Genre Hopping with Kristin von Kreisler **plus a giveaway**

by Julie, enjoying sorting my pile of books in Somerville

I am delighted to welcome Kristin von Kreisler to the blog today! Kristin writes women’s fiction, and today she’s writing about why her books always feature a dog.

A Reason for Hope

Thank you for inviting me to write a blog post and for featuring A Reason for Hope on the Wickeds today.

Though I don’t write cozy mysteries, I do make sure my novels contain suspense.  As for my genre, it’s hard to say.  I write about contemporary issues and always insert a loveable dog into each story.

Why a dog?  Of course, because I adore dogs, but also because they serve literary purposes.  In A Reason for Hope, for example, a bookmobile librarian fights for justice after a grievous assault, and to take the sting out of that hard subject, I have Hope, an adorable Lab courthouse facility dog, comfort her through stressful police interviews, depositions, and court appearances.  As Hope wins the readers’ hearts, she makes the serious theme of assault more palatable. You might say that she adds the “cozy” to the story.

Photo of me with my late German shepherd, Bridget (photo by Jordan Taylor)

Dogs also help my characters heal, sometimes physically, but always emotionally.  Studies have shown that dogs lower our heart rates and blood pressure.  They decrease our cortisol, a stress hormone, and they increase the dopamine and serotonin that calm us.  Hospital patients visited by dog report less pain.  Reassured by fictional dogs, my characters gain similar feelings of wellbeing—and I believe that when readers enter my fictional world, they also vicariously pick up the comfort and security that the dogs provide.

Dogs can be supremely sensitive to us.  They know our feelings sometimes better than we do.  Once they pick up our moods, they enter what researchers call “attunement,” meaning that they align themselves with our emotions, get in sync with us, and very often try to help.

My new dog Ebby with her teddy.  Ebby is former courthouse dog, like Hope.

A real-life galumphing black dog named Chuckles was a model of attunement when he watched his human, who’d just had a chemo infusion, collapse on her sofa one afternoon and cry until she fell asleep.  When she woke, Chuckles was waiting, and she was covered with a squeaky carrot, balding teddy bear, decapitated tiger, and worn-out tennis balls.  The woman said, “Chuckles brought me all his toys to comfort me.  He gave me everything he had.”

Generosity is one of many things we can learn from dogs, and with love and kindness, my fictional dogs have much to teach my characters.  The dogs are shining examples of resilience, courage, and forgiveness, which are what my characters need to cultivate in order to heal from their trials.  The dogs are guides and models, and their mentoring, though subtle, changes lives.

Wilson, a yellow Lab enjoying my new novel (photo by Sheryl Speight)

That’s why I always put dogs in my novels.  They bring humor to serious subjects and hope to seemingly impossible struggles.  I call on dogs to temper upsetting scenes and offer relief after brutal acts.  Most of all, I ask dogs to do what they do best, and that is to embody the love I want to shine through my stories.  Like love, the dogs are a powerful force for the good.

Readers, have you found dogs in cozy mysteries you’ve read?  Has a dog ever helped you through a hard time? Let me know in the comments. I’ll give one book away to a commenter on the blog.

About A Reason for Hope:

“A Labrador retriever named Hope brings comfort to a woman struggling with the ramifications of her sexual assault… The theme is so powerful that A Reason for Hope will resonate with readers.” —Booklist

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Photo of me and Bridget at home (photo by Jordan Taylor)

Kristin von Kreisler is the award-winning, bestselling author of novels,  nonfiction books, and articles about animals, a career that has found her following a grizzly bear and hang gliding to experience the sensation of eagles soaring through the sky.  She lives in a restored Victorian farmhouse in Washington with her husband and their beloved Lab Ebby.

41 Thoughts

  1. Welcome to the blog, Kristen! Sounds like you have had some wonderful dogs in your life. I’m not a dog person, but I have added a couple in my cozies because that’s what the character would do.

    1. Edith, thank you for welcoming me! I’m happy to be here. I’ve written several responses to your email, but something has been wrong with my connection. I’m trying again…

  2. Brilliant, Kristin! You’ve captured why animals can become so much more than a familiar trope or prop in a story. Thanks for your insights! Before her passing, our black lab, Pepper, taught the young Boston terrier, Ike, every one of her amazing array of hand commands, reserving each a special place in our dog hall of fame.

