True Loves Fact and Fiction

By Tracy Weber

Fourteen years ago, I met one of the greatest loves of my life.  Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’m not talking about him. This love was a five-week-old, completely imperfect German shepherd named Tasha.  Who could resist falling in love with this cutie?

Tracy and Tasha when Tasha was 5 weeks old

Not coincidentally, my protagonist also fell in love (even if she didn’t realize it at first) with a hundred pound, also completely imperfect German shepherd named Bella.

Readers often ask me if Bella is my dog. I give the same answer I do when they ask if Kate is me.

No.

And yes.

Some of the funniest dog scenes in my writing come straight from Tasha’s and my life together. Some of the hardest scenes are based on stories I’ve heard from others. For the record, here’s my comparison of these two Amazing canines.  One is fictional, the other has passed on.  But both are amazing creatures that I’m lucky to have known.

Bella and Tasha: Similarities

  • Appearance: Physically, Tasha and Bella are twins. They are both gorgeous, primarily black, over one-hundred-pound female German shepherds. If they weren’t so busy taking care of their humans, they could be doggie supermodels. Don’t you agree?

  • Health: Tasha and Bella both suffer from an autoimmune disease called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). Bella is diagnosed early in Murder Strikes a Pose. Tasha lived with the disease most of her twelve-year life. EPI is a lifelong condition and fatal if not treated, but with daily medication, dogs with EPI can live long, normal, happy, healthy lives.
  • Personality: Both Bella and Tasha are what dog trainers call reactive, meaning that they are easily frightened, and when frightened, they try to scare the alarming thing away. This works great when they’re convincing a would-be burglar to avoid your house, not so great when they’re lunging at your neighbor’s toddler. In both cases, with positive training, love, and management, they can learn to overcome their fears.
  • Loyalty: Tasha’s trainers and veterinarians all told me that Tasha would be willing to die for me. In fact, whenever she saw something scary, she placed her body between me and the perceived menace. I’ve never known any creature, human or animal, more committed to my well-being. Bella is equally loyal to Kate.

Bella and Tasha: Differences

  • Health: I wish I could say that EPI was Tasha’s biggest health issue. The truth is, Tasha’s EPI was  comparatively easy to manage. She also had a second autoimmune disease, four bad legs, and a bad back. I would never curse an animal, real or imaginary, with all of the health issues Tasha faced. Yet no dog has ever been more loved. That has to count for something.
  • Personality: Like Kate and me, Bella and Tasha have different neuroses. For example, Bella isn’t fond of men with beards, but she’s thinks cats are just great. Tasha had no problem with beards, but she was convinced that cats were Satan’s squirrels.
  • Loyalty: Although Bella’s adult life will be charmed, she came from a puppyhood of abuse. Tasha lived with me from the day she turned eight weeks old until the day she passed in my arms. She never experience harsh treatment. Not once.

Above all else, the two canines were loved by humans who cared for them, adored them, and prioritized their dog’s well-being over their own. In the end, what more could any pup want?

Anyone who’s ever loved an imperfect dog will identify with Kate’s struggles with Bella. Any dog who’s owned an imperfect human will identify with Bella’s struggles with Kate. Of course, the series revolves around murder, so you can bet that Kate and Bella stumble across dead bodies along the way.

Yoga, dogs, and murder. What could be more fun?

My newest Downward Dog Mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder is available now  in e-book and paper back copies everywhere! http://tracyweberauthor.com/buy_premeditated.html

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Mystery and Mayhem—Animal Style!

By Tracy Weber

I’m excited and honored to be joining the wonderful writers at Pens, Paws and Claws. For those of you who don’t know me yet, I have adored animals for as long as I can remember.  From my first German shepherd, a lovely animal named Duchess, to my Holstein cow Beauty, to my first kitty, Smokey. Then there was my childhood horse, Becky, and the other assorted, dogs, cats, turtles, fish, parakeets, gerbils, canaries—even a pigeon named Lollipop—that followed.  Each has commanded a special place in my heart.

Tracy and her cow Beauty.

When I was a child, cats followed me wherever I went like children chasing after the Pied Piper, not unlike the cats in this photo.

Tracy and the cats on “Cat Island” in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

As I got older, I made plans to be a veterinarian and practiced my skills by nursing injured butterflies back to health. One day, I tearfully convinced my fourth grade teacher to let me release the winged grasshoppers she’d asked me to gather for the science class’s dissection.  I’m pretty sure the grasshoppers were happier about my success than the school’s groundskeeper.  😉

Not much has changed since then. When I see a drowning earthworm, I relocate it. I move caterpillars off walking trails so they don’t get smashed. I save snails and slugs from almost-certain deaths near snail traps.  (Don’t tell my neighbors!) If it weren’t for my husband, I’d surely be locked away in whatever prison they use to hold well-meaning hoarders.

It’s not surprising that animals play prominent roles in my mysteries. How could they not?  After all, I write what I love, and I love nothing more than animals.  My mysteries give me the perfect opportunity to weave in some unusual animal characters.  Karma’s a Killer, for example, revolves around an animal rescue group, a wildlife rehabilitator, and a group of animal activists who clash with deadly results.

My writing is fiction, but it’s informed by my life. Many of the animals in my books are based on real-life creatures.  Bella, the German shepherd in the series, is strongly based on one of my two heart dogs, a special-needs German shepherd named Tasha, who passed away almost two years ago. Blackie—a rehabilitated crow who plays a prominent role in my third book, Karma’s a Killer—is modeled after a wild crow (and his friends) that befriended Tasha. Their friendship lasted Tasha’s entire twelve-year life.

Tracy and Tasha, the inspiration for Tracy’s Downward Dog Mystery Series.

Raising goats is still a pipe dream, but I’m chiseling away at my husband’s resolve a little more every day.  If I have my way, pigs and a few chicken-girls will soon join our menagerie.  😉

Tracy and her new German shepherd pup, Ana. Ana doesn’t have her own series yet, but it’s only a matter of time!

How about you?  What animals are important in your life?  Tell me about your favorite furred, feathered, and scaled creatures in the comments.  Who knows?  Maybe they’ll end up in my next mystery!

My newest Downward Dog Mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder is available now  in e-book and paper back copies everywhere! http://tracyweberauthor.com/buy_premeditated.html

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