Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Puppy In Winter: Kate George, author of the Bree MacGowan series

HALLIE EPHRON: You know Kate George is a dog person because right there on her web site, under a caricature of Kate, she blames it on the dog.

Kate comes by her love of animals honestly. She grew up on a farm where she made her mother crazy by adopting a feral kitten. She now lives in Central Vermont with a number of rescued critters, mostly dogs - the cats have to live in the barn and a squirrel lives in her bedroom ceiling.

She began the Bree MacGowan Mystery Series based on a swank mystery hotel in the woods near her home. In the series (Moonlighting in Vermont, Califorina Schemin' and Crazy Little Thing Called Dead) Bree shares Kate's weakness for abandoned animals and owns a number of the same animals as Kate. The skunk incident in California Schemin' (the skunk tries to steal the beds out from under Bree's dogs) actually happened on Kate's porch.

I invited Kate to join us and tell us a little bit about her latest animal adventure, taking in another pup.

KATE GEORGE: I was going to wait until spring to get a new puppy. That was the wise and wonderful plan. But the thing is this puppy looks just like Bree MacGowan's Chihuahua, Beans. Bree is the protagonist of my mystery series and when I saw this baby on Petfinders and I could. Not. Resist. How could I not adopt Beans's döppelganger?

Now, I know better. If anyone ever asks me, I’ll tell them not to get a puppy in the dead of winter. Or at least don't get a puppy from the south when you live in Vermont and there’s snow on the ground.

How in the world was I going to housebreak a puppy that can't stop shivering long enough to pee?

My husband got pretty cranky about the little presents the puppy’s leaving us in the house, so I did what I vowed I never would do. I bought the baby a jacket. I swore I'd never be one of those doggy mommies . . . and yet here I am with a pipsqueak of a dog with a pink parka (with a hood) and a blue sweater.

I'm so embarrassed and she’s still not doing her duty outside. Except every so often she’ll get my hopes up by squatting in the snow –only to dash them again when she puddles in the house.

When I first started taking her out I'd put her down in the snow and she'd give me one look of scorn and head into the porch and sit at the kitchen door. The leash works a little better, but only if none of the other dogs is out. (Yes I am a multiple dog family, and the largest dog could just about swallow the smallest dog whole.)

I was hoping that when I took her out with the other dogs she’d noticed what they’re doing and learn by imitation. No such luck.

These are the conditions required for the new puppy to pee outside:
  • There must be patches of ground without snow. (I live in Vermont, people. It ain't happening.)
  • The temperature must be above twenty-five degrees. 
  • She must be on a leash and no other dogs can be out. 
  • The horse next farm down must not neigh. 
  • Coydogs and fox cubs may not yip. No smells, cars or people can waft by on the road.
The list goes on.

Of course in a year she'll be twice the size of Beans. Not that she’ll be big - ten pounds or so of bigness is all -  just bigger, noisier, and a lot less potty trained than Beans. You know I think I'm jealous, Bree never has to house train her dogs. I do that for her.

Too bad I can’t find someone to do the same for me.

HALLIE: I do love the name "Beans" for a Chihuahua. You can see that Kate lives up to her motto -- "Mystery with a side of laughter" -- even when the joke's on her.

My adventures in housebreaking are confined too potty training my kids, and I had one (not sayin' which) who was a challenge. We tried every kind of bribery just to get her to sit, and sit, and sit on her little potty chair which she did (for hours) with a book in her lap. Then she'd announce "All done!" Stand. Wipe her belly button. And pee on the floor.

So let's keep it clean, but anyone out there want to share their housebreaking story?


  1. I have no housebreaking story! Yay. (How can that be? I have clearly blocked them out.)

    That is ONE CUTE DOG! Yay, Kate.

  2. Beans has some bestselling features there, Ms. Kate. Best wishes that your sales numbers grow as large as those ears!

  3. Hi Kate, that doggie is adorable! love the little pink raincoat. I can see how you wouldn't be able to resist. I occasionally show puppy pictures to my hub and he squashes the seed faster than you can say NO PEE ON THE FLOOR!

    Sign of a great writer that you feel you must own the animals that you made up:).

    Hallie, good restraint not to name names...

  4. I love the raincoat, too. And I always feel slightly suspect when I give my characters pets... since I have none.

  5. Kate,

    A former coworker had a chihuahua that his wife loved to dress up in little outfits. He hated to walk the dog when she was wearing a little pink outfit. On his desk he had a photo of the dog wearing a black dress with pink polka dots. Cute!

    I have no pets so I have no housebreaking stories. When I was a teenager we got a dog that was half dachshund and half cocker spaniel. He was just a few weeks old when we got him. I remember that housebreaking him was a challenge but I no longer remember the specifics. I do remember sitting in the recliner, reading, when we'd had him barely a month, and he jumped into my lap and was very cuddly. Then I suddenly realized that my lap was very wet. Fortunately, he did NOT pee on the book.

