Home Is Where the Dog Is by Janet Finsilver

The books in my Kelly Jackson cozy mystery series all have dogs with special abilities. This has led me to some fun and fascinating research. Two dog “hobbies” I’d like to share with you are tracking and agility. They both use food treats as incentives. My young Rhodesian ridgeback, Kylie, is a FOODIE! The capital letters are there for a reason, as you’ll see when you read the post.

I recently took Kylie to her first tracking experience. We were instructed to bring three hot dogs cut into nickel size pieces and two articles of clothing like socks that we wouldn’t mind losing or having destroyed. The dogs wore flat collars because no corrective gear such as no-pull harnesses was permitted. We used six-foot leashes. Five of us lined up on a road and partnered with another person who would put down the track for the dog to follow.

The handler was to act like a post embedded in the ground—no talking or encouragement, just hold onto the dog. My partner’s job was to get her excited by giving her treats and making “happy sounds,” then start putting down a trail of hot dog slices about a foot and a half apart. There are several treats and a piece of clothing at the first and last spot.

My friend began to walk away to make the track. Well, that’s when everything went awry. Kylie saw the hot dogs leaving and wasn’t about to let that happen. She’s a very muscular seventy-five pounds. The pole (me) began to bend and then was uprooted. I slid over the grass while Kylie pulled me, sled-dog style, determined to get more treats. My rubber boots had no traction. My partner laughed, and we started over.

This time I was prepared and braced my foot against a rock. My friend quickly put down the rewards, turned to the right after the last one, walked about six feet, and then turned and walked back to the road. You don’t walk back over the track you made.

I let Kylie move forward, staying behind her to allow her to figure out what to do. The first pile of treats was easy because she could see it. I was surprised at how much she had to look for the next one. She eventually got the idea that if she moved forward she’d find more hot dogs. When she got to the last pile, which the trainer called the jackpot, we all praised her as she gobbled the food.

These are the first steps. The course lengthens as does the space between treats as the dogs advance in their training. A diary is kept for professional dogs to show what they’ve been working on and how they’ve done. There are a number of titles dogs can earn, each requiring a different level of ability.

Other than my arms having gotten a couple of inches longer from the pulling, it was fun. From the look on Kylie’s face, I think she enjoyed it as well!

There’s a corpse among the chanterelles!

Redwood Cove Bed and Breakfast manager Kelly Jackson is hosting a cooking class during the Week of the Mushroom festival to attract guests, not drama. But soon after she finishes foraging for an edible mushroom species on sacred Native American land, a local newspaper reporter gets shot dead at the same site. With suspicions spreading like fungi in the quaint Northern Californian community over the culprit’s identity, Kelly and a savvy gang of sleuthing seniors known as the “Silver Sentinels” must uncover the truth about the secluded property before a tricky killer prepares another lethal surprise . . .