The Amazing Goliath and His Incredible Talents

I met Carolyn Troiano in Richmond, Virginia. She and her husband Bill have trained their Rottweiler, Goliath to do some amazing things. See the video links at the bottom of the interview. This is my interview with Bill Troiano about Goliath, his training, his amazing talents, and their new books… ~Heather

Tell our readers a little about yourself and Goliath and his special talents.
Well, I grew up in Maine near a game farm, and I’ve always felt a special bond with animals. I’ve always had pets, including rescued raccoons and squirrels, and I’ve trained many of them over the years to be obedient and perform some tricks.
I first met Goliath at a local dog park that I was visiting with my American Bulldog, Angel. A gentleman came over with his 6-month-old Rottweiler puppy, and we started a conversation. He told me that he was moving out of state, and would not be able to bring his dog with him. He was looking for a really good home for him, and when I looked at the puppy, I could tell right away that he was special. We had an immediate connection. I brought him home to see how he would get along with Angel and another rescued male American Bulldog, “Spike,” who had joined our household earlier that year. The new puppy fit right in, showing great affection for our family and his new “siblings.”

After talking with my wife and son, we agreed to provide a home and much love for our new addition, “Goliath.” He was a gently puppy, and over the years, he grew to be a gentle giant.

Goliath has brought us more joy, laughter and love than any of us could ever have imagined. He is truly part of the family, and he works really hard, both in learning new skills and in building relationships with all of us.

How long did it take to train him? Did you all use any special techniques?
Dogs love to go for a ride, so whenever I would shake the car keys, Goliath understood what that meant, and got very excited. I would toss the keys on the floor and ask him to bring them to me if he wanted to go for a ride, and, of course, he brought them to me every time.

I did the same thing with his leash. I would ask him if he wanted to go for a walk, and, again, he would get excited. I would tell him to get me his leash, and he would bring it right to me.

Goliath seemed to understand that everything has a name, and if I communicated with him in that way, he would eventually begin to understand the words associated with each item I presented to him. Of course, it requires a lot of repetition, but he seems to learn more quickly with each item I present to him.

Goliath is a really fast learner, more so than any other animal I’ve ever trained. When I teach him the name of an object, or a new trick, he learns very quickly. He knows and can retrieve over 700 everyday objects, including stuffed animals, tools, sporting equipment and other household items. I’ve been working with him on these since he has been with us, and he’s now 6 years old.

I’ve also taught Goliath a lot of tricks. He can speak, stay, roll over, beg, play dead, give me his left paw and then his right paw, and then when I ask for a hug, he wraps his front paws around my waist. Goliath loves a good belly rub, and when I ask him if he wants one, he rolls over and raises his belly to be stroked.
I taught him to catch a treat that I would toss to him, which is a very common skill for animals, especially dogs. Once Goliath mastered the catch, I had him sit and then placed a treat on his nose, making sure I used a flat one, so that it would stay in place more easily. I told Goliath to “stay,” and continued to hold his head steady while he balanced the treat on his nose. Once he learned to balance it without my hand in place, I removed the treat and gave him a different treat as a reward.

Next, I taught him to flip it in the air and catch it in his mouth, building on what he had already learned. While holding a treat in my hand, Goliath learned that his job was to focus on the treat while remaining still. I then guided my hand closer to his mouth and said “catch,” with my hand close enough that he wouldn’t jump or move. The first time I did this, I guided the treat all the way to his mouth. I continued practicing the steps of catching and balancing with him for a couple of weeks before teaching him to flip the treat off of his nose and catch it in his mouth. At first, he ended up tossing the treat off of his nose, but after some repetition, and remaining positive, he eventually caught the treat.

Another important point to note is that your body language is critical to success. You have to remain calm and very positive, and never show any frustration if your dog is not catching on as quickly as you would like. Patience and repetition are key aspects to continuing progress.

I can also put a piece of steak under his paw and tell him to leave it, and he learned not to touch it or even look at it until I give him the “okay” command.
Rewarding his progress is absolutely critical. When I first started teaching him, I would give him a small piece of meat each time he retrieved an object. As the list of objects began to grow, I slowed that down and would reward him after retrieving seven items. You have to know how to balance the reward and tie it directly to his ability to focus.

When I use the phrase “bad guy,” he responds aggressively, barking very loudly. If I say “good guy,” he jumps up and gives me a hug. Every morning, I ask him to remove the covers on my bed, and he pulls them down, and then brings me my socks. If I’m wearing a hoodie, I’ll bend over and ask him to pull it off, and he’ll do that.

Goliath also loves to swim, and can retrieve a 50-pound log and bring it back to the shoreline. He’s an extremely agile dog, and loves to exercise. His breed is built for hard work, and the more you challenge them, the more they love it.

How did you know Goliath had a special aptitude or talent?
You just have to look into Goliath’s eyes and see that human quality about him, it’s just amazing. It’s as if he can read your thoughts. He seems to understand things at a much deeper level than any animal I’ve come across in my life. I think our connection has really been at the heart of his desire and willingness to learn. He always wants to please me and he works really hard. In fact, he thrives on it, as many of his breed do, as they’re in the working dog group.

Goliath has an unusual ability to memorize the names of objects. It all started with a couple of stuffed animals. I noticed how incredibly fast he learned the names of them. My wife gave Goliath a Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animal that talks and vibrates when you press its belly. Goliath loved this, and the next day, I asked him where Winnie-the-Pooh was, and he immediately ran downstairs and retrieved it. The other amazing thing is that he never forgets what he learns. I can put away an item he knows for several months, and, sure enough, when I take it out again and ask him to retrieve it he does so perfectly and without hesitation.

