I love animals. In my family, over the course of thirteen years of marriage and three children, we’ve had a total of four dogs, fourteen cats and three gerbils. We’ve even played host to a field mouse once and my wife has played mother to more animals than she could count far before she was a mother to our human children. Oh yes, we love animals and every single one we currently have has been a rescue in many senses of the word and action.
The animals we call our children have done many things that inspire us, make us laugh and unfortunately make us cry. Case in point for the laughter and crying is my wife’s beloved albino German shepherd, Teddy. Teddy was a great dog according to her. In Tabitha’s mind, Teddy was the sainted canine by which all dogs will forever be judged.
To me, Teddy was a menace of unparalleled equal. Allow me to elaborate.
I met Teddy when Tabitha and I first started dating. That encounter was brief yet traumatic. Upon arriving at the front door, she announced that she needed to put Teddy up. In my mind’s eye Teddy was a small yapping terrier of some kind. After all, the name Teddy usually brings to mind a teddy bear or the 26th US president, Theodore Roosevelt. I’m going to be clear on this fact, Teddy was not a small dog in any way, shape, form or fashion. From my point of view Teddy was a small horse.
The truth is when she went through the door, I followed close behind her and like an idiot I held my ground as that hellish beast galloped toward me. She went left to cut him off, Teddy ducked under her grabbing hands, and proceeded to sink his teeth into my left cheek. By cheek I refer to my left butt cheek. You read correctly. My wife’s beloved dog bit me in the ass. We laugh about it now, but then, the incident was far from humorous. That’s a true story and after 15 years, I still cringe at the memory. I don’t know what’s more horrifying to me; the fact that Tabitha laughed about it as hard now as she did then or at how freakishly huge that dog was.
Teddy as it turned out was a fierce protector and as such, his actions, such as they were, inspired a series of middle grade fiction novels titled The Sheriff Teddy Mysteries.
The idea for the series was born from my sleep riddled mind in the form of a new story to tell my then three year old son at bedtime. Tabitha stood in the doorway, listening to it and she loved it from the word go. Unfortunately for me I was so tired that I could only remember snippets. For four years the story sat in the back of my mind, wanting to be told, but it wasn’t until we rescued our dog Brownie that I finally put it to paper. I’ll get to Brownie in a minute.
Teddy, like any law dog worth his Kibbles N Bits, had a partner. Before Brownie ever burst onto the scene there was Puffy. Puffy was an orange and white tabby cat with a permanent Elvis sneer and a rotten disposition when it came to almost anything that drew breath. Puffy was the only beast that ever gave Teddy pause.
My history with Puffy isn’t as spectacular as it was with Teddy. Not by a long shot. In fact, Puffy was rude to everyone in the house except me. I was the only human he ever cared to become attached to. As further proof of his marking me as his person, I was the only one that ever enjoyed enticing a purr from him. Puff the Magic Kitty never purred for anyone and he was the bridge between Teddy and me.
So when it came time to write about Sheriff Teddy, it was only natural for Teddy to be accompanied by his surly, ill tempered best friend, Deputy Puffy. But the story needed more. It needed a humorous sidekick.
The day came when a rambunctious stranger drifted into town. We called him Brownie and there was nothing we could do to be rid of him.
Brownie is one of our current dogs and he’s a goofy goober to the nth degree. In the vein of law dogs with an old western feel, Brownie is like Don Knotts from The Shakiest Gun in the West; all hyper and filled with the let-me-at-them attitude.
Make no mistake about Brownie, though, like Teddy, he’s a wonderful protector and a cherished family member though mostly he protects us from rampaging leftovers. In reality, Brownie has greatness written all over his face.
Brownie was two months old when he showed up out of the clear blue and he immediately displayed the temperament that dog owners dream about. Our daughter Emily, who was one year old at the time, took to him quickly and showed that he was hers by bouncing on his head with her diapered bottom. Brownie didn’t so much as snort at what she did. He simply laid there as she babbled nonsense, bouncing up and down on his poor noggin. Even to this day, he enjoys letting the children sleep on him.
It’s true; Brownie was the final piece of the puzzle to the Sheriff Teddy cast. In the stories, Brownie is written as Teddy’s overactive, playful nephew while Puffy is Teddy’s persnickety, grumpy, yet faithful deputy. Brownie truly made the story come together and spill out.
In those adventures they’ve dealt with egg stealing weasels, a hit duck from New Jersey, who later becomes a trusted deputy, a chimpanzee assassin from France, dragons from a fairy tale land and inept alien invaders from Pluto. Teddy, Brownie and Puffy saw action in a total of five manuscripts. Each has been well received by family and the children of friends.
Of course my deranged mind, so it’s been described by those that know me, took the stories to the next logical level, horror. See what they mean? My mind goes to very deranged and off the wall places.
