Pet Spotlight: A.E. Wasserman and Topper

The Tale of Topper

Topper, my Border Collie* muse, can indeed be amusing, but he is also murderous. He entices me to kill people, (in my historical mysteries/thrillers) then promptly helps me solve the deadly crime. He knows where both the bones and the bodies are buried.

My muse has his methods.

He takes me with him for long mountain hikes on the weekends, up through forests to the high meadows. Away from urban urgencies. 

Topper and I follow a trail toward the top of Mount Pinos in the Los Padres National Forest. It’s there that characters enter my head and plots begin to twist and turn as much as the path does through the Douglas Firs. His paws and my feet tread where Chumash Indians once walked, where tectonic plates steadily broke the earth’s crust to build these granite mountains. Condors glide above, wings spread wide, while cottontails scamper in the brush.

Sitting almost 9000 feet above sea level on the summit, with the 360-degree view and an endless sky, there is no limit to the imagination. I go back in my mind’s eye a century or more, crossing continents with knives, poisons and bullets; time travel and murder at their best. I am at the top of all things with muse Topper.

He was eight weeks old when we found each other. I’d gone to look at some adult canines about three hours away, but hadn’t found any that seized my heart strings. There was yet another place to go but it was late and I was tired of looking for, and not finding, a dog to fill a broken place in my heart. This next ranch was yet another hour away. I almost didn’t go. “But,” I thought, “I’m already this far from home, so I might as well.” Losing the argument to myself, I sighed and drove on.

Sixty minutes later, I parked and was about to go knock on the ranch house door when this unexpected black and white fur-ball came tumbling out of a vineyard across a dirt road. He steamrolled a brother and shoulder-checked his way to the kibble in the feed bowl. Independent, brave and bold. While he ate, I looked around and realized where I was standing—right next to the large “Settler’s Ditch,” a slough I had written about a month earlier in my then work-in-progress novel. 1886 Ties That Bind is a tale of another ranch with a different Border Collie well over a century ago. Although I knew the history of this area like the back of my hand, I hadn’t been thinking about where I was that day. I stood looking back and forth between the freckled-faced pup and the water flowing strong in the ditch and knew. He was the one.

Fate, the Universe, or whatever one wishes to call it when the cosmic tumblers line up, had brought us together.

Topper is not a “Velcro” dog. He does not lie at my feet or follow me from room to room. He is an independent alpha male who finds a spot by a doorway or gate, protecting me from potential predators. Still, he knows where I am and what I am doing, even if he is not in the same room. 




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