Huckleberry's Alter Ego

There's no questions that pets can be real characters, so it's not surprising that pets have a way of turning up in my books.

In Bandia, the main character has a horse named Dart, a project horse she got off the track and is training to be a jumper.  The money to buy and keep Dart comes right out of her college fund, and Brianna has to sell Dart if she wants to go to college. Dart is based on a horse I had in high school named Heart, an appendix quarter horse that I got off the track and trained as a jumper, and yes, had to sell in order to go to college.  Dart was easy to write because he was real.  His habit of nudging Brianna's pockets in search of carrots is something I remember clearly from those days with Heart.  Certainly, the emotional conflict inherent in commoditizing a beloved animal was well known to me.  Horses were a huge part of my life as a teen, and it felt like I was honoring Heart by giving him life on the page.

With Spies, the chicken came before the egg.  Or is it the other way around?  I started writing the book in June 2009, I know this because the main character's pet, Lulu, appeared in the early chapters.  Lulu is a sweet-natured Saint Bernard that takes up most of the available space in Berry and her father's detached condo.  I had never had a Saint Bernard before.  In fact, I had lost my own beloved Akita a few months before I started writing and was missing having a dog around the house.  Not surprisingly, Lulu grew on me very quickly.

Within a week of Lulu appearing on the page, I began doing "research" online, finding information about the breed and its history.  Soon I was trolling breeder websites for puppy pictures.  And before long, I was calling breeders to interview them about their dogs.  The next weekend, I found myself driving to visit a breeder three hours away to "look" at puppies.  I might have borrowed my daughter's SUV, loaded a kennel in the back and taken my checkbook along too.

Three hours later, I was the proud owner of Huckleberry (that's him on the right), my own ten week old Saint Bernard of Doom.  Huckleberry is as sweet and as loving as I imagined Lulu to be.  He also provides me with details that I never could have imagined on my own.

How could I know that the soft fur behind his ears would be forever tangled, no matter how often it is brushed?  I would have no understanding of what it's like to dress up to go out only to have a Saint wipe a long line of drool across your skirt.  How could I know that a dog this big would be afraid to come to the door unless he knew the person on the other side?  How else would I know that Saint Bernard drool dries to the consistency of Elmer's glue?

These are the rich details that come from living with and loving a pet. Call it method writing.

Pets bring humor and love to our lives, is it any wonder that they also bring something to the page?


I LOVE seeing Huck's baby pictures! OMG. So cute!

I know! I had no chance of getting out of there without a pup.

Easy to see how Huckleberry would be a muse--or that Lulu would bring you Huckleberry? How about the horse department--do you think you'll ever have another one?

I don't think I'll ever have another horse. I've had five over the years and even worked as a trainer for a few years. I stopped riding not long after a serious injury. But that's another story...

Cracking up about the drool/glue detail! I had no idea. Huck is ADORABLE! (all-caps totally justified here) And now I can't wait to meet Lulu!

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