Most dogs will identify a few favorite toys, but as I said earlier, Goliath has learned the names of over 700 items. I’m always at garage and yard sales looking for unusual objects to bring into the mix. In fact, this week I taught him to retrieve a man’s roller skate. He loves this one, in particular, because I send it rolling across the floor, and he chases it and brings it back to me. With toys, I usually let him play with each one for a while before teaching him to retrieve it by name. He always gets excited when I bring home something new.
I also continue to challenge Goliath and test his skills. He knows I believe in him and he trusts me implicitly. Just as with people, dogs have talents that will remain hidden unless you unleash them (pardon the pun).

One big fallacy is that dogs can’t see colors. Goliath has proven that he can distinguish objects by color. I have six golf balls in different colors, and if I ask him to get the green one, or the yellow one, and so forth, he gets it right every time. The same is true with some other items, such as combs in different colors, but which are otherwise identical.

Then I started testing him on colors using objects he had never seen before. I have an orange cone that I use for teaching tennis, and he knows that it’s a cone. So I brought in cones in several other colors and asked him to get the yellow cone, the green cone, the blue cone and the red cone. He retrieved every one of them correctly, just based on knowing colors.

Goliath has two toothbrushes, a yellow one and a purple one, and he can pick them out by color. He also has a bunch of different footballs, and knows the red one, yellow one and black one. He knows the football that’s half blue and half orange. Goliath also knows two different NFL team footballs with the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers colors and logos. He knows them all by name and never misses.

I have a number of stuffed animals and other objects that are identical in every way except for size, and Goliath can retrieve the big one and the little one of each character correctly every time. I have three stuffed reindeer that all look very much alike, but he knows the difference because one I call “Rudolph,” a second one is “Talking Rudolph” and the third is “Coach,” which is the character who plays the reindeer coach in the old “Rudolph the Reindeer” TV movie.

Tell us about some of Goliath’s adventures. Where has he visited?

Goliath spends most of his time locally, in parks, on trails, and in ponds, enjoying the outdoors with his “siblings” and other dog friends. He has traveled to many locations in the region where he performs at Pet Expos and SPCA events. Goliath has a lot of trophies, and also comes home with a lot of “SWAG” from these shows. I often laugh that he brings in enough snacks and other items to support the rest of our pets.

How long has Goliath lived with you?
We’ve been blessed with Goliath for the last 5 ½ years.

Do you have any other pets?
Yes. We have three more Rottweilers, all rescues, along with Angel, our American Bulldog, a one-year-old cat, and two very large parrots. One is a Military Macaw and the other is a Double Yellow-Headed Amazon, and they both speak. They all get along and are respectful of each other. We’ve had as many as twenty-one pets at one time, mainly rescues, covering seven different species: dogs, cats, rabbits, parrots, ferrets, raccoons and squirrels. They were introduced to each other at a very young age, and forged relationships that would defy conventional thought. They always had fun and it was incredible to watch them devise games to play with each other. They learned from each other in ways that confounded us, and as “siblings,” they often teased each other. I often think that we, as humans, can learn so much about how to relate to other people just by observing animals and the relationships they build and nurture.

What’s your funniest Goliath story?
Goliath learned to close the door after coming in from outside. If someone leaves the refrigerator door open for too long, he’ll come by and close it. He even opened up the front door for my wife when she locked herself out. She stood by the latch, asking him to give her a hug, and the neighbors, who were out on their front porch, kept asking if she wanted help, assuming the dog would never open the door. Lo and behold, within a couple of minutes, Goliath flipped the bolt open to everyone’s amazement, but my wife knew he could do it, and I’m sure Goliath sensed that she had complete faith in him. He truly can sense that you’re rooting for him and I think that’s just an amazing quality that differentiates Goliath from other dogs.

What is your favorite place to visit with your dogs?
There are a couple of ponds that we take Goliath to swim in, and we meet up with friends and their dogs for a play date. Goliath loves to see his dog friends, and he absolutely loves the water. I think the water exercise is a really important thing for animals to keep them healthy and even psychologically happy.

Years ago, we had a female Rottweiler, “Venus,” who lived to be 15 years old, and I attribute that to the fact that we lived on Lake Anna at the time, and swimming was part of her daily regimen. In fact, one morning I let the dogs out and forgot the gate to the dock was open. Venus leaped off the dock and right into a bass fishing boat. One of the guys in the boat jumped overboard out of fear, while Venus jumped in the other guy’s lap and started licking him. When his friend surfaced, the guy in the boat was laughing his head off. I’m sure he’ll be telling that story for years to come.

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?
“Marley and Me,” by John Grogan, is a book about the lovable Labrador Retriever and his time spent with his family. It was filled with joy and sadness. We’ve had many dogs, and reading the book, I could only think of all the laughter and passion we felt for these animals as they enriched our lives. There is no greater love than that which an animal confers on his master, and no greater gift than the loyalty and love they return so selflessly and so eagerly. All of my dogs exhibited the same characteristics and I could really feel that sense of loyalty and unconditional love that Marley gave to his family. We’ve truly been blessed by the animals that have come into our lives, depending on us for their existence and trusting us to treat them with respect. It’s a bond you can’t explain in ordinary terms.

What are you reading right now?
Actually, I’m reading an old book about a raccoon. It’s called Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era, written by Sterling North about his childhood in Wisconsin. He writes about spending a year of his childhood raising a baby raccoon, during WWI, and the story also chronicles the changes in his family and the area around him during that time. It speaks to transcending loss, and finding humor in the small things in life. It reminds us the importance of taking care of those around us who need that special care until they can take care of themselves, and the lessons of life that we can learn from each other.

There was a raccoon that used to come to my window when I was younger, and I named him “Bandit.” In the 1990s, my wife and I raised three orphaned baby raccoon brothers, “Huey,” “Dewey” and “Louie,” in the 1990s, as part of an animal rescue program. Watching them grow for two years, before introducing them to the creek behind our house, was an adventure. It was sad to let them go, but life has its cycles and everything must be done in its time. We loved having them with us for that time, but they were ready to migrate up the creek and join the rest of the raccoons. They were ready to mate.