  3. What a wonderful blog. Yes, dogs have a unique empathy. I had a German Shorthaired Pointer who was trained as a therapy dog. While he loved children, his specialty was working with the aged. He visited a medical senior care home in our area on a weekly basis and the staff said he made a huge difference, especially with those suffering from end stage Alzheimer’s.

    1. I’m sure he did make a huge difference! And thank you for letting me know about him because I’ve just adopted a “career change” courthouse dog, a black Lab named Ebby. She and I are going to become a therapy team and start training in March. One of our possible assignments will be a memory care facility. So I’m glad to hear about your dear dog.

  4. I love dogs as part of stories – but I do want the dog to be part of the story, not just window dressing. I have a retired-racer greyhound who gives me all the love and snuggles I need.

    1. It’s important that the dog IS part of the story and not window dressing. In my novels, the dog is always hugely important, especially to offer insight into the character and to teach important lessons, such as forgiveness.

    2. Liz, I fear this is about the third time I’ve responded to your comment. I don’t know what’s wrong with my connection, but I can’t seem to post anything—or I post it and it takes half an hour to appear. Something is wrong, and I’m not sure what to do!

  5. Sounds like a lovely story! I love all animals, and do find peace in their innocence.

  6. My husband and I always had dogs growing up and in our own family, but we find caring for a dog to be one step too many in our current journey. So, I read books with dog characters to get my canine love. Your cover just made my heart happy and your post cemented the deal…I must read your books! Yes, dogs are so attuned to us and several times during a health crisis, I have had our dog of the moment come to my side to be comforting. Brings tears to my eyes just remembering. Best of luck with your writing and thank you for including dogs in your books.

    1. Judy, I’m so glad that you’ve had dogs comfort you, so you know what I’m talking about. My fictional dogs are always wonderful, and they are important characters in my stories. You sound very sensitive to dogs, so I think you’ll appreciate mine! I intend for them specifically to warm readers’ hearts.

  7. What a lovely post, Kristin. I’m a cat person, but a neighbor has a dog ned Brad, who is the friendliest, kindest soul ever. He’s the best!

    1. K.C. Kenney, I’ve thought many times about having a kitty in my story, and my main character in A Reason for Hope tends a colony of feral cats. But to have them be as important as dogs in stories is difficult because they aren’t as active—they don’t chase balls or chew slippers or rescue people from fires. But I’m still thinking about how to make it work!

  8. Snickerdoodle, our now 17 year old chihuahua, has been a blessing from day one. As a very young pup, I have sweet memories of him with my Dad playing and napping while Mom and I would be busy with housework or cooking. We had only had him 6 short months, when my Dad died. Having been married just shy of 60 years and never far from one another, my Mom was lost. Snickerdoodle went to live with Mom giving her a reason to get up in the morning and to give her loving during those empty hours. When Mom was ready several months later, he came back home. When Mom came to live with us permanently after cancer surgery, he was the reassurance to Mom when we had to sell her home and downsize her belongs collected over a life time. With the onset of Alzheimer, Snickerdoodle was the one anchor that kept Mom in the here and now. Right up to the night before you death, she knew him and told said “love” at bedtime. As we adjusted back to what others call “normal”, he was there for hubby and I as our lives were turned upside down again. He’s always there with love knowing exactly what each of us needs whether it’s to play for distraction or just to lay beside us for comfort. Like I said, he’s now 17 and has medical issues of his own. He’s a diabetic on insulin twice a day. He’s almost completely blind and very hard of hearing. And bless his heart he has the arthritis just like his Momma. But throw it all, he’s a devoted and loving member of our family. It’s our turn to lavish the attention and love on this sweet baby for his remaining years – which I pray are many. Our reward is seeing his tail wage and sweet doggie kisses and many, many precious memories to be able to look back on.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Kay, what a wonderful tribute to that dear Snickerdoodle. All his life he’s been doing just what I wrote about attunement. Clearly, he has loved his humans and tried to help in any way he could. I am so glad you are giving him such wonderful care now. It’s your way of paying him back for all the love he has given you and your family for so many years. Thank you for telling me about him!

