The Dog Knows: Part 1

Photo by Michael Morse on
By Janet Finsilver
Get ready for MURDER IN THE WINE COUNTRY by Janet Finsilver with a look back at some of the inspiration for the series!

Hi! I am the author of the Kelly Jackson murder mystery series. Kelly, my protagonist, flies to Redwood Cove, California, to take over an inn after the manager has what appears to be an accidental fatal fall from a seaside cliff. It’s a straightforward assignment until a group of crime-solving senior citizens, the Silver Sentinels, cries murder. And so the series begins.

Kelly and the Silver Sentinels work together to help keep their community safe. Redwood Cove is based on Mendocino, California. This is a small town on the northern coast that depends on tourists for most of its income. It’s a bit of a trek from major populated areas and residents do a lot to entice people to make the drive. Each of the books features a festival or an event based on real ones that take place in northern California.

My books also feature dogs with special training. I’ll be writing a series of posts talking about these dogs, starting with this one which deals with dogs that can smell cancer. Many years ago, I read an article about dogs being trained to detect cancer at the Pine Street Clinic in San Anselmo, California. I was fascinated by what I read. Their star was an apricot-colored Standard Poodle named Shing Ling-hau. She would sit on a person’s foot signaling she detected lung cancer. If she thought the person had breast cancer, she would lie down in front of the person. The poodle had about a 90 percent rate of accuracy.

This ignited my curiosity, and I began to do some research. I found out some amazing things. A dog named George, a Giant Schnauzer in Florida, had been trained to detect melanomas. His success rate was a surprising 99 percent! He would reportedly sit, lift his paw, and place it on the tumor.

I learned that dogs were being trained to detect lung, breast, prostrate, bladder, and skin cancer. They do this in a variety of ways depending on what they are supposed to identify. They use breath and urine samples, and in the case of skin cancer, places on the skin. Studies have shown 88 to 97 percent accuracy in identification.

Diseases can cause chemical changes in the body and a smell is released. The dogs are taught to discriminate between healthy samples and those with cancer.  Dogs’ noses can be up to 100,000 times more sensitive than our own. Back in the sixth century, Hippocrates told his students to smell their patient’s breath. Imagine what a dog can do!

I wanted to bring a dog taught to detect cancer into my first book, Murder at Redwood Cove. Enter Fred the Basset Hound. I felt this breed was a good choice because for me, every time I see one, I smile, and I’d like to think my readers would do the same. Helen Rogers, one of the characters in the book, works at Redwood Cove Bed-and-Breakfast. She took the job as an assistant and a baker when her husband died of cancer, and she wanted to get a new start for her and her ten-year-old son, Tommy. They live on-site in a small cottage.

When her husband passed, the clinic where he was being treated offered her and her son a dog, Fred, who’d been going through cancer detection training. He’d failed his final test and Helen adopted him. Fred and Tommy become best buds and appear in all the books.

I wanted people to learn more about how much dogs contribute to our lives and picked dogs with different types of training to be in each of my books. I’ve learned a lot about the special abilities of dogs since I started this writing journey. I hope you’ll enjoy what I have to share.

In the next post, you’ll meet Jack and Jill, two rescued beagles, from Murder at the Mansion. Please join us!

murder at redwood cove_UNDERGROUNDBed, breakfast…and a body!

If it weren’t for the fact that she’s replacing a dead man, Kelly Jackson would love her new job managing the Redwood Cove Bed and Breakfast on the coast of Northern California. But Bob Phillips did plunge off the cliff to his death…and Kelly’s starting to think it may not have been an accident. Bob’s retired friends—The “Silver Sentinels”—are also on the case, especially when Kelly is attacked…and another body turns up. Kelly has her hands full with overseeing the B&B’s annual Taste of Chocolate and Wine Festival, but she’s also closing in on the killer…who’s ready to send Kelly on her own permanent vacation…