What advice would you give to new dog owners or folks interesting in adopting a new, four-legged family member?
Ask yourself why you are contemplating bringing a pet into your life, and remember, it’s not just coming into your home, but into your life. A pet is a living member of your household, not an accessory to your home. With dogs, the breed is also crucial to your decision. Make sure you understand what kind of dog you’re thinking about bringing home and how they would fit in.
Are you home a lot, or do you travel? Do you have someone who can look after your dog if you do have to travel or be away from home? Do you like to be outside in the yard or take walks in the park? Are you willing to spend the time and patience to train your pet to obey?

You also need to think about potential allergies when selecting a pet. How much work are you willing to put into cleaning up after them? Some dogs shed a lot during certain times every year. You also need to think about unforeseen veterinary bills, as you never know what it will take to keep your pet healthy throughout its life.

What advice would you give folks about dog training?
You must be patient. As with any living creature, they all have a certain level of ability and you have to set your expectations accordingly. Know your dog’s breed and what their typical strengths and weaknesses, but don’t automatically box them into those categories. Just be aware of them. As with children, you have to encourage them and guide them, and praise all of their work. Don’t set unrealistic expectations or get frustrated if they don’t deliver according to your needs or desires. It’s not about you. It’s about giving your love to a creature of the earth, and not expecting anything but love in return. Animals are individuals, and you have to find out what makes them special and makes them thrive, and focus on those talents.

Does Goliath have any upcoming events?

Well, a story about Goliath will be in The Total Rottweiler Magazinewhich is published in 134 countries.

He has done a number of shows at local and regional SPCA events and Pet Expos, most recently at The World of Pets Expoat Hampton Coliseum, in Hampton, VA, on February 18, 2019.  Goliath won the talent contest.

That was Goliath’s 6th birthday, and he celebrated in style with his “sibling” Rottweilers.  You can see some of the video and pictures on Goliath’s Facebook page, showing the gang in their party hats, waiting to dig into the birthday feast.

Goliath’s next appearance will be at the Dog Gone Dog Show,” sponsored by the Animal Welfare League of the Northern Neck, in Kilmarnock, VA, on April 20, 2019.

Goliath is also a YouTube sensation, with many videos showing his ability to retrieve items by memory, and to do tricks.  Most recently, I was contacted by someone who would like to do a documentary on Goliath, so that will be very exciting!

Goliath is usually very busy with shows through year-end, and he is especially fond of the “Southside SPCA” events in Farmville, VA, doing a charity show for them every year in December.  We definitely like to do the shows that will benefit other animals and promote the idea of providing homes for those animals in need.

Tell us about your books.

We’re putting together a series of children’s books called ­“Goliath Loves to Learn.”  Each book is based on a particular theme for learning.  Children will love to learn about colors, shapes, sizes, and other themed topics, alongside Goliath, who is always eager to learn about new things.  I think kids will really appreciate these books, as they’re based on a real dog and his capabilities.  If Goliath can learn, then hopefully they’ll realize that they can learn too.  I think it will be very encouraging for them, and show them that anything is possible, if you just give it your best.  Goliath loves new challenges, and we hope he can convey that “can do” attitude to children.

Welcome, Gail Z. Martin!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Gail Z. Martin to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I write epic fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, and comedic horror as Gail Z. Martin. As Morgan Brice, I write urban fantasy MM paranormal romance. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 14, and my first book was published when I was 45. We work with big publishers, small press and we also publish some of our books indie. My husband, Larry N. Martin, and I write full time, and several of our series are co-written. Behind the scenes, we both work on everything together.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing—We have a Maltese named Kipp and a Golden Retriever named Flynn. Kipp was definitely the inspiration for Baxter in my Deadly Curiosities stories, and Chase, our past Golden Retriever, was the inspiration for Bo in that series.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

Baxter in Deadly Curiosities shows up a lot. Did you know that vampire glamor works on a dog and makes him stop yipping at the door? There’s a running joke about that in the Deadly Curiosities books. Bo is the ghost of the main character’s golden retriever and he’s her spirit protector. She can summon his ghost with a shake of his old dog collar/tags and he is a very good ally in a fight.

What writing projects are you currently working on?—I have lots in the works! My goal is to have sequels for all our current series this year as well as launch a couple of new series. That’s very ambitious, and we might not get everything done, but I’m going to try! right now, I’m finishing up The Rising, which is a Morgan Brice romance and is the sequel to Badlands. It’s a psychic and a cop in Myrtle Beach working together to solve supernatural murders, and this one involves pirates and lost treasure! After that, I’ll be working on the fourth Deadly Curiosities novel, the next installment in the Spells Salt and Steel universe with Larry, and a sequel in my new Night Vigil urban fantasy series.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.—Growing up, I had a gray tabby cat named Misty and a miniature schnauzer named Heather. Since Larry and I have been married, we had two black/black and tan cocker spaniels and then a golden retriever, two Himalayan cats, and now our current golden and Maltese.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?—So far, they aren’t the point of view characters or a central part of the story, but they are very important to the characters. That may change, since I have a shifter romance series in mind!

Why do you include animals in your writing?—I love my pets, and pets have always been very important to me. They don’t work for every character—some travel too much or aren’t in a situation where they could provide a good pet home. But I think that showing characters connected to other people and animals helps to flesh out their story and make them more real and relatable.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know? —I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was 14 and I figured out that it was a something you could choose to do. I had never really thought about who the people were who wrote the books before that. Once I made up my mind, I chose my college major, my graduate school major, and my career to support that someday goal!

What do your pets do when you are writing?—They ‘commute’ back and forth between my desk and my husband’s desk, keeping us both company!

