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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Behind the Scenes at the Deadly Dog Show

by Jerold Last

The doggiest book in the Roger and Suzanne series, The Deadly Dog Show, is getting excellent reviews and seems to appeal to both dog lovers and mystery fans.  As indicated in the book’s foreword, the canine heroine of the novel, Juliet, is very much modeled after one of our own dogs, Jolie.  The cover photo is of Jolie being shown at a California dog show, at one of the venues from the novel.  Behind the Scenes explores the real-life origins of a few specific scenes in the novel.
We live almost exactly in the epicenter of the Northern California dog show circuit described in the novel.  Woodland’s Yolo County fairgrounds are less than 10 miles from our house.  Stockton, Vallejo, and Sacramento are all less than an hour’s drive away, while San Francisco’s Cow Palace and Fresno are each about a 1.5-hour drive from our home.  My wife Elaine has been showing her dogs in these local shows for more than 30 years, so she knows the venues intimately.  She’s dragged me to as many shows as she could, so I’ve been to all of the places described in the book at least once, and for some of the closer show grounds a lot more frequently.  Elaine shared her memory of the details for each venue as the book evolved and we decided exactly where to find a body or to interview a suspect.
Bruce’s dog training techniques as described in the story are also authentic.  Bruce uses the methods we learned from modern show and field trainers who work with positive rewards, mainly praise and food, as opposed to the old time approaches that stress discipline and physical punishment like ear pinches for errors.  The positive rewards not only work well (we currently have three well trained senior hunters, two of whom should complete their master hunter certification in the near future), but also make the entire experience a lot more fun both for dog and trainer. 
I did a short course on nose work with Viña, much like Bruce’s training of Juliet in the book, a few years ago.  This kind of searching by smell is easy and instinctual for German Shorthaired Pointers, so she excelled at it----if she could figure out the scent you wanted her to find, she found it.  Schöne, her granddaughter, has an even better nose than Viña.  It would be a lot of fun to train her for search and rescue work or as a cadaver dog.  Time permitting I’ll try doing this in a year or two after she finishes her MH degree.
German Shorthaired Pointers are really as fast and as athletic as Juliet is described in this novel.  Schöne likes to do chins on the 6-foot fences between our back yard and the neighbor’s to see what’s going on next door.  She has easily jumped over 6-foot fences when she wanted to get out of a fenced-in area.  The only thing that keeps the dogs in our yard is their training and their desire to please their humans.  They know they’re supposed to stay in the yard, and they do.
The Deadly Dog Show, a suspenseful journey into the world of canine conformation contests, provides an unusual backdrop for murder.  This whodunit novel should appeal especially to readers who want to learn more about the world of dog show conformation competition. 

Jerold Last is a scientist on the faculty of the University of California and a big fan of mystery novels. The Deadly Dog Show is the fourth novel and seventh book in a series, but can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone entry.  Jerry and his wife Elaine live in Northern California, where Elaine breeds prize-winning German Shorthaired Pointer dogs and enjoys being a grandmother to three granddaughters and a grandson. A blog describing the background and birth of Jerry's books (with links to all of the books on Amazon); Jerry, Elaine, and the dogs' lives; and all things mysterious can be found at http://rogerandsuzannemysteries.blogspot.com. Please come visit my blog and take a look.
The Deadly Dog Show is available as a Kindle E-book, $2.99, free to borrow from KOLL for Prime members.  Amazon   -- In the UK - Amazon UK

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