Pet Spotlight: Atlas and Abbey

Meet Atlas and Abbey, my four-legged kids who are the reason we have a TO RELEASE HOUNDS PRESS HERE doorbell. Also, the reason we warn house guests not to wear black–it clashes with the brown fur they’ll inevitably wear home–and the reason we drive a gas-guzzling SUV. (Have you tried to fit two hundred and fifty pounds of dog in a Prius?) We rescued Abbey as a crawling-with-worms-and-fleas five-week-old pup. She’s a seventy pound, six-year-old now, extremely attached to me and the most neurotic dog in the world. (My husband uses this fact to point out how dogs end up like their owners. I pretend I don’t know what he’s talking about as I check to make sure the coffee pot is off for the fifth time.) She’s terrified of thunder so during the summer she spends every afternoon shaking under the bed. Did I mention we live in Florida? She also has very poor social skills. After getting attacked at a dog park by a five pound dog, she is now insecure and very aggressive with small dogs. She’s a fast learner though, right? We tried trainers, who helped her a bit but never to the point we could trust her again at a dog park. So, we did what any sane dog parents would do. We got her a 180 pound mastiff to play with at home, Atlas. Atlas is truly a gentle giant and they are inseparable. But Atlas is also what one trainer called “an independent thinker” and not in a good way. Atlas can open doors … with door knobs. Also, he’ll only listen to me if he first thinks my request through and decides it’s in his best interest. He’s truly the smartest dog I’ve ever had. His favorite show is Game of Thrones (I think he has a crush on a certain direwolf); he won’t do tricks for anything less than peanut butter slathered apple slices and his favorite place to nap is on my yoga mat. In fact his obsession with my yoga mat gave me the idea for FAUX PAS, the first book in my new Paws & Pose mystery series. I can’t imagine my life without these two, and not only because they inspire my writing, but because they are the greatest teachers of unconditional love on the planet. Shannon Shannon Esposito lives in a magical gulf coast town with fluorescent sunsets, purple dragonflies and the occasional backyard alligator. Her mysteries transport readers to Florida without the hefty price of airfare. Although she knew from the age of five she wanted to be a writer, she briefly entertained the idea of being a scientist, until she found out it involved math, which gives her hives. She shares this little corner of paradise with her husband, twin boys and dogs. If she’s not writing, you’ll find her coddling one of the above, hiding with a book or daydreaming with her toes in the sand. You can visit her at murderinparadise.com FAUX PAS is now available in the U.K. and will be released in the  U.S. in...

Terrence McCauley: A Lesson from Hopeless

My first cat was named Hopeless. My father gave her that name because of the long, lamenting meow she had when we brought her home from the pet store. Even as a three month old kitten, she had a hell of a pair of lungs on her. Hopeless was a small gray and white tigress who really didn’t like to do much. She didn’t play or run around or get into mischief like most cats do. She didn’t even like to eat a whole lot. She was a timid, nervous cat who preferred my mother’s company and could care less about my father or me. When we brought her to the vet for her first check-up, they told us she probably wouldn’t live very long. She was small and lethargic and would be prone to sickness. My parents both smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and weren’t interested in quitting any time soon. That meant the cat would probably breathe in about four packs of cigarettes every day for the rest of her life. We’d be lucky if she lived a couple of years. My parents and I decided to keep her anyway. A shelter probably would have put her to sleep immediately and we wanted to give her as good a quality of life as we could. Hopeless stopped growing after a few months and remained a skinny cat for the rest of her life. Her paws were tiny, smaller than my thumb. My parents cut back on their smoking a little, but not much. Hopeless lasted the first year and another year and we began to think she might beat the odds. After my parents died, my wife and I brought Hopeless into our home. She was still a nervous, distant cat, which ultimately caused her to have hyper-tension that caused her to go blind. But Hopeless didn’t give up and we didn’t give up on her. As the years went on, she started eating more than ever – two cans a day plus a bowl of dry food. She never gained an ounce. Her weight remained a steady five pounds. Hopeless was still an old cat by the time I began concentrating on starting a writing career. She’d already defied the odds for so long, she served as something of an inspiration to me. If this little animal had the will to endure after losing her owner (my mom) and without being very strong or even being able to see, I should be able to find a way to overcome all of the many obstacles most writers face as they try to get their work published. In 2012, I finally achieved my dream and my first novel – PROHIBITION – was published by Airship 27. Soon after, Hopeless went to sleep and dreamed for the last time. The cat the vet told us would only live a year or two was twenty-one years old when she died. And she was still only five pounds. I can’t say Hopeless was my muse. She wasn’t even a very loving cat. But she was a gentle and elegant animal who taught me, in her own way, the most important lesson a writer can learn – the power of perseverance....

