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.
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.
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.
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
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. http://www.kristinvonkreisler.com