About the book:Who knew chasing a rat in the middle of a Christmas pageant could cause so much trouble? Certainly not Doodle, the obedience-impaired labradoodle who works for “the boss,” Josh Hunter of Hunter Bed Bug Detection, nor Molly, the boss’s ten-year-old daughter. But then Doodle’s the first to admit he doesn’t quite get Christmas.
Doodle’s antics during the pageant draw the attention of a popular video-blogger, who asks to do a feature his on sniffer-dog skills. But when the blog airs, pretty much the opposite of what Molly and the boss expected, the boss’s phone rings off the hook with distraught customers who think Doodle’s bed bug “finds” can’t be trusted. Molly, searching for a way to set things right, befriends the blogger’s son, a boy alienated from his mother who wants only to go live with his father.
Throw in a handful of threatening letters, some lost dogs, and a devastating fire, and Molly and Doodle have their hands—well, in Doodle’s case, his paws—full finding out just who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.
A charming cozy for all seasons and for dog lovers of all ages.
Labra—whaaaat?Okay, I’ll admit it. I didn’t invent Doodle, the wise-cracking, bed-bug-detecting narrator of the Doodlebugged mysteries, out of whole cloth—or, um fur. It happens that many of Doodle’s more eccentric traits came from observation of Shadow, a labradoodle we adopted as a filthy, flea-bitten puppy on a frigid November afternoon in 2008. For me, finding Shadow was the culmination of years of what I can only call labradoodle lust, which struck me when I first began reading about Australian labradoodles.
Developed by Wally Cochran (beginning in 1989) specifically to be non-shedding and mostly hypoallergenic service dogs, Australian labradoodles were crosses of Australian Labrador retrievers (generally calmer and smaller than American Labrador retrievers) and standard poodles. They were designed to be service dogs for people who are allergic to golden retrievers and German shepherds and other typical service breeds. The goal was to get a hypoallergenic coat on a dog who would be happy, if not thrilled, to be a service dog.
At this point, you might say, “Hey, poodles already have the hypoallergenic, non-shedding coat. Why go to all the trouble to create a new breed?”
You would think this only if you’ve never lived with a poodle. Dog-behaviorist Stanley Coren, who ranks different breeds of dogs by order of intelligence in his aptly named book, The Intelligence of Dogs, places poodles second from the top as far as intelligence. (Labrador retrievers aren’t slouches in the in the smarts department either—Coren rates them seventh. Naturally, those over-achieving border collies come in first.) But about the poodle personality, he says something to the effect that poodles are born thinking they’ve won the grand lottery of life.
Smart, yes. Clever, definitely. Self-esteem? Can we say entitled? In fact, poodles have so much self-esteem that they often don’t see the need to take advice or instruction from anyone else, particularly the humans in their lives.
Other adjectives frequently used in regard to poodles: reserved, aloof, independent. Not, as you can see, your basic service-dog personality. (Now, before you poodle lovers rush to your keyboards, let me say, first, that I know there are many exceptions and I’m sure your dog is one of them, and second, that I love poodles myself. Heck, I practically own—well, live with— one, but more on that later.)
Reserved, aloof and independent certainly describes Shadow. Later, I would learn that a term for dogs with these traits, used by Jane Killion in her excellent training manual, When Pigs Fly. The term is non-biddable. Killion defines biddable as “having an inclination to both work with and take direction from man.” (Or, of course, woman.) She goes on to say, “If you laughed when you read the definition of biddable you definitely do not have one of those dogs.” What can I say? I laughed.
So the Labrador part of the labradoodle equation was to make the breed more user-friendly. The Mac version rather than the PC. Or the PC version rather than the Linux, depending upon your software biases. That’s what Wally Cochran was looking for in 1989 when he began crossing the two breeds in search of a hypoallergenic service dog.
Calm, clever, biddable, and an added bonus thrown in for free: cute. Really cute. Okay, I got the clever and cute part in my labradoodle bundle. Calm? Let’s just say for the first two years of his life we called Shadow “the barkster.” Biddable? Excuse me while I wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes.
As Doodle puts it, labradoodles are supposed to have, “All the warmth and bonding of a Labrador retriever combined with the intelligence and the hypoallergenic coat of a poodle.” Only in Doodle’s case—and not uncoincidentally in our own—it didn’t quite work out that way. In Bed-Bugged, the first book in the series, one of Doodle’s service dog trainers claims Doodle seems to have missed the Labrador part. “Too much doodle. Not enough labra,” is how he puts it.
That line, stolen from a neighbor’s observation about Shadow and shamelessly used in the book, pretty much says it all.
Of course, Shadow is not Doodle, in the same way that human fictional characters are generally composites rather than clones of real people. For one thing, Doodle has skills. Actual money-making skills. After flunking out of service-dog school for his above-mentioned attitude issues, he ends up having a “career-change” and gets trained as a bed bug dog. Adopted into a new family, Doodle helps the “boss,” Josh Hunter, find bed bugs and helps the boss’s ten-year-old daughter, Molly, solve mysteries.
Shadow, on the other hand, most likely can’t tell a bed bug from termite or cockroach, and most certainly doesn’t care. Of course, we love him anyway. His keen intelligence, his grand sense of humor, and his ever-amiable personality have made him a cherished member of our family. Admittedly, the first year of his life was a difficult one for all of us as we had to learn how to deal with a high-energy, high drive pup, and he had to learn he couldn’t be the emperor of the world. But now we’re one big happy family. Don’t you just love a happy ending?
For more happy endings and a chance to meet Doodle, check out the Doodlebugged mysteries on Susan's webpage or her Amazon author page.
About the author:
Susan J. Kroupa is the award-winning author of the Doodlebugged mysteries, which have been called, “. . . the perfect blend of mystery, suspense, and laugh-out-loud doggy observations” by best-selling author Virginia Smith, and which feature Doodle, the irrepressible canine narrator of the series.
She is also a dog lover, currently owned by a 70 pound labradoodle whose superpower is bringing home dead possums and raccoons, and who just happens to be the inspiration for some of Doodle’s more obedience-challenged behavior.
She now lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia, where she’s busy taking photos and writing the next Doodlebugged mystery. You can see samples of both on her webpage, www.susankroupa.com.
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