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?—That the whole process can take a while to get off the ground, so don’t get discouraged!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?—I really love days when I can write on my screened-in porch, because it’s so pretty out there. The dogs like it, too, and come hang out with me. I can watch birds and squirrels and lizards!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?—Never give up!

A Tale of Two Working Dogs

Cherie O’Boyle here, and thank you for visiting my first post as a regular at Pens. Paws & Claws! As mentioned in my bio, my latest novel features search and rescue dogs working to locate a kidnapped toddler. Every day, it seems, we hear another story about how working dogs are using their special skills to help humans, and I look forward to writing more of their stories.

The following is a true story, really two stories about two working dogs.

Explosives Detection

At the end of an exhausting transAtlantic flight from Budapest, my friend and I gathered our things to deplane at Los Angeles International Airport. The flight attendants seemed unusually anxious for us to move along. They even opened previously unseen hallways in the huge aircraft, and we were rushed to exit through the first class cabin. I have never seen an airplane cleared out as fast as that one.

Once inside the terminal, a Transportation Safety Administration officer waved us to hurry up the escalator. What was the big rush? Baggage was already dumping onto the carousel by the time we got there, and TSA officers were helping passengers identify and claim their bags. When has that ever happened?

Something warm bumped the back of my leg as we waited, and I turned to see a basset hound in a TSA vest crawling over luggage, sniffing madly. At the other end of the leash, another TSA officer briskly encouraged her partner to “search.” It all happened so fast, we passengers hardly had time to react.

It was not until I got home and saw the evening news that I learned a credible bomb scare had threatened to blow up a plane upon landing at LAX that day. Thank goodness we had no idea at the time, and thank goodness a bomb-sniffing dog was on the job!

Are you surprised that a basset hound would be employed for bomb-detection? Every day we work with dogs, we learn about something new and helpful they can do. We’ve learned, for example, that all dogs, regardless of breed, have powerful abilities to discriminate scents, so all breeds and even mixed breeds can be trained in scent detection. 

We’ve also learned that in any situation where the dogs might have extensive contact with the public, it’s better to hire dogs with floppy ears. Floppy eared dogs are more likely to be perceived as friendly, while those with pointy ears are perceived as scary. If you’ve ever wondered why naturally floppy-eared doberman pinscher puppies have their ears cut off and taped upright, there’s your answer.

Customs and Border Protection Dogs

I said this would be a tale about two working dogs, so here’s the second half. Same trip, same friend, still at LAX.

Having claimed our bags, we dragged them down a long wide hallway to Customs. Coming toward us was a sweet beagle with a uniformed human at the other end of the leash, who I hardly noticed. After three weeks, I really missed my own dogs, and this beagle looked so friendly. Just ahead of me, the dog made a quick u-turn and took a sudden interest in my friend. My only thought was, isn’t that darling, the dog likes her. Then the Customs officer took my friend’s elbow and said, “You’ll have to come with me, ma’am.” As he hauled her away she protested, “It’s okay! It’s wrapped in plastic!”

As it turned out, the dog had scented a mystery meat sandwich she had been carrying since three in the morning when we left Budapest. Why the fact that it was wrapped in plastic was relevant was an even bigger mystery to me. My friend was also carrying an apple. She had not declared either item on her Customs form. The obvious conclusion from this story is, don’t try to slip anything past a sniffer dog, not even an apple, because those dogs are not fooling around!

How about you, have you ever encountered working dogs on the job? Do your dogs or cats do more for you than provide fuzzy hugs and comic relief (and those are no small contributions, for sure!) I’d love to hear from you! 

Welcome back, Nupur Tustin!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Nupur Tustin back to the blog. Congratulations on your new book!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

First of all, let me say that it’s wonderful to be back! Last time I was here, I told your readers that I misuse a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate murder in Joseph Haydn’s Austria.

I have to confess, I’m still at it. Prussian Counterpoint, the third Joseph Haydn Mystery, came out just about thirteen days ago.

When I visited last year, I was in the throes of writing the novel, and although I plot all my novels, this one was written a little more intuitively than others. If your readers have watched The Man Who Invented Christmas, they’ll know what I mean. That the experiences we encounter and engage in can influence the shape our novel takes—more so when we have a strict deadline to follow.

I talk about this quite a bit in Rehearsal Notes, the free companion novel I was offering readers who preordered the book. I’m happy to extend that offer to any of your readers who buy the book by the end of this month.

So, then did blogging for Pens, Paws, and Claws influence the third novel at all?

Funny you should ask, because, yes, it absolutely did. I remember being a bit apprehensive about being interviewed.

“But my novels don’t really include pets,” I protested. “Eighteenth-century individuals don’t appear to have viewed their horses and dogs as pets.” You allayed my fears.

And so I focused last time on explaining to readers why historical mysteries typically don’t involve pets, but I did mention a couple of odd characters who were very fond of their dogs: Marie Antoinette and Frederick the Great.

You wondered at the time whether Frederick’s dogs would be given a key role in the novel. Now I hadn’t really intended to do so, but your question gave me pause. And the more I considered the matter, the more of an excellent idea it seemed. And so Frederick’s Italian greyhounds do get a small but significant role in the plot. They also provide Haydn with an important clue.

We’d love to read an excerpt.

Yes, of course. Now this is the first time that Haydn and the reader encounter Frederick’s spoiled Italian greyhounds. The servants had to address them using the formal “Vous,” instead of the more usual third person. The hounds were served special food in special bowls and were warmly welcomed in their royal master’s bed.

In this scene, they’re in the opera house and Haydn, as you’ll see, is rather uncomfortable about this situation:

“What think you of our opera, my dear Haydn?” The King, who had insisted the Kapellmeister be seated next to him, tapped him on the knee. The Italian greyhound at his feet shifted, flopping itself onto Haydn’s feet.

