Shep the German shepherd is the hero of DOGS. Shep is a young dog who was rescued from a dog-fighting ring and adopted by a boy and his family. They live in an old apartment building in a city near the ocean, but more importantly, mere blocks away from Shep’s favorite place to play: the dog park!
Fun fact: The character of Shep was not always going to be a German shepherd. In my earliest notes, I thought my main character would be a pitt bull/boxer mix, or some other kind of young mutt. But as I thought more about my character, I knew he was a German shepherd. There’s something noble and fierce about the breed that resonated with the dog whose story of survival was developing in my imagination.
Shep was always, however, going to be a rescue from a dog fighting ring. I thought that as an escapee from a terrible life in the fight kennels, he would value his life as a pet in ways that other dogs would not understand.
Zeus the boxer is based on my parents’ dog…Zeus the boxer.☺ Unlike my parents’ dog, though, Zeus is bored by his life as a pet and dreams of going on a thrilling adventure. Until that time, however, he finds excitement playing chase and tackle with his best friend Shep at the dog park.
Frizzle the French bulldog is based on my best buddy, Peter the pug mutt. Frizzle shares Peter’s tough-guy attitude, though my little buddy is more of a cough potato than rough-housing brigand.:) Frizzle may be a small dog, but he would never let that stop him from claiming the best perch in the park.
Kaz, Queen of the Wild Dogs, is a dog wholly formed in my imagination. I imagine her as kind of an all-black German shepherd mutt, maybe with some Rottweiler mixed in. She’s tough and wild and likes toying with her opponents before soundly defeating them in battle to defend her turf.
Callie the pug-mutt is based entirely on my little girldog Kerry, who we think is a pug-Jack Russell terrier mix, or Jack Puggle Terror, as we call it. Callie is a young girldog who was also adopted from the shelter (do you see a trend here?;) and lives in the apartment next door to Shep’s. She is feisty and friendly and her nemesis is the Red Dot! When she appears on the fire escape outside Shep’s window, she leads Shep on the adventure of a lifetime.
From The Pack
Honey the Goldendoodle is the first dog Shep meets in the Drowned City. She’s sweet and upbeat and excited to join the pack but there’s one catch—she won’t leave her ruined den without her best friend, a Maine Coon cat named Fuzz. Honey is based on a dog who lives in my neighborhood. I don’t know the real dog, but I see her when I walk Pete and Kerry and she always looks happy and excited. Plus, I love the word Goldendoodle! Don’t you?
Fuzz is based on my cat, Oscar. I grew up with dogs, as one might have noticed from my bio, My Life In Dogs, but my husband grew up with cats, and so when I adopted Peter, the deal was he got to adopt a cat. Enter Oscar! When we first got Oscar, I remember being entirely creeped out by how he would sit on the back of the furniture and stare at me. When a dog stares at you, he wants something, but Oscar, he just stares. Shep, who like me did not grow up with cats, also is wary of Fuzz. Read the book to find out whether dogs and cats can really live together!
Blaze is based on my friend’s Australian cattle dog, Cali. I loved the idea of bringing a working dog into the story, though the only work Cali does is to drag large sticks around on the beach near my friend’s house. Blaze is an actual cattle dog from a ranch in central Florida, and that gives her a different perspective on life and survival than the other dogs, who are all pets.
Shep finds other dogs trapped and in need of rescuing in the Drowned City, but the last one I’m going to talk about here is Odie the boxer puppy because he is based on my brother’s dog, Odie the boxer puppy! While I was writing the Dogs of the Drowned City, my brother, who always wanted a dog of his own, finally got his wish. He and his wife adopted Odie, whom they found on Petfinder. He was a tiny baby when they got him, but Odie has grown into quite a large dog—sixty-five pounds and still going! He’s super sweet and has more energy than a bolt of lightning. My brother, who’s a golfer, chips whiffle-golf-balls to him over the fence in their yard and Odie just zooms around chasing the little things as they roll. Also, Odie has the largest underbite of any dog I’ve ever met. Pete and Kerry have nothing on him!
From The Return
Pumpkin is based on my dear friend Tui Sutherland’s Yorkipoo Sunshine. She was the kind of character who came to me all in one package: I simply combined the creativity of Tui with the fluffy excitability of Sunny and presto! I had Pumpkin. Pumpkin thinks she can lead the surviving members of the pack back to their homes. As they journey through the drowned city, Pumpkin learns the story of the pack’s survival, and invents some tales of her own.