I know, I did a blog post last week. But it occurred to me today that 1) the world has felt rather dark lately (surprisingly, a lava-glowing horizon doesn’t help), and 2) it’s been forever since I posted a Magpie Moment. (Reminder: Magpie Moments are bits of real life I’ve incorporated into my characters’ fictional adventures; you can find more in the Blog Topics dropdown below.) The obvious solution: a quick, canine Magpie Moment.
A large German shepherd mix tied to a doghouse wagged his tail and woofed as JJ approached…
The dog followed them to the house and shoved a cold nose in Adam’s hand while JJ swore at the front door key. Adam’s heart pounded faster and his mouth grew dry and sticky.
“His name is Trooper,” JJ said, finally shoving the door open.
Adam squatted next to Trooper to get acquainted while JJ wandered around flipping on lights. JJ was right; Adam wasn’t afraid of dogs as a rule, and he wasn’t sure what it was about this one that had made him so uneasy. Trooper was calm and affectionate, giving a measured lick when Adam rubbed behind one crooked ear. The other ear stood at attention.
“You’re a handsome boy, aren’t you?” Adam whispered, putting his face close enough for one last lick before standing.
–Chapter Four, Prodigal (Dead Hollow Book One)
As I’ve shared before, Dead Hollow is different from Syd’s mysteries because it draws so heavily from my memories growing up in West Virginia (already altered by time, see Alchemical Abode), it’s like the whole series is a Magpie Moment. But there are some specific details I can pull free. (It’s always fun to see if family members catch them.) Trooper is one of these.
Trooper was the name of my cousins’ German shepherd when we were kids. I don’t know why I still remember this. I spent almost every moment of my prepubescent summers with my cousins, but we didn’t often play with Trooper. He was more ever-present sentinel than play dog. And yet, he obviously made an impression. Perhaps it was the regal Schäferhund carriage.
In any case, during the early chapters of Prodigal, I found Trooper flow from my fingers as the name of JJ’s dog. (I don’t think I made the connection until after I’d already typed it.) But I didn’t want the kind of dog that you’d imagine standing next to a cop or sniffing luggage at the airport. I wanted a dog that looked bad-ass and would do whatever was necessary to protect its human family, while looking less like it was his job and more like it was his mission. So I made him a shepherd mix to soften him, and then I went a step further. I gave him our dog Fred’s ears—one up, one down.
Fred makes regular appearances here on the blog (including last week, and a starring Magpie Moments role in Animals with no Restraint as the inspiration for an avocado-gorging piglet). Of course, a doggie post wouldn’t be complete without additional photographic evidence. 😉
But I don’t want to leave out the Sydney Brennan fans. Those who’ve read most recent Sydney book, River Bound, will recognize the ridge on Fred’s back. The featured dog in that story, Meathead, is a pure Rhodesian ridgeback (Fred definitely isn’t) with darker coloring. However, in addition to the ridge he shares some of Fred’s breed-consistent behavioral characteristics. (If you’re not familiar with Rhodesian ridgebacks, you can see a few photos on my River Bound Pinterest board.) As for how Fred snuck into that book as well, I suspect he spent a lot of time hiding under my desk from thunderstorms during the rough draft. Or maybe sending signals into my sleep at night from beneath our bed.