Going to the Dogs

It is to my chagrin what whenever I post a photo of my two admittedly adorable Australian Doodles, Seamus and Fiona, they get more comments than most of my posts about writing. People-centric and sociable, affectionate and sweet-natured, they are from the same mom and dad pups but different litters. Here they are groomed down for warm weather:

I did give Nora Tierney a beagle named Typo she now has to contend with in the Nora Tierney English Mysteries. Typo features on the cover of The Golden Hour and routinely hoovers up scraps from under Nora’s son’s high chair.

But that has me thinking about the popularity of dogs in literature, from Buck in Jack London’s Call of the Wild, to The Hound of the Baskervilles in Conan Doyle’s story where Sherlock Holmes figures out the hound didn’t bark.

Dogs are popular in movies, too. While in Dashiell Hammett’s 1933 The Thin Man novel, Asta was a female schnauzer, the movie version’s director W.S. Van Dyke was particular in casting Nick and Nora Charles’ companion for the 1934 film: He wanted a debonair, buoyant pet that would serve the leads and action well, and he found exactly that in Skippy shown above, a three-year-old male wire fox terrier we’ve all come to associate with Asta.

The main qualities of any dog for a companion are cited as their loyalty, their bravery (think Lassie or Rin Tin Tin) and their unconditional love.


James M. Barrie chose the dog Nana who looks after the Darling children in Peter Pan for all of these traits. Nana is based on Barrie’s own black and while Newfoundland named Luath. The actor who played Nana in the stage production studied Luath’s movements and behavior for his role.

This was the only photo I could find of Luath, but her size makes her a formidable foe for anyone attempting to hurt her charges.


It’s often the case that a great dog book will be made into a movie, as in Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie.

I defy anyone who’s read that book not to be moved by it, and the subsequent movie was a hit, too. AnnaSophia Robb played plays ten-year old Opal in her first movie role.

For your edification, that scruffy pup who looks like a Heinz 57 is actually a breed named a Berger Picard. Those ears!



David Rosenfelt, a dog rescuer extraordinaire whose Tara Foundation is named after his own Golden Retriever,  and Tara is just one of the 25 dogs he and his wife have rescued and own.

His foundation finds homes for sick or injured dogs and to date has saved more than 4,000 dogs from shelters.

So it was natural that Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series showcase a dog in each legal mystery, a cozy series that numbers around 33 at last count. And there’s a spinoff series with a friend called the K-Team books that feature, well, dogs…


And speaking of dogs in books, I’d like to recommend a book many readers won’t be familiar with: Carolyn Parkhurst’s The Dogs of Babel.

Lorelei is the Rhodesian ridgeback who helps the protagonist, linguist Paul Iverson, unravel the mystery of his wife’s death when home alone with only the dog as a witness. Griefstricken, Paul tries to teach Lorelei to ‘talk’ to communicate what happened that fateful day.

It’s a bittersweet, moving, and yet hopeful book, and shows how the resilience and loyalty of dogs cannot be underestimated. A great read if you’ve missed it.

And finally, not literary at all but I can’t resist leaving you with a photo of a pup named Mafia Honey.

This cute fluffy Maltese was gifted to Marilyn Monroe by Frank Sinatra to console her after she split from the playwright Arthur Miller.

Legend has it “Maf’ slept on Monroe’s bed on a fur coat Miller had given the actress. The pup stayed close to Marilyn during her last two years of her life, and when she died in 1962, Sinatra’s secretary cared for Mad until he died twelve years later in 1974. The stories THAT dog could tell!

So tell me: do you feature dogs, or pets of any kind in your books? Is there a dog book you’d recommend to readers?

As an aside,  I’m only focusing on dogs because I’m highly allergic to cats, but I know their fans have just as much to say about them!






MIss Demeanors


Marni Graff is the award-winning author of The Nora Tierney English Mysteries and The Trudy Genova Manhattan Mysteries. Her story “Quiche Alain” appears in the Anthony-winning Malice Domestic Anthology, Murder Most Edible.  Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press, she’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Triangle SinC, Mavens of Mayhem SinC, the NC Writers Network, and the International Crime Writers Association.


  1. I HAVE started featuring dogs. I think it makes me happy to write them, so it is surely a happy experience to read them. Plus, dog relationships are uncomplicated–they are either loving and adoring or they’re Cujo. It’s a relief to write scenes with them.

  2. While I like dogs, I am a cat person at heart. Their independence, their willingness to stand up to adversaries that are bigger than them, and their love of solitude and quiet. Much like my protagonist Malone. Her cat, who she rescued from behind a rubbish bin, is called Twinkle for the star-shaped blob of white on her forehead on an otherwise completely black body. And it’s Twinkle to the rescue, claws at the ready, when Malone needs it the most! : )

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