The Kapellmeister stiffened. He had nothing against dogs. On the hunting fields, no animal could be more useful. But what kind of man brought a dog into an opera house? God forbid, the creature should do its business on his shoes!

On the stage, Medea complained of having lost the love of Jason. A most unsuitable subject for the occasion, Haydn privately thought. This opera about a woman who forced her unfaithful husband to devour his children. But it was not the sort of remark one made to a King.

“It is a most intriguing subject, Your Majesty,” was all he could think of saying.

“Indeed.” A pair of piercing blue eyes fastened themselves upon Haydn’s features. “And why is that?”

Haydn took a deep breath and took the plunge. “One wonders how a man would react under the circumstances, Your Majesty.”

“A man would simply cut his losses and move on, Haydn. But women rather than accepting their fate try to interfere, thus spoiling everything.”

Haydn’s eyes flickered involuntarily to the Empress. Was that the King’s assessment of Her Majesty, then?

“My remarks appear to have hit the mark.” The King’s softly uttered words pulled Haydn’s gaze back. His Majesty’s well formed lips were curving into an amused smile. “You have the misfortune of being acquainted with such a woman, I suppose, Haydn.”

The Kapellmeister felt his cheeks burn at the insinuation. His nostrils flared. “Your Majesty is mistaken,” he said as calmly as he could manage. The sound of teeth clicking against metal reached his ears.

The infernal greyhound was chewing on the buckles of his shoes.

“Pepi!” The King called sharply, giving Haydn a start. But it was only the dog that His Majesty was addressing. So, the hound was christened Joseph, too! God be thanked, the King had not seen fit to nickname the creature Sepperl.

Explain Haydn’s reaction to the dog’s name.

The name Joseph, Haydn’s name, that is to say, had two diminutives. One was Sepperl. This is what Haydn’s parents called him. The other was Pepi. So naturally, Haydn gets a start when the King calls out this particular nickname. Can you imagine how insulted an eighteenth-century individual would feel about having a hound named after himself?

I like to think Haydn would’ve taken it in good spirit. He was never inclined to take himself seriously.

Do Pepi and his greyhound friends get any other scenes in the novel?

Yes, as a matter of fact, they do. They’re not particularly good guard dogs, too lazy to bark at anyone or even to take any notice of anyone who walks past them. This time, it’s the Prussian King’s principal court secretary, Anton Eichel, who encounters the dogs:

Eichel stepped out of the picture gallery to the sounds of an ever-growing commotion. It appeared to be coming from the cluster of rooms beyond the chamber he occupied as principal secretary.

The noise was loud enough to arrest his motion, but Eichel noticed that the King’s Italian greyhounds—sprawling lazily on their embroidered cushions—dozed on undisturbed. His own footsteps on the stone floor had merely caused one of the three dogs to open a single eyelid and glance reproachfully his way over a long, pointy snout.

Do make that infernal noise stop, Eichel, the creature seemed to be saying. We are trying to nap! In the principal court secretary’s head, the greyhounds sounded just like their master, with a voice just as high-pitched and mannered as the King’s.

What are you reading now?

I’ve been devouring Aaron Elkins’ art mystery series. He writes the Alix London series with his wife Charlotte Elkins and he’s also written a few standalones. I’ve just finished A Long Time Coming. A stupendous novel!

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a new series with a new character. Haydn has several more cases to solve, but he’s informed me that he wants to focus on his music for a bit before I confront him with his next dead body. I think the poor man must be heartily sick of stumbling upon corpses.

He’ll do his duty and stumble upon more at my request, but I can understand his need to focus on something a little more pleasant for just a little while longer.

Who is your favorite author and why?

This changes all the time. At the moment, it’s Aaron & Charlotte Elkins. I love the cozy-thrillers they write. The books are fast-paced with a strong sense of danger, but you still get still get that sense of place and the sort of local flavor that’s only possible in a cozy. And their characters are wonderfully drawn as well with such fascinating backstories!

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

I usually don’t—not in my historical series, at any rate—for the reasons I’ve already mentioned. Prussian Counterpoint was an exception, and I enjoyed writing the dogs into the plot. For the most part, though, if the plot calls for animals, I’ll use them. That may not always happen, and that’s fine.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

This isn’t a funny story, but it’s one I fondly remember. About seven years ago, when my eldest was just a tiny baby, Chicken, our younger pit bull, trotted into the kitchen and nudged me back toward the bedroom. Rena had just woken up from a nap and was crying. Washing dishes in the kitchen, I hadn’t heard her. If it weren’t for Chickie, she’d still have been crying.

That wasn’t the first time, Chickie alerted me to Rena’s crying. While she slept, he and Fatty would sit on either side of her nap-nanny on our bed and watch over her. It’s memories like these that I’ll always cherish.

We’ve lost both our pit bulls, unfortunately. Some day when the kids are a bit older, we’ll get a couple more dogs. For now, we’ll have to make do with our memories. Both Fatty and Chicken were great dogs—and very patient with their three rambunctious human siblings!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
I think the most important advice anyone can give someone just starting out on this path is that you have to believe in yourself in order to stay the course. It’s easy to let other people and setbacks discourage you. But when you do that, the only person you’ve disappointed is yourself.

When I first conceived of the Haydn Mysteries in 2012, I never thought I’d get one novel written, let alone publish three! I’m glad I persisted. And I hope to keep writing until I draw my last breath.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Readers interested in getting a Complimentary Taste of Murder are invited to visit http://bit.ly/Haydn_Taste_of_Murder where I’m offering Three Free Mysteries.

About Nupur:

Bio: A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her musical works.

