every committee. Everything Mary organizes runs smoothly—until today. The traditional Christmas pageant is this year hosting a Posada, but the manger isn’t empty. It contains a bloodstained corpse and a black and white puppy. Two local children see a shadowy figure fleeing from the scene—but there are no other clues as to the identity of the killer. Mary, who has no experience with dogs, finds she’d better learn, and fast. She’s sure if she can find out why the puppy was there, she will be one step closer to helping find the killer. Instead, she finds another corpse, and Millie, a cocker spaniel who unexpectedly needs a home. Mary, Millie, and the children discover who the murderer really is and…well, let’s say it wasn’t the safest day of their lives. To find out what happened, you’ll just have to read the book.
Publishers Weekly gave this book a lovely review, so did Library Journal. It will be released Aug 1., so be sure to ask for it at your local bookstore, or ask your librarian if they have their copies yet.