Open to Pawssibilities

Always looking for inspiration and generally finding it, Fran lives her life with enthusiasm and expectancy. Her two grand-dogs, an Australian Shepherd and a GBBD (Great Big Brown Dog), live nearby and provide lots of doggie licks and laughter. Nationally bestselling author of fourteen books, including the Biscuit McKee mystery series and the ScotShop mysteries, as well as A Slaying Song Tonight and From the Tip of My Pen: a workbook for writers, she lives and writes quietly with various rescued cats beside a creek on the other side of Hog Mountain, Georgia, after having moved repeatedly from her birth through her fourth decade. The small fictional towns she writes about embody the hometown she always wanted—except for the murders.

I love the way dogs approach life. They’re always open to the endless (excuse me) pawssibilities. It’s one of their most endearing qualities. Whether it’s a Frisbee, treat time, a tug with a toy, dinner, a bush to sniff, a walk, a run in the park or just around the yard—you name it, a dog is up to it. They also make darn good characters for a murder mystery.

Consider Scamp and Silla, the two Scotties in A Wee Homicide in the Hotel. Scamp came into the ScotShop series in book number two, A Wee Dose of Death, when Gilda, the ScotShop’s assistant manager, began bringing him to work with her. Scamp won the heart of Peggy, the owner and main character, when he showed a flair for showmanship that invariably brought customers streaming into the store. He loved to pose (there is no other word for what he was doing) as only a Scottie can, on the tartan-draped ottoman in the front display window. Here’s what Peggy has to say about him:

I left for the ScotShop in a dire mood, but when I got there, my mood changed instantly. I found a crowd of people oohing in front of one of my display windows. Yesterday it had contained four kilted mannequins, several artful stacks of Fair Isle sweaters, and a selection of books, bookends, and other items. Now, nestled between two of the mannequins, was an ottoman covered in a tartan shawl that I recognized as one of Gilda’s. Scamp sprawled in Scottie splendor on the ottoman, basking in the admiration, his head resting on a soft fat Loch Ness Monster pillow.

“Come on in,” I told the crowd. “Feel free to browse.”

“I want to buy the dog,” one woman said. “Is he for sale?”

“No, but you can buy one of those sweaters next to the dog’s throne.”

I sold four sweaters, two Monster pillows, and five boxes of shortbread, thanks to Scamp. He was hired.

Then there is Silla, who joins the ScotShop canine crew in Wee Homicide. She comes to town with Big Willy, her human, for the annual Highland Festival, and almost immediately meets up with the bad human:

Silla pranced beside her person. She did not like the other one, but she enjoyed the walk along the winding streets. She tried not to listen to the two people. When they moved between two houses, left the buildings behind, and entered the forest path, she fairly quivered with excitement. This was a new place, one she had never seen before.

“Okay, you win,” her person said, and Silla heard the sadness in his voice. “But after that, I want you to leave us alone.”

Us. That was right. Silla and her person. Us.

Silla wanted that other person to go away.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” that person said. “I never want to see you again. Not after what you did to her.”

Silla looked around. To who? She didn’t see another her anywhere. Only an empty path.

Her person looked at that shiny thing on his hand and then he reached into the place where he kept Silla’s treats. Silla’s ears perked up, but all her person took out was that other thing he kept with the treats. Silla had tried to chew on it once when he left the little bag on his bed, but he had taken it away from her.

“Here they are,” her person said. “And I never want to have to deal with you again.”

The other person said something, but Silla had lost interest as soon as her person closed the treat holder. She saw a squirrel cross the path up ahead, so she ignored all the rest of the words.

It was fun writing a few scenes from the dog’s point of view. Here’s another:

Silla was delighted with such a long walk. Especially when that other person turned around and went back the way they had come. Then it was just Silla and her person. And squirrels. And bushes to sniff. And deep leaf mold. And the fragrant footprints of raccoons and even a skunk.

Her person’s footsteps got slower and slower. When he finally stopped walking altogether, Silla went back and leaned against his leg. Her nose, so full of exciting smells, caught the whiff of sadness. And of pain. And of anger. Silla stood, stretched her legs wide apart, and growled, even though she was not sure what she was growling at.

Her person laughed and reached down to stroke her back. Silla liked that. She liked the fresh happy smell. She liked being able to change her person’s unhappy to gladness.

“As long as I have you, Silla,” her person said. “As long as I have you, all that other stuff doesn’t matter.”

Silla could have told him that. If he had asked her.

As I said, the pawssibilities never end. Who’s your favorite dog in the whole world? Have you ever found a dog like your own in a mystery?