    I do envy you, though. I LOVE dogs, and they adore ME. If not for condo by laws and a creaky body that can't handle walking dogs in ice and snow, I'd have half a dozen. At the very least. A neighbor's dachsund used to drag him over to me if I happened to be outside when the dog was being walked. The owner would jokingly ask me to go inside because my presence distracted the dog from doing his "business"!

  6. Hi All! Thanks for having me here on Jungle Red Writers.

    Hank - My plan is to have forgotten the housebreaking stories as soon as I can. Unfortunately, with this puppy that could be mid-summer!

    Jack - Thanks for the good wishes, those are some ears, aren't they? You should see her when she's curious about something, she looks like the Flying Nun! (Hopefully I'm not the only one old enough to have seen pictures of the Flying Nun...)

  7. Roberta, She is adorable but how I wish I hadn't seen her until spring, mid-summer when I practically live outside would have been even better!

    Come to think of it, I'm not sure why my husband signed off on this puppy. Must have had a mental lapse...

    Hallie, If you ever feel the need you can certainly borrow two or three of mine. Really. You can.

  8. Deb - Darn those condo by-laws. I know a couple of people who have dogs on the upper floors of buildings. My Aunt Jude bought a little dog potty (fake grass)to put on her balcony. Of course that only works with LITTLE dogs. I can't imagine my Moose dog trying to hit that target. He's the size of dog that can easily rest his head on the kitchen table. As you can imagine, I've got a bunch of stories about him too.

  9. The only thing I've potty trained is my kids and they broke easy.
    Can't wait for the next Bree McGowan!

  10. Love Bree, Kate, but I've only potty trained one dog and I sucked at it and so did wasn't pretty. I did much better with my son, who basically potty-trained himself. ;-P

  11. I don't know Judy, I have one kid who was quite a challenge, and then there were the twins - you can only watch one at a time!

    Thanks Nan. You know I think kids and dogs are only as potty trained as they want to be. They have all the control (or not) and none of the responsibility for cleaning up after themselves!

  12. That puppy is so cute! I can see why you succumbed.

    Thankfully, I have cats and they mostly housebreak themselves. (Although I have some OTHER wild stories, believe me.)

    Hang in there--spring is right around the corner!

  13. Deborah Blake! You are such a tease. You know I live in Vermont and spring doesn't come until June.

  14. My mother and father lived in Atlanta, Georgia and moved to Rockaway Beach, the winter. Now, granted, the snow levels were nothing like Vermont, but their Jack Russell was not having anything to do with using the great out of doors. They found an abandoned sand shovel and pail in the back of a closet. Once that was used to expose a patch of earth, the dog was fine.
    Good luck with that cutie.

  15. I always found the cold winter months to be the best time to puppy train (though miserable for me!). Shivering or not, the pup learns pretty quickly what he/she is supposed to do. My summer puppy took much longer! Now
    my kids?...that's a different story altogether (hmm - maybe I should have tried putting them outside in winter....)

    Love the column, Kate, Thanks!


  16. Libby, I was thinking of using our picnic table to keep a patch of ground free of snow - she's small enough to have plenty of room under there. Of course I haven't gotten it out yet and we're in the middle of another snow storm... So that idea isn't panning out just yet!

  17. Nancy, the problem with my puppy is that she's so easily distracted. Even when she figures out what to do she can stop mid-stream because something's caught her attention!

  18. Oh you know WE are dog people too! Great piece, Kate, as always.

    Newspaper on the snow maybe, like is done in the house? Or something like a litter box but outside? I'm not much help, the reason we don't have another one is BECAUSE of potty-training issues.

  19. Annonymous? Really?! I typed in my name and website, I SAW it! Okay, that was me.

    (Crap, the first episode of Mercury retrograde, right there.)

  20. Oh, you know me, Julie, A little house breaking fiasco never keeps me from taking in another one! It's selective memory!

  21. Hi Kate, First off, love your Bree series! Now for a housebreaking hint...I have two collies who were a piece of cake to housetrain, but my dog sitter just got a miniture chihuahua, Sookie, who looks like your new pup, but is even smaller! She's about the size of a pop can and won't get much bigger. And here in Minnesota, subzero temps do not work well for such a tiny thing. (Don't really work for the rest of us either!!)

    So she has a plastic tub that she put small cedar chips in, much like you'd use for a hamster cage. The breeder used this for the pups. She puts the pup in the tub and as soon as she smells the cedar, she does her business. When it warms up, she'll start working on getting her to go outside. But for now it works perfectly. Good luck with your new pup, she's adorable in her jacket!

  22. We'll have to swap skunk stories sometime. One followed my dogs in through the doggie door. I learned A LOT about skunks very quickly!
    Love the new puppy. How about a large piece of artificial turf in the garage -- just to get things going?

  23. Kate, it's no mystery why we all love you. You have us talking about puppies and pee from the word go. Think of the great material you have for when you introduce a puppy into the next book....