Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Dogs in Fiction: From Lassie to Robo, Boy’s Best Friend to Woman’s K-9 Partner

I’ve loved dog books since I was a kid. Lassie Come Home (1940) by Eric Knight.  Old Yeller (1956) by Fred Gipson.  White Fang (1906) and Call of the Wild (1903) by Jack London. 

It wasn’t until I read Virginia Lanier’s bloodhound books that I became hooked on mystery series featuring working dogs. Lanier’s series featured Jo Beth Siddon who raised and trained her bloodhounds as trackers. Siddon worked with Georgia and federal authorities on cases that ranged from a missing child to an escaped killer. I loved that Lanier did not get her first book published until she was 65. Sadly, she passed away at age 72, but still had managed to get six of those amazing novels finished.

Siberian Huskies starred in Joanne Sundell's Watch Eyes Trilogy. Sandi Ault features a wolf in her Wild series.

More recently, I’ve discovered K-9 dogs, trained in specialized skills ranging from search and rescue of humans to drug searches to bomb sniffing.

Sara Driscoll is the pseudonym of writing team Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan. From Driscoll’s website:

“FBI handler Meg Jennings and her black Lab Hawk are part of the FBI’s elite Human Scent Evidence Team, part of the Forensic Canine Unit. Their job―find the missing, lost, escaped, or dead. The team as a whole can be deployed at a moment’s notice around the nation to search for missing children, escaped convicts, or to find the victims of natural disasters.”

Margaret Mizushima’s Robo is handled by sheriff’s deputy, Mattie Cobb. With a husband who’s a veterinarian, it’s not surprising Margaret chose a vet to be Mattie’s best friend, helper, and maybe more as time goes by. .

"This series is set in the beautiful Colorado Rockies, and it features K-9 Deputy Mattie, her dog Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. Together they solve crimes that affect their peaceful mountain community.

The Timber Creek K-9 books are police procedurals with heart. Each adventure contains a combination of K-9 cop action, veterinary work, and family relationships as well as a murder case to investigate and solve."

My newest discovery is Barbara Nickless. Her railroad police special agent Sydney Rose Parnell partners with K-9 Clyde. Both are Iraq war vets with grief and trauma issues to overcome while they try to work in a civilian police job where danger threatens their ability to cope. 

When I think of an author doing research for K-9 mysteries, I think of writers doing interviews with the experts, perhaps going along on a search and rescue assignment. There’s one Colorado writer I know, however, who’s gathering a world of first-hand experience through her Sherlock Hounds Detection Canines business.

Kathleen Donnelly Mayger is working on her first novel featuring a female K-9 handler for the National Forest Service.

So, have you noticed the similarities among all these newer series? Female authors from Colorado. Female protagonists. Do men write dog books anymore? Do you have any dog or K-9 series to add to this list? What about cozies featuring dogs…or is that a cats only world?  How about more dog series set in other states?

Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was recently interviewed for a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers podcast that you can find at the RMFW website.


  1. Your question made me think of a series set in New Jersey, David Rosenfelt's Andy Carpenter series with Tara. I know I've read one or more but in my pre-Goodreads days, so I can't remember what role Tara plays.

    1. Thanks, Liz. I'll look for David's books -- also sounds unique to have a series set in New Jersey. Everything I've found lately takes place in the south or west.

  2. There is a TV series that has a special forces team go into the field with their dog "Cerebus." I keep thinking, why are you endangering that animal! I know that dogs are used in the military and police force. Still I am more worried about the dog than the soldiers.

    I have seen many cozy mystery series with cats. It is a great marketing tool. I even saw a writer set up a booth at a national cat show to sell her mysteries featuring cats. Maybe these authors should set up at dog shows? :)

    1. Selling the series at dog shows sounds like a great idea. A few years ago I attended a golden retriever show in Colorado and suspect a series with goldens would have sold very well.

  3. D.D. Ayers writes a series featuring K9 Rescue dogs and handlers. The stories are set in Florida and feature Macayla, a pet detective who teams up with a K9 handler at times.

    The books are listed as romantic suspense, and there are several in the series now.

    1. Thanks for adding to my list, Maryann. I'm not sure what a pet detective does, but I'm going to find out!

  4. I am currently working with a Colorado writer on the final edit of a historical fiction novel that takes place in England and Scotland in the mid 19th century. Two German Shepherds who were trained to protect a young girl as she grows into womanhood fail repeatedly to warn her when an uninvited man enters her locked home a number of times. Even more surprising is the reason they don't do what they were trained to do.

    One wonderful memory that has lasted a lifetime: When I was in sixth grade, the teacher would take a few minutes at the end of each school day to read a chapter from one of Jack London's fabulous books. It was the highlight of our afternoons.

    1. That is exactly how I got my first exposure to Jack London and other books like Black Beauty. I went to a country grade and all of the teachers from 1st through 8th grade read great fiction to us one chapter at a time.


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