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Free Taste of Murder: http://bit.ly/Haydn_Taste_of_Murder

Links:

To Buy Prussian Counterpoint or the two previous Haydn Mysteries, visit:

Amazon: http://bit.ly/HaydnMystery3

Kobo: http://bit.ly/PrussianKobo

B&N Nook: http://bit.ly/PrussianNook

Apple iTunes: https://apple.co/2Sbja9i

 

Cute Pet Memes to Make You Laugh

Need a good laugh? Who doesn’t? The world‘s a troubling place.

That’s where cute pets come to the rescue. Pet your cat, dog, ferret, hamster—and enjoy them. They give us such joy, comfort, and happiness. Ever notice how they make us smile even when they’re not doing anything?

 

From Bobbi Hanson’s Pinterest board

 

But maybe you don’t/can’t have pets. Or you’re at work and the minutes to quitting time are going oh-so-slowly. Or you just can’t get enough cuteness in your life.

Enjoy a few of my favorite cute pet pictures and memes. If you’re on Facebook and/or Pinterest, you’ve probably seen some of these countless times, but they’re always good for a belly laugh.

From lolzombie.com

 

This is my Olive to a T:

From Homer Blind WonderCat

 

From Greenleafpets.com

 

We’re not as evolved as we think:

From Photobucket

 

Dogs helping writers?

From Jeff Stahler, dist. by UFS, Inc.

 

Just in from Jim Callan

 

Waiting for treats

Disney & Riley
Olive and Morris

 

Ready to ditch the politics and spend your days laughing at cute pet videos, memes, and pictures on social media? You’ll have no trouble finding them. Start with these:

Homer Blind WonderCat

Dog Memes

Funny Pets on YouTube

Funny Pets on Pinterest

Funny Pets on Facebook

Tell us your favorites.

A Funny Thing Happened When Dad Walked my Dogs

Before we get started, I want to offer a HUGE thank you to Heather Weidner and the other Pens, Paws and Claws bloggers who have welcomed me into the litter! I am truly honored to be amongst such great writers and animal lovers! This is going to be fun!

So, a little bit about myself, I write light-hearted mysteries that usually have a coastal setting and sometimes include animals. I figure it’s best to keep with that tradition while blogging here, so my first post is the true tale of the one (and only) time I let my dad walk my dogs.

My military husband had deployed for six months. I was left home with a toddler and two BIG dogs (combined weight 175 pounds! They weren’t supposed to be that big, but that’s another story for another day.) My dad, a 60-something apple-shaped man who never met a piece of pie he didn’t devour, travelled 400 miles to help me out for a few weeks. His “help” consisted of letting me cook for him and clean up after him while he sat and watched Golden Girls reruns. But, to his credit, having another adult to talk to during the day saved my sanity. One afternoon the toddler was being a toddler (cutting teeth, if memory serves), so given the choice of staying home with the cranky child or taking the dogs for a walk to burn off some canine energy, Dad chose the dogs. Off he went, leashed up to the usually well-behaved beasts for an anticipated 15-minute trot around the block.

He was gone a really long time. I got really worried. My fears ran the gamut from Dad suffering a heart attack to the dogs getting loose and running into traffic.

At the 52-minute mark, I strapped toddler onto the seat on the back of my bicycle and we went looking.

We found dad and the dogs about two blocks from home. He’d taken a wrong turn and gotten lost on the winding streets of our planned development. HUGE sigh of relief. We rode alongside to make sure he found his way home, all the while chatting about what I would cook for dinner that night.

“Uh-oh,” I said when I saw a calico cat perched on a neighbor’s sunny front porch.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“A cat.” My dogs didn’t like cats. And they especially didn’t like that particular calico who took great pleasure in taunting them as she cleaned herself while perched atop the fencepost in our backyard.

“What does that mean?” Dad asked.

The cat streaked across our path. “Hold on tight!”

Next thing I knew, my dad was on his bulbous belly, being dragged across a neighbor’s front yard. His arms were stretched over his head as he rocked back and forth, the leashes tight around his wrists as the dogs pulled him the length of the lawn. The cat jumped over the fence and disappeared. My dogs sniffed the ground where the cat had last set paw. My dad lay, stunned, with little bits of grass stuck to his face.

Yes, it was horrific, but I sheepishly admit I have never laughed so hard in my life. Tears streamed down my eyes and I couldn’t get a single word out. I still laugh at the memory.

We made it home without further incident. Dad’s pride was bruised, but his 200 body parts remained intact. The grass stains on his shirt and knees came out in the wash. My son would put his arms over his head and rock his body, imitating dad’s adventure, and we would all break out into peals of laughter again.

We laughed about his suburban version of his Nantucket sleighride the rest of his life.

Employing the old writer’s adage, “write what you know,” I used this experience to craft the opening scene in my first romance novel, Bailey’s Most Wanted. Don’t go rushing off to buy a copy, because nopublisher ever wanted to waste paper and ink on that one. While the first scene was great, I’m the first to admit it went downhill…fast…from there. Turns out romance is not my genre. While I enjoy reading it, I just can’t keep two desperately in love people apart for 300 pages. Stories need conflict! Hence, I found my niche in mysteries, wherein when the story gets boring, I kill off a character. But I do so with a soupçon of hilarity, because life—and stories—are better when filled with humor.

ABOUT JAYNE

 

Jayne Ormerod grew up in a small Ohio town then went on to a small-town Ohio college. Upon earning her degree in accountancy, she became a CIA (that’s not a sexy spy thing, but a Certified Internal Auditor.) She married a naval officer and off they sailed to see the world. After nineteen moves, they, along with their two rescue dogs Tiller and Scout, have settled into a cozy cottage by the sea. Jayne is the author of the Blonds at the Beach Mysteries, The Blond Leading the Blond, and Blond Luck, as well as a doze other short stories and novellas. Her most recent releases are Goin’ Coastal and To Fetch a Thief

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Welcome, Cheryl Russell

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Cheryl Russell to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

For many years, I was bedbound with severe ME, unable to do anything for myself. In 2013 God healed me and since then I’ve been building up my strength.