My second published novel, which in reality was the first horror novel I’d ever written, featured animals, of a sort, in the lead as both protagonist and antagonist. It concerns werewolves causing the end of times. Werewolves are animals. I mean, how else can you describe a human with a lycanthropic infection?
In my mind werewolves always get the crap end of the stick. They’re either subservient to vampires, like a loyal drooling dumb dog or stuck in some silly little millennium old battle with the same. My love of wolves, or more specifically werewolves, gave me the drive to give the ultimate ground based hunter a time to rule the Earth.
So far, Dog World, as it’s called, has proven to be a fairly well received story. It has vampires in it, too, but it’s doubtful you’d want to socialize with them in any capacity. The same can be said about the majority of the werewolves. It’s like Dog Soldiers on steroids but on a global scale. I do love canines.
My second horror novel that saw publication was the first to be put to proverbial paper. It’s a zombie apocalyptic novel, but with some twists. The book, Memoirs of the Walking Dead: A story from the zombie’s point of view is for the most part a comedy. It’s enjoyed positive responses as well but they’ve come with a few unexpected remarks that have left me pleasantly surprised.
The main character, Paul Rierson, is a human that becomes undead and is accompanied into unlife by his once sweet and loveable feline, Charlotte. Charlotte died of the same virus, The Pelican Flu, and has come back… viciously different.
Allow me to say right away that Charlotte is based off the real life feline, Puffy. Puffy was obviously male but for the sake of Memoirs I made his neutering complete.
Charlotte, like Puffy, is not a nice kitty, but she’s not an evil kitty either. Charlotte is just a cat that doesn’t like anyone unless she chooses otherwise, just like Puffy in real life.
Charlotte was meant to be grotesque comic relief and a companion to Paul. Their companionship to each other has been compared to Boy and Dog from A Boy and His Dog, but without the searching for sex. Paul is loyal to Charlotte and Charlotte fiercely returns that loyalty to Paul. I dare say that Paul Rierson and Charlotte’s relationship was based off mine and Puffy’s. Like Puffy, Charlotte is dangerous to those that threaten her and her loved ones. She’s the ultimate in feline personal protection. If you read Memoirs of the Walking Dead, you’ll notice that both the human and zombie militaries fear her. She’s that damn bad and I mean scary bad in a good inspirational sort of way.
Charlotte, God love her, has gathered a following. People love her so much that they are asking, and in some cases demanding, a book from her point of view. I think Puffy would be proud but would look at you with his Elvis sneer and meow that he didn’t care. He always knew he was that awesome.
But Memoirs wasn’t just a testament to Puffy and the human will to do what is right. It was also a tribute to a dog that I rescued named Candy. Candy is featured very prominently in Memoirs as well.
My son rescued Candy, a gorgeous two month old black lab, on New Years Day 2010. She had been out in single degree temperatures the evening before, huddled under a neighbor’s car. If I’d known that she didn’t belong to the neighbors, I would have rescued her sooner. I thought she was their dog as I’d seen the kids playing with her New Years Eve day. What else could I think? It was six days after Christmas and kids with a new puppy usually signifies a Christmas gift. I was wrong and I’m sorry for that to this day.
The second Christopher brought that puppy into our home it was love at first sight, for both of us. She was my dog, I can’t stress that enough. I’d always wanted a dog as a child but I never got one. She’s still the greatest Christmas present I’ve ever received.
Candy was with me, us, for six months. At eight months old she contracted Parvo and I had to let her go. Tabitha volunteered to take her to the vet but she was mine and I wanted that responsibility of trying to save her.
I also took the responsibility to make the decision to end her suffering. Even as I write this, I want to cry as I did that day. Candy was my dog and I was her human. No boy ever loved a dog as much as I loved her.
Candy passed away when I was a third of the way through with Memoirs and I wanted to honor her in some way. I wanted others to know the love I felt for her and from her so she became Paul’s living dog and Charlotte’s unwanted but still loved best friend.
Readers have loved my animals so much that one has an unofficial fan club while another is immortalized in people’s hearts, as she is in mine, for all eternity.
At the end of Candy’s day, I’d like to think that Puffy was waiting for her at the Rainbow Bridge, sneering while saying, “Come on, doofy dog. Playtime, ain’t gonna wait forever.”
I’m not the only one to be inspired by their beloved four legged companions. Thriller/horror legend Dean Koontz and fellow Indie authors Les Floyd and T.K. Millin have drawn inspiration from their best animal buddies as well. When we bring animals into our lives they bring unconditional love and boundless inspiration with them.
It’s because of the love that every animal has given us and we’ve given them that I’m working on Charlotte’s, or should I say Puffy’s, story. It’s being written for more than just people’s requests or demands. It’s being written to show how much I love and cherish my four legged companions who continue to give me so much wonderful inspiration.