by Julie, enjoying late summer in Somerville
I’m thrilled to welcome V.M. Burns back to the blog. I did some research, and Valerie first visited the blog back in 2018 when she was nominated for an Agatha for best first novel. Since then she’s written three series! Paw and Order is the 4th book in her Dog Club Mystery series.
Thanks, Julie and all of the Wickeds for inviting me to spend time with you all today.
I have always loved dogs. Cats are nice too, but all of the kids on my favorite television shows had dogs. My Three Sons had Tramp. Timmy had Lassie (or did Lassie have Timmy?). Even the Brady Bunch had Tiger. When I was a kid, my sister and I begged my parents for a dog. We were told when we got a house with a fenced in yard, we could get a dog. A brick ranch house within walking distance to an elementary school became my dream home because it had a fenced in yard. However, even at five-years-old, I knew there would be additional strings. Reminded of the promise, my mom added the stipulation that we could only have a dog that didn’t shed. My mom was a neat freak and hated dog hair. Dogs that don’t shed? Did such a thing exist? During the ancient times (pre-Internet), my sister and I went to our local library. Imagine our surprise when we learned that there was a dog breed that didn’t shed—Poodles. Research complete and with our budget of $10 dollars which we’d saved from our allowance, we scanned the classified ads for a poodle. That’s when our lives changed forever.
Candy was an AKC registered white toy poodle. She was ten-years-old when we got her ($10 didn’t go far back then either). Fortunately, small dogs live longer than big dogs. We bought her and brought her home. That’s when the training began. Not Candy’s training. That’s when she began to train us.
First lesson—No Dog Food. The people we bought her from assured us that Candy ate dog food. They may have even sent us home with a bag. However, Candy refused to eat it. “She’ll eat when she’s hungry,” my dad said. Three days later, the food bowl was still full. “Doesn’t Candy look weak?” I asked. That’s when we made our first mistake. My mother opened the freezer and took out a pound of hamburger. Cooked and placed in her dish, Candy ate every morsel. From that day until the day she died, Candy ate hamburger six days per week. Why only six days? Because, on Sundays she was given a choice between hamburger and chicken. I can still remember my mom saying, “Bark for the one you want.” Invariably, Candy barked for chicken on Sundays.
Second lesson—No dogs on the furniture. Candy was told multiple times that she was not supposed to get on the furniture. To her credit, she rarely did, at least not when my mom could see her. However, whenever we left, there would be a toy-poodle-sized indentation in the middle of my parent’s bed. One Sunday, we came home from church a little early and pulled up in front of the house. Before we jumped out of the car, my mom pointed at the large picture window. “Look, that’s Candy.” We looked and sure enough, Candy had climbed up on the arm of the sofa, moved the curtains back and was looking out the window. Of course, when we got inside, she denied ever having violated the rules. She started each night in her dog bed. However, at some point, she would invariably climb in the bed with either me or my sister.
Third lesson—Dogs have their dignity I mentioned my mom was a neat freak. She conceded that Candy would get on the furniture when nobody was around to stop her. However, she required stipulations when it came to potty cleanliness. After a trip outside for…a number two, my mom took a paper towel and wiped her butt. Oh, the indignity of it all. Candy was thoroughly humiliated and hid under the bed until we coaxed her out. After the third or fourth time of enduring this indignity, she refused to stand still for it. The next time she had a B.M., she wiped her own bum, by scooting across the back porch. Did I mention that poodles are smart dogs?
Candy taught us a lot of things, but mostly she taught us what unconditional love felt like. I still love dogs, and poodles are my breed. I currently have three toy poodles, Cash, Kensington (aka Kenzie) and Chloe. Each book in my Dog Club Mystery Series features a different breed of dog, but just like me, my protagonist, Lilly Ann Echosby, loves poodles. Paw and Order, is the fourth book in the series and Lilly and her toy poodle, Aggie, are ready to introduce a new member to their pack. Check out Paw and Order and meet, Rex.
About the author
V.M. (Valerie) Burns was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. She received a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, a Master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Seton Hill University. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers Association of America, Thriller Writers International and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. In addition to the Dog Club Mystery series, V.M. Burns is also the Agatha Award nominated author of The Plot is Murder, the first book in the Mystery Bookshop Mystery series; and the RJ Franklin Mystery series.
She currently resides East Tennessee with her three poodles. Readers can keep up with new releases by following her on social media.
Readers, Valerie is going to give away two ebooks of Paw and Order to commenters on the blog. Let us know if you’ve ever been owned by a dog.