Catwalk“She doesn’t act her age.” Can you believe someone said that about me recently? I wish I’d been there—I would have asked the guy who said it just exactly how a woman in her fifties is supposed to act. Then I would have fantasized about confirming his opinion in some spectacularly “age inappropriate” way! But I digress. . .

According to my source (and love of my life, anthropologist, fellow animal nut, and all around good guy Tom Saunders), I seem to lack “decorum.” And I dress funny—meaning very casual with lots of hair, my own mess and whatever I collect from dogs, cats, horses, and other critters. Tom couldn’t stop laughing long enough to tell me this in complete sentences. It all came out in spurts and bits while he whooped and wiped his eyes. I have to admit, I found it hilarious too, even if I was outraged. Especially when I heard that my critic couldn’t understand why I “wasted so much time on animals.” That was a slap at Tom, I’m sure—he and his black Lab, Drake, are always out doing something. Drake even goes to the university with Tom (which caused a bit of a “thing” last year with the same critic, who happens to be a dean). And now Tom’s looking for a puppy.

It’s true, I spend a lot of time with animals. First, I’m a serious animal lover and proud of it. I’m Janet MacPhail, and I’m pretty well known among pet lovers in northern Indiana and surrounds. You see, I’m a professional animal photographer (you’ve probably seen some of my photos in calendars and books and magazines). At the moment I have a gorgeous Australian Shepherd, Jay, and a brave and handsome orange tabby, Leo. I can’t guarantee I won’t add more critters to the mix at some point. And of course Drake is almost half mine, since Tom and I have been romantically involved for almost a year now.

I also train and compete in a variety of dog sports and—this is new—cat agility. No, really, Leo and I have entered our first feline agility trial, and we’re having great fun training. Jay and I have been at it a bit longer, and we compete in agility and obedience, and we do some tracking. (Jay does the tracking with his magnificent nose; I bring up the rear.) The tracking has proven a life saver on more than one occasion, as I’ve gotten tangled up in some nasty happenings over the past twelve months.

Who would think so much could happen in one short year? My life in Fort Wayne, Indiana, used to be pretty routine—a photo shoot here, a dog show there, with cat cuddles and hikes in between. I still do all that, but now I also have to balance the ups and downs of loving Tom, and the ins and outs of nursing-home care for my mother. And, it seems, the terrors and intrigues of homicide investigations.

Tom should ask his buddy the dean what he thinks about that. I’d like to listen in. I mean, if he thinks playing with animals is inappropriate “for a woman my age,” what would he say about murder?

You can read more about Janet in Catwalk, the third book in the “Animals in Focus” mystery series, published by Midnight Ink. The first book in the series is Drop Dead on Recall, followed by The Money Bird.

Meet the author
Sheila Webster Boneham writes the Animals in Focus mystery series. Best-seller Drop Dead on Recall, the first in the series, won the 2013 Maxwell Award for Fiction from the Dog Writers Association of America and was NBC Petside Top Ten Dog book of 2012. Sheila has been involved with many sides of the animal world and has written seventeen nonfiction books about dogs and cats, six of which have won major awards. You can find Sheila at, or at her Writers & Other Animals blog at, or on Facebook.

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