Writing Doggy Heroes Into Your Novel, or Don’t Leave Them Home Alone!

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Midget and Gidget (The one of the left is Midget)

As I retreat back into my writing cave to work on TRUE blue, the sequel to ICE blue, I thought I would repost some of the blogs I wrote for the ICE blue virtual tour.  This first one is dedicated to my best friend and the recent loss of a little Chihuahua named Midget who was very dear to her. 

             Oh, how we love our dogs.  Well, mostly.  Okay, I admit it, friends and family have often heard me say I am not a dog person.  So why do I have two of them?  Why do I take such good care of them? And why did I use one of them as a template (granted, given a sex change) for a key character in my new novel, ICE blue?  It’s because I just couldn’t resist the fluffy white ball of fur with the little black eyes when I met her.  She was so cute (and, yes, still is), that I thought she would make a perfect companion for Angela, my heroine, as she is trying to cope with loss and moving on with her life.   I also thought the little button-nosed puppy would make the most unlikely hero.Nikkie

Yes, Half-pint truly is a hero in ICE blue.  He gets to join the ranks of Lassie and Rin Tin Tin (who, by the way, was a real dog) and a contemporary children’s favorite, Bolt.

Dogs are our constant companions.  They love us without conditions, are loyal beyond reason, and often come to the rescue in the direst of times.  The internet is filled with stories of real life dog heroes.  But notice, I said constant companions.  Unlike a cat or a gerbil or a turtle or fish that you can leave for a couple of days and go about your business (you can get auto-feeders for such pets), dogs cannot be left alone for more than a few hours at a time.  You must feed them, let them out, or find someone who will, even if you’re going to be gone for just a day.  The same is true for the dogs in your novel.  And if you’re writing a romance novel, you have to figure out what you’re going to do with the insistent little pup when your hero and heroine want to make love.

So, if your heroine suddenly traipses off to solve a murder, or gets sequestered in a safe house, or works twenty-four hour shifts as a paramedic as Angela does, you need to figure out what to do with the dog while she’s gone.  I don’t know about you, but it drives me crazy when pets or even babies are brought into the story of a book or TV show, but then suddenly disappear for days or weeks on end with no mention of where they are or who’s taking care of them.

Fortunately, this is not a problem for Half-pint and Angela.  Half-pint, one of the unlikeliest little puppy heroes you will find in any novel, plays his full part in ICE blue and stays with the story to the end.  Here is a small sample of Half-pint’s role in the novel.  Dog lovers, enjoy!

Susan Rae    

Excerpt :  ICE blue by Susan Rae

Morning light peeked around the edges of her window blinds when next she opened her eyes. With a start, she realized she must have drifted off to sleep again. Glancing at her bedside clock, she feared the worst—the sun didn’t rise in mid-January in Chicago until almost eight.

The digital clock glared seven forty-five.

She’d planned to be at the clinic by seven to make sure everything was set for the first patients. She must have turned off the alarm in her sleep. It was crazy how the tone alarm at the station could have her jumping out of bed, but at home she slept right through her own alarm. The puppy was yelping again, quite frantically this time.

“Okay, little pup!” she called as she stumbled out of bed. “Hold on. I’m coming!” But as she took a step toward the doorway, she stubbed her toe on one of the boots she’d kicked off the night before.

“Damn,” she swore. Tell yourself again what a great idea accepting the puppy was.

In the kitchen, the puppy’s frenzied state had him scratching at his grate. “Shush,” she scolded him. “Settle down or you’ll wake the neighbors, if there could possibly be any still asleep.”

Bending to open his crate, she reached in to grab him, but he scooted past her, making a beeline for the back door of the condo. She hurried after him. Why on Earth he chose the back door when so far they’d only used the front door for his little trips outside was beyond her. There was no grass out back, just an asphalt courtyard which led to the new garages the rehab outfit had built for the condo owners.

“Settle down, little pup!” she scolded. She really should come up with a name for him, she couldn’t call him little pup forever. She caught up with him at the door and scooped him up, but not before noticing the little puddle he’d left on the wooden floorboards in his excitement to get out.

“Seriously? Could you give me a break here?”

She tried to be mad at him, but when he looked at her with those soulful little black eyes, she just couldn’t. Pulling him up against her, she rubbed his fur against her cheek and smiled.

“You’re going to be the death of me yet,” she said, not unkindly. She turned to grab a paper towel from the kitchen, but the puppy still wouldn’t settle in her arms. He kept turning his head to yap at the door. “Shush,” she admonished him again.

At last he quieted. It was then that she heard it—the tiniest little mewing coming from the other side of the door.

“What in the world…? Is that what has you so excited?”

Turning once more to the door, she placed a hand over the puppy’s muzzle and listened more closely. Sure enough, the mewing came again.

She slid a couple of slats of the blinds aside, squinting at the beam of sunlight that streamed in from where it peeked over the low buildings behind hers, and scanned the rear area. Her gaze moved over the back porch, to the stair area, and then below it to the asphalt pavement of the courtyard below. Nothing moved.

The mewing stopped and then started up again. Angela frowned. The raspy mewing sounded suspiciously like a cat.

“Great.” She sighed. “Just what I need, a cat to go along with the dog!”

Tucking the puppy under one arm, she unlocked the door, opened it a crack, and looked down.

A cardboard box lay against the threshold. The muffled mewing came from inside it. She opened the door more fully, ignoring the cold blast of air that slammed against her skin, and knelt to explore the box.

“Well, little pup, what do we have here, do you think?”

Now that she’d discovered the box, he’d settled down and seemed just as curious as she to find out what lay inside. Carefully, she lifted the flaps, expecting at any moment for the cat to jump out at her.

But what lay inside barely moved, except for the tiny mouth in the small round face where it once more emitted the most pitiful gaspy mewing sound.

Angela’s heart rate jumped several beats. Grasping the puppy tighter, she stared into the box and emitted her own startled cry.

“Oh…My…God!”

Copyright © 2013 by Susan Rae

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