Pet Spotlight: Alex Marwood and Baloo

My name is Baloo. I’m just like a cat, only smaller. My slave called me after the bear in the Jungle Book, because I come from a family of giants and I’m blue, but I became perilously ill at ten weeks old, and never got my growth spurt. Two years on, I’m covered in muscles, have the sense of entitlement that comes with devoted nursing, and would fit in the average handbag. But I have no concept of how small I am. I swagger about my patch of London bellowing in my foghorn voice and demanding treats. Cats and people bow before my greatness. My slave got quite despondent the other night, when she arrived at a neighbour’s birthday party to find that I had got there before her and everyone liked me better. I come from a long line of muses – I’m Alex’s third – but I know I was really put on this earth for romance. Well, love and stealing things, but love comes first. I fell in love a year ago. My beau is gigantic, butch and jet black, and his name is Mr Pooky. Our eyes met across a wall and ever since we have dedicated our lives to Grecian wrestling and long, luxurious spooning sessions. I thought for a while that I might set up a Nora Ephron scenario for the slave with Pooky’s serf, Ariel but although they quickly progressed to calling each other ‘darling’, he has never advanced beyond dyeing her hair freakish colours and draping her in pieces of spangly cloth and going ‘There! You see?’. Humans can be very disobedient. Sometimes, though, I tear myself from Pooky’s arms and go to my day job. Musing is demanding work, let me tell you. Slave spends her days cross-legged in bed, smoking and playing with her computer, and I am forced to spend hours on end on my back waiting for her to massage my tummy. She seems to find this inspiring; certainly, she give me my obeisances at the end of each paragraph. To make sure she keeps up the pace, I will occasionally grab her wrist with my claws and gently sink my fangs into her Mount of Venus, just to remind her where her duties lie. I have only written one book so far, but I feel that I’m already an old hand. Seriously: the world of literature would be lost without me.  ...

Pet Spotlight: Tracy Weber and Tasha

Security Chiefs and Soul Mates I never believed in love at first sight until the night I met my three-week-old puppy. I had high expectations of dog ownership. After all, I had dreamt about owning a German shepherd for well over a decade, which was how long it took me to convince my animal-fur-allergic husband that our home—which already housed four cats—had enough space for a one-hundred-pound behemoth. At three weeks old, Tasha wasn’t yet able to show me her personality. She and her littermates barely had their eyes open and they couldn’t control their back ends, so they dragged their legs and tails behind them like miniature seals. Still, I knew she was “the one” as soon as I saw her. I pointed at my new dog, gave the breeder a check for way too much money, and announced that her name was no longer “Puppy,” it was Tasha, after Tasha Yar, the chief of security in Star Trek, the Next Generation. That was my first mistake. Ask any mailman, houseguest, or yoga student that that Tasha has chased out of “her” territory and they’ll tell you: Tasha takes her job as security chief very seriously. Tasha is much like Bella, the dog in my series. She is huge (over a hundred pounds), stubborn, and sometimes unruly. She knows more English than I do and she’s learning to spell. She is also smart, kind, and loyal. Once you’re Tasha-approved, you’re her friend for life. She has suffered from a variety of significant, life-threatening health issues, but she always manages to pull through. Veterinarians and trainers both have told me that if Tasha had been adopted by any other owner, she wouldn’t have lived past the age of two. To be honest, I doubt most people really “get” my connection to this wise, wonderful, deeply flawed creature. They smile politely while I blather on about her newest exploits and roll their eyes at each new health-related expense. Some bluntly ask if I’ve ever considered hiring a dog trainer. Answer? Yes. We’ve gone through dozens of them. Tasha will never be the poster child for German shepherd health and behavior, but she’s exactly the dog the universe intended for me. She’s taught me patience, creativity, and the need to sometimes give up control. Most of all, she’s taught me that I can receive—and give—love without condition. I’m a better person for having had her in my life. At age ten, her muzzle’s going gray, and her walks are getting slower. But I cherish each and every moment I get to share with her. Dog lovers often talk about their “heart dog.” Their one and only doggie soul mate. If it’s true that we only get one in this lifetime, Tasha is mine. I have a feeling I’m her soul mate, too. Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series featuring yoga teacher Kate and her feisty German shepherd, Bella. Tracy loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. The second book in her series, A Killer Retreat, will be published January 8, 2015 by Midnight Ink. Tracy and her husband live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. Visit her at...

Pet Spotlight: Jessie Chandler, Ollie and Fozzy Bear...