I’ve self-published 8 books which are a mix of genres. My first was historical fiction. Most of them are thrillers and one murder mystery. I wrote a nonfiction book about my life with ME and my healing.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

I have 2 adorable gerbils called Tom and Jerry. I had gerbils through the early        years of ME but then had many years without them as I didn’t have anyone to        look after them. They are such beautiful animals. Very funny and cute. When they get themselves into trouble, they only have to stand up, and I’ll forgive them anything.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

I have written a few short stories about gerbils. I used to attend a writing class and they soon realised my love of gerbils as I read our stories I’d written about them. I have also written about them in an email to a friend. She loves hearing about them. They make her smile and entertain her.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m editing a couple of historical fiction set around the second world war era. I’ve just begun writing another murder mystery, featuring the same female sleuths as in my last one. Its current title is Partners in Crime. Blood has been found in the bath but no body anywhere.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

I thought my gerbil Hattie had escaped or something had happened. I hadn’t seen her. I decided to put my hand in the cage as that would usually elicit a response. Nothing. Worried I rustled my hand in the bedding. Hettie emerged but no sign of Hattie. I continued but no Hattie. I suddenly saw the cardboard egg box move that I’d put there for them to play with. It seemed to move on its own, earning the nickname the haunted egg box. A little head peered out from under it looking so innocent, no idea of the trouble she’d been causing. Hattie had been sleeping under the box all the time.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer from a very young age. During those awful years when I was bedbound I’d lay there imagining lots of different stories. I pretty much had the entire plot of Lily of the Valley, my first book, in my head. As soon as I was able, I wrote all the notes I had and then the book made its way on to my laptop and then to Amazon. It was my baby and sending it out into the world was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Sometimes they will sleep like they are today and other times they’ll be busy playing kicking bedding everywhere or destroying cardboard, chewing it into little pieces. They are very distracting when they are playing as I just want to watch them and enjoy the entertainment. Gerbilvision is better than television any day.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

A mixture of books. Plenty of thrillers, Christian books, anything that looks good. I have no idea how many books I have. Two piles of physical books and loads more on my Kindle.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Keep going, don’t give up. Do writing courses, go to a local writing class. Practise at every opportunity.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that you’d like to share?

The writing is the easy part. If you go down the traditional publishing route its easier but still challenging. I chose to self-publish. It’s the marketing afterwards that’s difficult. Don’t give up.

About Cheryl:

Cheryl is a multi-genre author. She has written one historical fiction and is working on two others currently. She has written several thrillers and one murder mystery. A collection of short stories is also included in her list of published writing. In total, 8 books now.

Cheryl was bedbound for many years with the chronic illness ME. During those awful years when she could do nothing for herself she enjoyed spending time in her imagination writing books. Her debut novel was comprehensively plotted in her head, she just had to wait until she was able to put pen to paper and write it. She was miraculously healed by God in 2013 and has since been building up her muscles to get her strength back. This continues to be ongoing in 2019. It is a slow process, but she is doing well.

She was recently a runner up in the Student of the Year Award with the Writers Bureau. Last year she also achieved finalist in the Book Talk Radio Club Awards mystery category. Cheryl is very proud of these achievements as it shows just how far she has come from those awful days, and also it validates her writing ability.

When not writing she enjoys reading, going to an aqua fit class once a week. She is crazy about gerbils and currently has two called Tom and Jerry.

Cheryl is also autistic so has to work hard on dialogue. After finishing her debut novel, a friend looked through the first chapter and noticed the dialogue wasn’t natural. Telling her how it should be has really helped Cheryl improve that novel and improve her writing since then. Dialogue, although still difficult, has become easier to write and become more natural. She still has to check it carefully in the editing stages and correct it.

Cheryl has had to overcome so many challenges to reach the stage she is at now. Her lifelong dream of being an author has been realised.

JAKE: Our Most Loving and Demanding Dog by Sheri Levy

 

After the death of our first rescued German shepherd, Charlie, my husband and I let our children choose a White German shepherd. Our young daughter named her, Gretchel. After Gretchel passed-on, and being avid dog lovers, we fell in love with the Australian shepherd breed.

During January, our six-month-old Aussie, Sydney, discovered his first snow storm, and he bit and pawed at the white fluff. Snow never lasted long in Greenville, S.C. so we spent the afternoon sledding. I rode our children’s red sled and Sydney chased me. Suddenly, a Black lab puppy bounced out of the woods, sat my lap, and licked my face.

Sydney barked, telling him to go away. But the Lab refused and wanted to play. Murphy and I assumed he was a neighbor’s dog. After an hour of being frozen and wet, we called Sydney and headed home.

The Lab sat and stared. His head bobbed sideways, contemplating what came next. Moments later, he raced after us. We led him into our garage, gave him water, and Murphy dried his wet body while I went in and called our neighbors. No one knew anything about this dog.

When I returned to the garage, Murphy shared. “This guy not only is skin and bones, but he has three puncture wounds. I’ll clean these bites since we’ll have to wait until the roads clear to get him to the veterinarian.

The wounds didn’t seem to bother him and he ate as if he hadn’t eaten in days. We made him a warm bed in the garage and he fell asleep. During his three days with us, he showed us his loving and relaxed personality. As the ice melted, we drove him to the Vet’s office. After we paid the Vet bills, we called him ours and named him Jake.

Jake grew to over eighty pounds and his mischievous nature began to show. After he chewed on our furniture while we worked, Jake became an outside dog within our electric fence. Sydney and Jake played like brothers, but Jake invented new ways to be destructive. Our daughter was getting married and her decorations and invitations arrived by UPS one day on the front porch.

