Pet Spotlight: Sue Owens Wright

DSCN0206NOSES FOR CRIME

by

Sue Owens Wright

When a writer and lifelong dog lover has been owned by a total of thirteen basset hounds, it’s reasonable to assume that they might end up being written about. If that person is also a mystery novelist, her dogs can inspire fictional characters such as Cruiser, the crime-busting canine in my Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series. The basset hound breed, with a scenting ability second only to that of the bloodhound, seemed to me the perfect sidekick for Elsie “Beanie” MacBean, the amateur sleuth in the series. Unlike their taller hound cousins who were bred to run alongside hunters on horseback, bassets were specially bred low to the ground for being followed on foot when out on the hunt. In my first book, Howling Bloody Murder, Cruiser sniffs out the first victim while Beanie is walking him on the Tahoe Rim Trail. He’s been helping Beanie track bad guys (and gals) at Lake Tahoe ever since. Cruiser also provides plenty of comic relief for these tales of murder in the High Sierra. With their Dumbo ears, sausage-shaped bodies and stubby legs, bassets are just natural-born clowns. Whenever people see them walking down the street, they can’t help but smile.

My dogs provide me with endless material for my books. They are always doing something odd or amusing that ends up in a plot. My fictional dog, Cruiser, is most like my first male basset hound, Bubba Gump. Bubba was a great guy and lived to 14 years old, which is long-lived for the breed. He loved to play Frisbee with a mini bagel before he ate it. He would fling it repeatedly across the room. Guess who got to fetch it? Although I began writing my first mystery novel before I had Bubba, he became the barketype for Cruiser, gentle and easy-going but always ready to defend his mistress if need be. Case in point: Bubba once chased after a paramedic who had responded to an emergency at our house, ripping the seat of his pants as he sailed over our three-foot picket fence to escape the attack basset. I was gob-smacked. So was the paramedic! Who’d ever have thought that a funny looking, slo-mo basset would be such a fierce protector? He wasn’t about to let that paramedic take his mom anywhere. Cruiser does the same for Beanie on numerous occasions in my books. Bubba was a devoted companion to me, just as Cruiser is for Beanie, a widow who lives alone in her mountain cabin. I still miss my boy, but he lives on in Cruiser’s character.

In the fourth book, Braced for Murder, I introduce another canine character to the series. Calamity, a tri-colored female basset hound, becomes Cruiser’s new partner in crime. Calamity is aptly named because she’s the polar opposite of Cruiser in every possible way. She’s trouble with a capital T. Like my own bassets, Cruiser and Calamity are both rescued dogs. Calamity is a composite of my two most challenging adoptees, Daisy and Peaches. Crazy Daisy, as I jokingly called her, was paws-down my worst dog ever, but it wasn’t her fault. She was a pet shop girl and the product of an Iowa puppy mill, I would later discover. Unsocialized, neglected, and abused, she came to me with an assortment of behavioral issues, though I loved her just as much as all my other dogs. My current shelter dog, Peaches, also has some issues from her checkered past, though they’re not as bad as Daisy’s were. The good news is that their hilarious shenanigans have provided me with a gold mine of ideas for Calamity’s character.

For example, Calamity is constantly getting into trouble eating things she shouldn’t, like Beanie’s earrings. Daisy once did the same thing. My earrings kept mysteriously vanishing. She certainly wasn’t wearing them, although her extra long ears would have been perfect for multiple piercings. Can you imagine that? I hadn’t a clue where my earrings could have disappeared to until I finally discovered the Jewels of the Pile in our back yard one day. I’ll spare you the details of how I retrieved my jewelry.
Sue and Bubba_Head shot
After nearly 40 years living with all those marvelous hounds of mine, I have no doubt that I’ll never exhaust the wealth of inspiration they have provided me for Beanie’s canine companions. My dogs and I have never solved a crime together, but as with Cruiser and Calamity, you never know what trouble those keen noses of theirs might get into next.

Sue Owens Wright is an author of both fiction and nonfiction about dogs and writes the award-winning Pets & Their People newspaper column and the Healthy Pet column for AKC GAZETTE. She is a ten-time nominee for the coveted Maxwell, awarded annually by the Dog Writers Association of America to the best writer on the subject of dogs.

She has twice won the Maxwell Award and also earned special recognition from the Humane Society of the United States for her work. She writes the popular Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series for dog lovers, which includes the following novels: Howling Bloody Murder, Sirius About Murder, Embarking on Murder and the soon-to-be-released Braced for Murder (May 2013). Her nonfiction books include What’s Your Dog’s IQ?, 150 Activities for Bored Dogs, and People’s Guide to Pets, to which she contributed chapters on dog care for Borders.
Learn more about Sue and her work at Sue’s site.