  Yo! Ollie here. Our Keeper, Jessie, is gone. Me and my big bro Fozzy Bear are very hungry half-King Charles Spaniel/half-Shih Tzu masters of the realm. I just turned two-years-old last month. Our Keepers threw me a big birthday party with hats that I thought were pretty stupid, and Frosty Paws, which I did not think were stupid. However, a frozen tongue feels funny. Where do you think our Keeper is, Fozzy Bear?   Who cares, Ollie? I’m in the zone. Maxing and relaxing upside down on this soft, comfy blanket the Keepers accidentally left on the floor. I’m waiting for one of the Keepers to come along and give me tummies. That’s Keeper code for tummy rubs. I adore tummies. Tummies. Tummmieeeeees. Ahhhhhhhh. Oh. Focus. What were we talking about, again? Grub. Ah yes. Ollie, your stomach rules your mind. You’re a greedy mutt. Relax.   You know, Fozzy, just because you’re ten months older doesn’t make you the boss of me. I want grub and I want it now. I already pulled out two paper plates from the garbage and licked them off, then shredded them because I was bored.   You’re a born troublemaker, Ollie. The Keepers give you a nice stuffed toy and within a half hour you make the house look like it snowed. Then you run around with the carcass hanging out of your mouth. Cretin.   Like you’re so perfect, Fozzy Bear. I remember when you got a hold of the Keeper’s Fitbit. And then you proceeded to chew it to smithereens. So they got a new one and you did it again. And again. When I think about it, our Keepers are kind of dumb.   What can I say. The Fitbit smelled good. It called to me. I couldn’t resist. Tasted weird though.   At least I only exercise my teeth with what they give me. And since we’re on the subject of chewing, Fozzy Bear, you hog the bones they give us and don’t share. That’s just rude. You suck. You lay on mine. Then you growl at me when I want it back.   Hey, what’s that noise upstairs, Ollie? You should go check it out.   Noise? What noise? Where? Noise? Where? Where is it? Oh. OH! I hear it! Oh BOY! I gotta go!   Ah yes, finally! Peace and quiet. Maybe my pesky brother will leave me alone till Jessie comes home from Caribou Coffee. That’s where she does stuff on that folding metal thing she calls a laptop. She smells like a giant coffee bean, and that’s how I know where she was. She doesn’t even like coffee. I feel so sleepy. Nap. Naaaaaaap. (Sometime later…)   OH! What was that? Ollie? Ollie? Where are you? What was that? The door! The Keeper is at the door! Whoa. I’m stuck upside down. Why can’t I get up?   Fozzy Bear! Stop squirming. I’m trying to get off you. You looked like a big squishy rug laying there that after I went hunting for that phantom noise. I couldn’t help but use you for a giant pillow. Now I know why the Keepers put you on diet dog food. Dog food. OH! I’m starving! Get up, Fozzy Bear! The Keeper is coming in! The Keeper! Grub! It’s grub time!   You’re a spaz, Ollie. Let’s go act like we’ve been sitting by the door all day, waiting for the Keeper to come home. Then she’ll feel guilty and give us extra treats.   Right on, Fozzy Bear. We’ve got her all figured out!   Jessie Chandler is the author of the award-winning Shay O’Hanlon Caper series. Look for Operation Stop Hate (first in a new series) in early 2015, and Blood Money Murder, (Shay #5) mid-2015. Connect with Jessie at www.jessiechandler.com and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/jchandlerauthor...

Pet Spotlight: Spencer Quinn

Here’s my crack research team, Audrey the golden retriever/Bernese mix, and Pearl, purebred golden of the very light-complected variety. Audrey’s almost nine, a wonderful watchdog and a very outdoorsy type. Pearl’s three, getting by on looks alone, and is the indoorsy type – think Zsa Zsa Gabor on a particularly lazy day. They’re both totally lovable, and the Chet and Bernie books would not have been possible without them. They show up every day, work for treats, and have no comprehension of royalties – probably ideal for the post-Bezos world of publishing. Audrey and Pearl remind me that there’s a whole different way of looking at the human world, and that the human world is one among many. Those are actually foundational underpinnings of the Chet and Bernie books, present in almost all the interactions between Chet, the canine narrator, and Bernie, the detective. Audrey and Pearl! Come get a chewy! Spencer Quinn Spencer is the author of six previous Chet and Bernie mystery novels: Dog on It, Thereby Hangs a Tail, To Fetch a Thief, The Dog Who Knew Too Much, A Fistful of Collars, and The Sound and the Furry. He lives on Cape Cod with his dogs Audrey and Pearl. When not keeping them out of mischief, he is hard at work on the next Chet and Bernie mystery. You can learn more by visiting Chet The Dog’s...