The Dreary Days of Winter and Dogs in Mystery Books

I’m sitting here working on my couch with my dog Molly on my lap—which as you can imagine makes it difficult to type since my MAC is also on my lap. Both Molly and I are staring out the window at the dreary cold rain. We hate it.

We really hate winter

I’ve always hated winter because I totally hate being cold. It seems like no matter how thick the shearling in my boots or the wool in my sweaters, I’m still cold. And like the mother who puts a sweater on her baby because she herself is cold, I always put a sweater on Molly.

A sweater girl…er, dog

And Molly loves her sweaters and gets very upset if I remove them. She doesn’t care if the sweater is wet or decorated with clingy bits of melting snow. Or something.

She doesn’t want the sweater removed, and she eagerly sticks her snout in the neck of the replacement sweater. Never have I ever had a dog that loved clothes so much. She’s definitely a girl.

Molly is an indoor dog

And lest you think the poor little thing is freezing, let me just say she absolutely is not. Molly is a long‑haired dachshund, and a house dog. Except for her twice daily walks, she goes out through her doggy door into our fenced backyard, does her thing, and comes right back in.

She has a thick coat of silky fur. Right now she is wearing her favorite red buffalo plaid sweater and lying on a blankie on my lap on the couch in front of the fireplace.

She is definitely not cold. In a few minutes, she may get so hot in that sweater that she’ll spontaneously combust. But if you try to remove it, she’ll let you know.

DO NOT even attempt to remove her sweater.

So what does Molly and her sweater have to do with writing?

Two things.

One: It’s very hard to focus on writing about tropical islands when it’s so dreary and you have a dog snout between you and your keyboard.     `

Two: I somehow just wrote a dog into my upcoming Fin Fleming Scuba Diving Mystery.

A Dog??!!

Does the dog scuba dive? No, of course not.

She’s a regular dog.

But somehow I always (ALWAYS) end up writing animals into my work. In the series so far, we have Harry and Suzie Q (both are southern stingrays), Chico, (a free range rooster) and his friend Henrietta (a hen obviously), Candy, a Cayman parrot who lives in the bar, and of course, Rosie, a very intelligent Atlantic pygmy octopus and the subject of Fin’s doctoral thesis. None of these animals is anything but an animal, and they all act true to the real world behavior of his or her species.

Except Rosie, who has well outlived her expected lifespan, and will continue to do so. But that’s the only thing. (And readers requested that Rosie never die. Rosie is quite popular.)

Maybe that’s enough animals for one mystery series.

Focus please. About the dog…

Right. So back to this dog. Name of Penny.

She’s going to put a crimp in Fin’s lifestyle. In her love life. In her work.

But under the circumstances, adopting her is totally in character for Fin.

Fin already loves her, and Penny has an important role to play in this book. None of the previously existing animals could take on her crucial role in the story. Not even a human character could replace her.

So tell me. How do you feel about animals in mystery novels? Should I remove Penny from the book?

About Sharon Ward

Sharon Ward is the author of the Fin Fleming Scuba Diving Mystery Series, which includes In Deep, Sunken Death, Dark Tide, Killer Storm, Hidden Depths, and Sea Stars. Rip Current, the seventh book, will be released in early 2024. Now available in audiobooks, ebooks and print.

Sharon was a marketing executive before becoming a novelist. She was a PADI certified divemaster who has hundreds of dives under her weight belt. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, MWA, ITW, and several other writing organizations. She lives near Cape Cod with her husband Jack and their miniature long-haired dachshund Molly, the actual head of the Ward household.


  1. Your range of animal characters is impressively broad! I like animals in books but not if it slows the story. And I like the 2 extremes. For instance, in the Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie books, Chet is a POV character. On the other end of the spectrum is the Margaret Mizushima K-9 series, with her realistic portrayal of a working dog.

    1. I love Chet and Bernie. I think Chet might be one of my all time favorite characters. And I always fall a little bit in love with Bernie because I see him through Chet’s eyes.

  2. I always end up putting dogs somewhere into my books or even short stories. I only had a cat once when I was little and I was terrified of it, so I don’t put cats in. Maybe someday. I might diversify and add a bird or hamster. And my own little Jack Russell terrier spends his entire life under blankets, so yeah. I think he would totally get Molly.

    1. I don’t like cats either, so it’s unlikely Fin will ever have one. But I never thought she’d have a dog either, so you never know…
      And what is it with dogs and their blankets?

  3. Dare I say it? Not super fond of dogs. They’re okay, just so dependent, and needy. I love, and have loved, every cat that’s wandered into my life. Their independence, stand-offish-ness, minds of their own way of traveling through life. And if they know you are a cat person (and believe me they will know), and you don’t fuss with them too much, you have a friend and a companion for their entire life. My protagonist Malone has a cat, and at one point Twinkle unknowingly saves Malone from rather threatening circumstances, so I guess Twink is here to stay. ; )

    1. Interesting that Twinkle saved your protagonist. Chico did the something similar for Fin, so he earned at least a mention in all the subsequent books.

  4. Penny stays!
    Nora Tierney ended up adopting a rescue beagle named Typo, who surfs leftovers under her son’s high chair.
    Pets humanize characters, to my mind. This weekend I’ve been under the weather and Fiona and Seamus have been glued to my side, napping and keeping me warm.
    Keep the pets!

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