I’m a dog guy. I love dogs.
I’m the type of guy that, when out walking through the hills here in Prescott, stops and pets other people’s dogs.
Why not? Dogs, for the most part, have an incredible capacity to give.
I also write about dogs. Well, not just dogs, but they are principal characters in my stories. I could write just about dogs, but they are just so much more enjoyable with people. My specific area of interest is police dogs. I was a handler for over six years and the unit supervisor for another two and a half years. Then later, I returned to supervise a project in cooperation with the government.
A lot of people have dogs. Over half of American households have dogs, so I believe they are pretty popular. My wife and I currently have two. They’re rescues, and have issues, and are nowhere near the capability to be working dogs. Depending on the task, working dogs need to be very specific in certain qualities. I have worked with patrol and detection dogs and have been around many trailing dogs. For example, a detection or trailing dog doesn’t need to be courageous enough to take on an attacker that is twice its size. I don’t want to talk about cross-trained dogs because that will just muddy the water.
When I decided to write Big Dogs, I consciously chose not to humanize the dogs in it, at least too much. Why? One reason is that I didn’t want to make my books cute. Instead, these are realistic stories about what dogs can do and what happens sometimes. Dogs are fantastic at relaying their emotions without me trying to put words in their mouths.
I have found that dogs say more with their eyes than many people do with their mouths. When their eyes fail to get the message across, dogs find a couple of licks will tell you what you need to know.
One of the many things I did as a K9 handler was public demonstrations and talks. I have been asked many questions that gave me pause, and I will talk about those some other time, but I often got one: “Can my dog be a police dog?” My answer was almost always the same, “If your dog has the correct qualities and you are willing to put the hundreds of hours of training in it, then, sure, it could happen.”
When I wrote Big Dogs, I wanted to impress training on to the reader. It takes a ton of training to create a dog like Ares. And that’s if that dog has the inherent physical and mental qualities in the first place. I didn’t want the book to be a training manual. I actually trimmed out a lot of the repetition. You’re constantly training. When I was working with Asko, my police K9, I would throw our house keys out into the front yard every night when we got home. We didn’t go inside until he found them. Sure, it’s a small thing, but it’s still training.
Now, here’s an incredible thing. Every night I would go home, and Asko would interact with my family. He would play with my kids and do everything a normal, untrained dog would do. However, deep down inside, the police dog was waiting to go to work. It was like a switch inside his head. If I started to put my uniform on, the dog would wear out the tile between the bedroom and the door. If he saw the uniform or heard the word ‘work,’ the switch would flip, and he would change.
That’s one reason why, when I retired, I didn’t go out and purchase another working dog. It just wouldn’t be fair to the dog. Above all else, they want to go to work.
As I mentioned, when I wrote Big Dogs, I took on the task of trying to communicate all these complexities about dogs. Because I love dogs, it wasn’t too hard.