  9. Most of the cozies I read will either have a dog or a cat. Some of the traditional/suspense books have had dogs in them.

  10. I have always had at least one dog in my life. That being said, they have helped me through many difficult times. Death of a loved one, surgeries, diagnosis of multiple Sclerosis. Dogs have a way of making everything seem better. I have never had a dog tell me I was silly to cry over something that upset me. I’ve never had one tell me to toughen up and be a big girl don’t act like a baby. I can’t say the same about people. So I just imagine they will continue to be my best friends and my solace in bad times.

    1. Laurie, you’re exactly right. Dogs don’t judge. They just live in the present and love their human, and it sounds like the dogs who have graced your life have done just that. I surely agree that they have a way of making everything seem better. I think in my novels the dogs do that, and they help to comfort the reader, too.

  11. While cats are most plentiful, there are plenty of dogs in cozies. I just finished an older one by Penny Warner that features a dog. Since I’m allergic to dogs, I keep my distance in real life, unfortunately.

  12. I, I too love dogs and they are very loving and very comforting . Our 8yr old half Schnauzer pup makes me smile and laugh everyday. I believe that they know what we are feeling and they sit there and listen . Dogs are very intelligent and they love us unconditionally and they ask for nothing in return . I think that dogs are a persons Best friend. I think fur babies are the Best them either being dogs or cats, I think any kind of pet makes a persons life much better. I really enjoyed reading your post, Thank you so much and Thank you for always including a pup in your books. Pets are the Best listeners. Have a great day and stay safe.

    1. Alicia, it sounds like we think exactly the same. I’m glad you’ve got your half Schnuazer pup and you’ve experienced all the love and kindness that animals can give. It’s wonderful!

  13. I love both dogs and cats in books! I’ve had both cats and dogs in my life and they always know when you need them. If I’m not feeling well my cats seem to sense it and stay close. When I had my dog she was the same way. Animals add so much to life, I can’t imagine being without a dog or cat.

    1. Dianne, I agree with you! I can’t imagine living without a dog or cat, either. Thank goodness you have adopted some and know the pleasure. Very fortunate for you—and for them!

  14. Most of the cozies I read have either a dog or a cat.
    A dog has helped me through a hard time. A guy burnt down his house on purpose who lived across from us. She alerted my family and I & she helped me by her listening. Another time another one of my dogs was protective and she always protected my sisters and I when we were in trouble and we were to get a spanking. She stopped that. No matter what type of Dog we owned the one thing they all had in common was they always gave love & hope when you needed.

    1. Crystal, thank goodness your dog alerted you and your family to the fire! I know lots of animals have done that, but each one is a hero. And I love that your dog protected you and your sisters. Very beautiful. I agree that dogs give love and hope, and that’s why I always put one in my stories.

  15. During the years that my mother suffered with Alzheimer’s I had my Great Pyrenees Rogue to cuddle and cry with. She was such a loving dog and would lean in for the hugs. She was such a comfort to me and my children during this time. I have had 9 dogs to date. We now have a 10 year old Springer Spaniel named Delilah who keeps us laughing everyday day. Can’t wait to read your book. Thank you

    1. Sandra, thank you so much. I hope you enjoy A Reason for Hope—or any of my novels that always have a dog character. I’m so glad you had Rogue when you were going through such a hard time with your mother. What a blessing for you! And now Delilah can bring you joy. Your comments warm my heart.

  16. I love reading cozies with dogs. I’ve always had a dog, even growing up. I believe they can tell if you are sad or just really need them. They are there by your side when you need them.

    Thanks for the chance!

    1. B, they surely are by your side when you need them. And they know what you’re feeling sometimes before you do. I’m glad you’ve always had a dog because I’m sure each dog has contributed much goodness to your life.

  17. I love to have animals in mysteries that help to solve the crime. I have read books with dogs as well as cats. We had a dog that saved me from a fire in our apartment in the early morning hours. Animals have a wonderful sense that humans are not. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

  18. I love when animals are the side kicks in cozy mysteries! I have read several that include dogs!

  19. I’ve had dogs in the past, but at 73 I feel I am beyond being a pet parent now. I like seeing dogs in cozies.

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