book reviews

3 More Great Dog Stories

Other than Westerns, one of my favorite genres includes dogs–as intelligent human companions, devoted and loyal to human partners who feel the same. Here are three favorites:

  1. Notes from a Small Dog--from the dog’s perspective; delightful vignettes from Small Dog’s life
  2. Leave No Trace–no better partner for this FBI agent than her working dog, Hawk
  3. The Keepers--the amazing Vira gets her handler in more trouble
–a note about my reviews: I only review books I enjoyed, that inspire me to write. That’s why many of my reviews are 4/5 or 5/5

Notes from a Small Dog

by Sue Vincent


Sue Vincent’s amazingly beguiling Notes from a Small Dog (2013) is the love story between a dog named Ani and it’s human companion. It’s told in vignettes–watching Ani’s fulfilling life with a human through her eyes as she fulfills the obligations she sees as required of a dog in a human family. There’s empathy, respect, and understanding on both sides as each shows in their actions how valuable the other is to them. Read this passage and see if you wouldn’t love to be the dog in this relationship:

“…catching something of my joy in the adventure of the new day as her eyes shone…”
“I’ve noticed you humans do that a lot. You fix your eyes on the details and lose sight of the bigger picture.”

The book is a mixture of poetry–usually the author sharing her dog-loving emotions–and lots of narrative as the small dog describes his job:

“She thought she’d be helpful and have second helpings Distracting me nicely with wagging and yelping.”
“She has explained it all to me. I don’t know if she realizes how much I understand…”

It is a light-hearted upbeat story, even after Ani notices there is something wrong with her companion and she doesn’t know how to make it better:

“She smells funny. She’s wearing these big white things wrapped round bits of her, and she doesn’t smell right. I’m not sure I like it.”

“I felt really miserable after that. I just curled up all damp in my bed. Couldn’t even be bothered to bark at the pigeon through the window.”

Every passage in this book is narrated exactly as I would imagine a dog thinks. It’s as though Sue Vincent was a dog–beloved by her owner–in a prior life. This is the feel good book of the year. Even cat people will fall in love with this book.

Leave No Trace

by Sara Driscoll


Meg Jennings, agent with the FBI’s Human Scent Evidence Team, part of the Forensic Canine Unit, tracks lawbreakers and killers with the help of her amazing working dog, Hawk. In Sara Driscoll’s Leave No Trace (Kensington Books 2020), Book 5 in the FBI Canine series, the two partners are asked to solve a series of murders committed from a distance with a high powered recurve or compound bow. The only evidence usually is the arrow that kills the target–not much even for an experienced tracking dog like Hawk. Each murder, they get a little closer, in no small part because of Jennings amazing instincts and Hawk’s never-quit ability to go beyond any human or canine partner.

I’ve read this entire series and loved every one of them. As usual this is a well woven tail at varied times frightening, inspiring, and heart-breaking. I learned a lot about bow hunting though working dog Hawk’s tracking skills are the real draw for me. I’d be happy if the entire story was Meg and Hawk.  If I have one complaint–and why I gave it 4/5–it’s that it’s not clever enough. I wanted to be surprised at every page turn and at times, Driscoll spent time on information and actions that were obvious with few opportunities for light bulb moments. Putting that aside, Hawk’s charisma and Jennings skill at her job and respect for her job carried the story. I can’t wait for the next nook.

–received free from NetGalley in return for an honest review

The Keepers

by Jeffrey Burton


The leading man in Jeffrey Burton’s The Keepers (Minotaur Books 2021), second in the Mace Reid K-9 Mystery series, is Mason Reid. He is an irreverent plain spoken former cop whose tough as nails attitude cost him a marriage, a few jobs, and at least one girlfriend. But all is forgiven because he loves his four HRD (human remains detection) dogs. They are mostly hired by Chicago PD to hunt out dead bodies. The star of the series, though, isn’t Reid. It’s Vira, a golden retriever pup who has the extraordinary ability to smell the DNA left by killers on a dead body. Then, when it shows up on someone else, she goes into a sort of seizure–the sure sign that Mace is facing the murderer. That’s not only an unusual ability. It’s never heard of. In this story, Vira and Mace are called on to help solve the murder of an aging rocker. Vira like most working dogs I know loves her job so finding the murderer proves easy enough and opens them up to another murder, this of a high powered figure in Chicago policing, this one leading someplace no one and mostly not Mason want it to go. But, they must follow the evidence and that’s what gets Mason and Vira into a whole lot of trouble.

Burton has a friendly easy going way of writing. You feel like he’s talking to you, telling an interesting story, not relaying life-and-death events. And, he has a great sense of humor. Look at these:

“Yeah, I know—whenever I tell folks what I do for a living, they think I slept through Career Day in high school.”

“Vira’s just Vira—a canine savant and the LeBron James of cadaver dogs, that’s all.” 

“…Bill [one of Mason’s HRD dogs] came scampering back to me, tail spinning like a ceiling fan.”

This book had some slow spots that I don’t remember in the first (see my review of The Finders) but nothing to dissuade me from reading the next in the series. BTW, the final couple of scenes–they are to die for.

–received free from NetGalley in return for an honest review



#amreading #dogstories

More dog stories

Sam, a Shaggy Dog Story (one of my all-time favorites)

Reckless Creed

Live and Let Growl

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Laws of Nature, Summer 2021.


74 thoughts on “3 More Great Dog Stories

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Tuesday May 11th 2021 – #Review D.G. Kaye, #ReadingAloud Jennie Fitzkee, #DogBooks Jacqui Murray | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  2. I had already planned to pick up Sue’s book, but now I’ll take a close look at the other two. Thanks for always writing comprehensive reviews.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Last year I read a great book that had a search for a dog in the plot: “A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World” by C. A. Fletcher. It’s speculative fiction and more about the boy than the dog. Still, it was a good book kind, sort of, vaguely related to the books you mentioned.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Jacqui – these sound really delightful and I can understand your enjoyment of them. If I didn’t have ‘zillion’ of other books to read … I’d look them up. My favourite is Jock of the Bushveld … telling the tale of life as a companion to an early, intrepid author who before the book worked the Bushveld … thanks for these … Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I can’t do “dog stories” on their own, but love stories with dogs. I usually end up in tears so just don’t go there anymore. It’s why I haven’t and will never watch the Australian movie which went gangbusters here (Red Dog).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I haven’t heard of Red Dog. If it’s sad, I don’t want to see it either. The only sad one of these three is Small Dog, for bigger reasons than the book. The rest are invigorating.


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