Novelists Craft a Narrative for the Mystery of Their Troubled Poodle


Five years ago I awoke to find my elderlystandard poodle standing beside my bed,clearly in distress. Despite the mad rush to the vet’s office, it was too late for Doggett. Iwas heartbroken. As a writer I spend many hours in my office, and I was used to the company of my beloved dog, who wouldlay beside me on the daybed as I workedon my laptop.

My female standard poodle, Ella, quicklyrejected any upgrade to lap dog. For a while I was lost. Mourning is never easy,but I knew I needed to open my heart to another canine office assistant and securityblanket combo on four legs.

I began my search online, checking withrescue organizations nationwide and locally.One of our most loyal companions,Agatha, had been a rescue from theCorrales Kennels. We fell in love at first sight, and neither of us everlooked back over our 13 years together.

That’s the kind of relationship I wanted now. As a long-time petowner who has taken on her shareof rescues, I’ve learned to trust my instincts. I was sure that even online I’d know the right dog when I found it. Weeks went by without success.Then a friend found a poodle up for adoption. Gabriel was head and shoulders above the rest—literally. He was the biggest standard poodle I’d ever seen.I fell instantly in love, but years as a mysterywriter had taught me never to takethings at face value. I pressed hard to find out more about him.


The young giant had been through tworescue groups and was extremely shy. I was assured that he was perfect for a writer because he was a “couch potato.” Eventually I made arrangements to fly him here fromSouth Carolina.

From day one, Gabriel made himself comfortable on the daybed in my office and refused to budge. I’d have to drag him off just to get him to go outside. He wasn’t a couch potato—not exactly.

We soon discovered that Gabriel was, in fact, terrified of getting off higher ground. At night he’d wander around the house, go out the doggie door, then run and play like a normal dog. We’d play chase and ball at 2 or 3 in the morning, then go back to bed.During our middle-of-the-night play dates, I discovered that Gabriel was exceptionally well trained. He knew how to come, heel, and finish, though fear had masked his skills.

David and I soon created a plausible theory about Gabriel’s past. He had been raised by a loving female who’d trained him well. Later, a man had come into his life who didn’t have the time and temperamentfor a dog. This man must have worked nights, too, because Gabriel was terrified of flashlights and ball caps.Clearly the man had wanted the dog to lay on the couch and not make a sound duringthe day while he slept, and he achieved this through abuse and intimidation.

Conditioning Gabriel to lose his fear of men was a daunting task. Even taking himfor a walk with my husband was a struggleat first. As the months went by, we made headway through sheer persistence andlove. As time passed, I began to see a change in him.


These days, Gabriel and I are best buds. I realize he has taught me a great deal too. I’ve learned that the simple things in life are often best. Never underestimate the power of a quick sloppy kiss, particularly if you’re feeling down. Remember thatchasing a ball (or a dream) is only a goodthing if you take time to catch your breath. Most important, don’t be afraid to take chances. Sometimes taking a risk opens up wonderful paths we never realized were right in front of us all along.

Gabriel is still afraid of men, but he andmy husband have learned to be friends. If you see David jogging down the ditch bank on Loma Larga with three standard poodles, be sure to honk and wave. Give a shout out to Gabriel too. He’ll be on the left side, tail up, enjoying his morning adventure.

Aimée and David Thurlo are award-winning, bestselling mystery and romantic suspense authors. Their Ella Clah mystery series received a New Mexico Book Award, and continues with Black Thunder. Winter Hawk’s Legend, the first novel in their new Copper Canyon series for Harlequin Intrigue, is also available.