A faux pas I hope to remedy now.
As I’m sure is more than apparent, my wanting to bring a character such as Billie to the forefront stems from my lifelong passion as a dog owner. Growing up, my family always had English bulldogs (you fans of the Zoo Crew series I’m sure have picked up on this), first as pets, later as we opened a small kennel and began breeding them.
Spending so much time w/ “fur-kids” over the years, I always wanted them to be a part of my work, though for the longest time they were relegated to supporting roles. While anybody that has ever owned a pet can attest, I use the term “supporting” both in very loose and literal definitions, meaning that animals are often a fantastic source of unspoken support, and that they fill and become a part of the everyday that is very noticeable when it is lacking.
Despite having them present in various stories, I always wanted to honor them to a greater degree, to really bring one to the fore and allow them to shine in their own right.
Over the years, I have read things such as Marley & Me and the Art of Racing in the Rain, these two being particularly strong examples of the two ways in which an animal had been used as a primary character before. Either by (1) having them pass, or (2) framing the story through their eyes. Never dreaming of doing the former, and not feeling particularly well suited to the latter, it wasn’t until I was in Atlanta making a flight connection and saw a working dog and their handler that the idea for Billie came to mind.
Once it did, why it had taken me so long to get there I had no idea, the story concepts arriving in droves.
Thus far, the works in the series have allowed Billie to really shine, though any shortcomings in her development as yet are entirely my own, attributable only to my ongoing research into these amazing creatures and everything they are capable of.
For those of you that want to get out ahead of me and learn all you can, I highly suggest starting w/ Cat Warren’s What the Dog Knows, an easily digested tome about the science and socialization of critters.
For those that would rather wait it out, please keep checking back every so often for the continued exploits of Reed and Billie.
As you might imagine, I can’t see myself abandoning the opportunity to work w/ them any time soon…