by Sheila Webster Boneham
The following excerpt is from Chapter 2 of Drop Dead on Recall (Midnight Ink, 2012). The speaker is Janet MacPhail, 50-something animal photographer. She has taken charge of Border Collie Pip after his owner, Abigail Dorn, collapsed in the competition ring. Drop Dead on Recall won the 2013 Maxwell Award for Best Fiction Book from the Dog Writers Association of American and was named a Top Ten Dog Book of 2012 by NBC Petside. The sequel, The Money Bird, was released in August 2013, and Catwalk will be out in fall 2014. Watch for excerpts from those two novels, coming soon to this blog!
I stroked Pip‘s silky head and looked into his black-brown eyes. We set off for the Calf Barn, a sprawling white building on the edge of the fairgrounds where the Dorns’ equipment was set up. “You’ll have to stay in your crate for a while, Pupper.” Pip glanced over his shoulder at the ring and whined, but then trotted beside me in the opposite direction, panting and grinning and waving his white-tipped tail. His nose lifted and twitched as we stepped into the barn and its faint bovine memory of last summer’s 4-H fair. A siren warbled off to the west, muted but growing louder and more shrill with each wail.
We passed a cluster of six huge crates, five of them occupied by adult Malamutes, the sixth by a half-grown pup. Two were sitting, three standing, one lying down, but all of them listened intently, heads tilting side to side to locate the sound, ears twitching, a faraway look in all twelve eyes. Thick gray fur poked out between the wires of the crate walls where the big lupine dogs leaned against them.
|Sheila's Aussie, Jay, competing in|
open obedience. Jay's official name
was UCD Perennial See You At The Top
ASCA CD, AKC CD RN CGC, TDI
Toward the center of the barn I found a collapsible metal crate with Pip’s nameplate on its top-of-the-line white epoxy-coated door – “OTCh MACH CH Paragon’s Pip UDX.” Obedience Trial Champion, Utility Dog Excellent. In other words, a helluva competition dog, with top level titles in obedience and agility, and a breed champion for good measure. Pip’s also a helluva pleasant dog to be around. You’d think that would be true of all obedience stars, but it isn’t. Like so many human celebrities, some top dogs are nearly perfect in the competition ring and thoroughly obnoxious outside it. Not their fault, of course. Some of their owners are just so caught up in the pursuit of titles and high scores that they neglect to teach basic canine-to-human etiquette. Whatever I thought of Abigail and her own behavior, I had to admit that her dogs were mannerly and happy.
“In you go.” I slipped Pip’s collar off and checked the water in the stainless-steel bucket attached to the crate door. I was laying his collar and leash on a green folding canvas chair next to a show catalog with “Dorn” scrawled across the cover when I felt the little warning hairs on the back of my neck stand up, an unwitting response to the distinct sense that I was being watched.
I glanced around. I saw only one other person in the building, and all I could see of her was the back of her jeans and marigold sweatshirt, and a flash of what I took for a red hat as she disappeared out the other end of the barn. I went back to what I was doing, but the feeling lingered and grew, and unease skittered up and down my skin.
|Sheila and her BFF Lily (UCDX Diamonds |
Perennial Waterlily AKC CD, RN, TD, CGC;
ASCA CD; TDI
Sheila Webster Boneham writes fiction and nonfiction, much of it focused on animals, nature, and travel. Her Animals in Focus mystery series features animal photographer Janet MacPhail, her Australian Shepherd Jay, and her tabby cat Leo. Their lives and adventures are based largely on the author's long experience as a competitor in canine and equine sports, rescuer, shelter volunteer, breeder, therapy volunteer, author of dog & cat books, and life-long animal lover. Sheila's Books are available in print, ebook, and Audible formats from your local bookseller and online from amazon.com and other vendors. For personally autographed copies click Here
Six of Sheila’s non-fiction books have been named best in their categories in the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the Cat Writers Association (CWA) annual competitions, and two of her other books and a short story have been finalists in the annual competitions. Her book Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals (Alpine, 2009) has been called a "must read" for anyone involved with animal rescue.
Although best known for her mysteries and her popular nonfiction about dogs and cats, Sheila also writes literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and her work has appeared in a number of literary magazines. She is currently working on a series of essays about traveling the U.S. by train, a memoir about human-canine and daughter-mother connections, and a new novel. You can learn more about her writing and teaching at www.sheilaboneham.com. Sheila holds a PhD in folklore from Indiana University, and an MFA in creative writing from the Stonecoast Program/University of Southern Maine.
Sheila runs the Writers & Other Animals blog, and the companion Facebook Group. Join us!