Have you heard of the proverbial dog-and-pony show? That’s my life.
Unfortunately the pony only passed through briefly. The dogs? They’re a permanent fixture. The first thing I do every morning when I get out of bed is run downstairs and let the dogs outside. Not that they’re complaining. They’re Standard Poodles (all six of them) so they’re incredibly polite. But they’ve been inside all night so, you know…
Then I make coffee. Or if I’m lucky my husband, Sam, has already beaten me to the coffee maker. My sons Davey and Kevin are twelve and almost-three. (When you’re Kev’s age, every little bit counts.) I spend the next half hour making sure that Davey gets ready to go to school and that he doesn’t miss the bus. If he has his homework, his gym clothes, and his lunch with him, that’s a plus. Kev? Mostly I try to keep him from tipping over the dogs’ water bowl, a feat which he finds vastly entertaining. Not only that but he’s apt to tempt Tar (our only dumb Poodle) to splash around in the resulting mess with him.
Once I get things off and running for the day, I’m pretty much guaranteed to hear from my Aunt Peg. Margaret Turnbull is a force of nature. There’s just no other way to describe her. She’s been breeding Standard Poodles since before I was born and she knows everything there is to know about both her chosen breed and about dogs in general. Before Aunt Peg and I had bonded over a missing stud dog, the only pet I’d ever owned was a frog. Like the pony, it was a short relationship.
But now, thanks to Aunt Peg’s unrelenting (some might say heavy handed) guidance, I too am a Poodle breeder and dog show exhibitor. And I’ll tell you something I never realized before I got involved in that world. There’s a lot of potential for mayhem and misdeeds at dog shows. It’s not just about pretty puppies and frou frou hair do’s. When it comes to the judging—that ultimate decision of whose dog is better than all the others—those people are intensely serious. Oh they’ll tell you they’re having fun—and some of them actually are. But others, well, they’re there to win at any cost.
Which is how I ended up solving mysteries.
Believe me, it wasn’t the way I thought my life was going to turn out. When all this began, I was a single mother and a special education teacher in the Stamford, CT public school system. Davey and I led a calm and orderly existence. And then Aunt Peg got involved. As I’ve since discovered, that’s always an adventure.
Did I mention that Aunt Peg is a magnet for trouble? Well, she is. Although to tell the truth, she’s just as likely to be stirring up trouble as attracting it. Mostly I just try to stay out of the line of fire. But I suppose I must have inherited a smidge of Aunt Peg’s trouble-gene because somehow that never seems to work.
So now I have an expanded family, a new job, and a house filled with six Standard Poodles. Looking back, I don’t know how I ever thought my life was complete without canine companionship. Or Aunt Peg’s meddling. Or puzzles to solve that keep me guessing until the very end. It’s a messy, crazy, mosh pit of a life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
You can read more about Melanie in Death of a Dog Whisperer, the 17th book in the “Melanie Travis” mystery series, published by Kensington. The first book in the series is A Pedigree to Die For.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on August 29 for the chance to win a copy of DEATH OF A DOG WHISPERER. Two (2) lucky winners will be chosen at random. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.
Meet the author
Laurien Berenson is the author of twenty-nine novels that have sold more than two million copies worldwide. Her cozy mystery series revolves around the world of dog shows, a milieu she knows well as her family has been involved in the sport of dogs for three generations. There are currently seventeen Melanie Travis canine mysteries, the latest of which, DEATH OF A DOG WHISPERER, came out in August.
Berenson is a four time winner of the Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Assoc. of America and a winner of the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award. She is also an Agatha and Macavity nominee. Her work has appeared in The New York Times as well as numerous magazines. She is a graduate of Vassar College, and she and her husband live on a farm in Kentucky, surrounded by horses and dogs.