When we arrived home, our son was picking-up the itty-biddy pieces of purple napkins and décor shredded across the front yard, and in between every plant. On other days, Jake ate the electric wires to the garage door opener, and the wires on the boat trailer. We never knew what we’d find when we returned home. Jake would play tug-a war-with our huge Azaleas, leaving gaping holes in the ground.

I had been taking Jake to dog training classes and the trainer encouraged us not to use negative ways to punish him. She talked about using balloons, popping them so he’d hear a sudden loud noise and would become afraid of balloons. Murphy blew up a balloon and popped it. I screamed. Jake watched and Sydney ran and hid.

The next step was to tape the colored-balloons inside the azaleas, the boat trailer and any electrical wires.  Our neighbors had a good laugh when they saw our colorful front yard.  Jake ignored the balloons as long as they stayed full of air. But once the air dissipated, he ripped-off the balloon and swallowed it. We’d find colored balloons around the entire yard.

Jake eventually out grew most of his mischief, and he lived to a ripe-old age of thirteen and a half. He was the funniest and most challenging dog we ever loved.

 

 

Welcome, Elizabeth Moldovan!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Elizabeth Moldovan to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi, my name is Elizabeth, and I recently published my life story only to help other people who struggle with drug use. I have 5 children, and the youngest is 15. I love gardening, drawing and painting, cooking and minding my granddaughter 2 days a week.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

During the years it took for me to write my book, we adopted a dog that had been abused prior to her coming to live in our home. Shortly after we found out that she was going to have puppies and she gave birth to 7, in the corner of our kitchen. We called her “Tiny” and everyone loved her. She brought much joy to us all and we had over 40 different people visit us and her puppies. They went to good homes and after 3 years, Tiny went to live on a farm with a good home. At that time, we cried to let her go, because a young mum 18, from the community, who reached out for help with her newborn baby, came to live with us for the next 2 years.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

My children always had pets growing up, and I wrote about them all in the book. (guinea pigs, fish, rabbits, rats/mice). We bought them a puppy for Christmas and called him Binky. I write about Binky in the book because we all loved him, and he grew up with my children. After I fell pregnant with my 5th child, we had to move home so my niece adopted Binky and cared for him into his old age.

 What are you reading now?

“The Invisible Girl” by Samantha Houghton

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I have been accepted to be part of a new book that will be released in April in the UK along with 13 other authors. I have to write 5,000 words about my life story, and the book has a working title “Courage: Dark to Light” and proceeds will go to Samaritans, who help people who have lost hope.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Anne Frank, because as a child I identified with her suffering and her courage touched and inspired me.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

We were very poor growing up, but I remember before Dad fell ill with lung cancer, we had a cat. I was only 5 at the time, but I remember he crawled under the washing machine and Mum had to clean the grease off him.

Whats your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

It would have to be “Lassie.” I have very lovely memories of how beautiful and intelligent a dog could be.

What is your real life, funniest pet story?

There are so many, the stand out would be when “Tiny” was giving birth to her puppies and because she was so small, we all thought she would have about 3. After the 6th and then 7th were born, we were all laughing at the wonder and joy of life.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

I have always loved reading and writing but never in a million years thought I would ever write my autobiography.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

Mainly educational and biographies are on my Goodreads list. I know that I will never have time to read them all but the next book is “One nation under Therapy” by Christina Hoff Summers.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

Market and build an interested base around your book about a year before it is published. Connect with people who read your genre, and like-minded authors.

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?

My dining room table, perhaps because I feel comfortable in my kitchen and also because it was my mum’s table for 30 years.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Read the fine print. Be brave and never give up.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that youd like to share?

I learned that there is nothing to fear and that people love inspiring stories.

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The Time My Mother Tried To Trick Me About Pixie

By Judy Penz Sheluk

I’m not sure about other professions, but most writers I know have very long memories. It’s those memories that help us fabricate stories based on past experiences, places we’ve been, and people we’ve met along the way. So when I was thinking of what to write for this blog, I went back to my childhood.

I was about six and had been pestering my parents for a pet for about as long as I could talk. At long last, my parents took me to Woolworth’s, where they bought me a green budgie. I named the budgie Hansie (I have no idea where that came from) but sadly, after one night and a body full of hives, it was quickly apparent that I was allergic to feathers. Or at least to budgies. Despite my tears and desperate pleas to keep him, Hansie was duly returned and exchanged for two goldfish.

Now, truthfully, even at six, I didn’t see a goldfish as a proper pet, but I figured if I could prove myself with fish, a puppy might be in the foreseeable future. I called my goldfish Goldie (hey, I was six) and Pixie. Everything was going along swimmingly until one day after school I noticed something odd. Pixie had gone from gold to red-gold. How was that even possible?

My first resource was my Encyclopedia Britannica (does anyone remember those?). Nowhere under Goldfish did it say they could change color. Which meant someone had replaced Pixie with an imposter. The most likely suspect was my mother, who would have been home while I was at school. But why? Surely no one would kidnap a goldfish. Would they?

I ran the idea of a goldfish kidnapping by my mother, who shamefacedly admitted that she’d found Pixie floating on top of the water that morning, and wanted to spare me the heartbreak of losing another pet. I forgave her, even after she told me Pixie had been unceremoniously flushed down the toilet. I did, however, insist on making a small grave marker out of popsicle sticks in the side garden. Pixie may have gone to that big aquarium in the sky, but at least she would be remembered.

I named the new goldfish Red, and to the best of my recollection, Red and Goldie lived a couple of years, though it could just as easily have been a couple of months. It’s hard to bond with a goldfish, you know? Especially after my mother tried to trick me about Pixie.

Find Judy’s books in print, ebook, and audio at all the usual suspects, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Audible, Apple Books, Kobo, and Chapters.Indigo.