Today I am so pleased to welcome my good friend Kylie Logan/Casey Daniels.
I’ve enjoyed sharing books by friends for the past three weeks. Now is the best possible time to find new authors to enjoy–or new books by authors you already love. Kylie is one of my brainstorming buddies, but our friendship goes so far back I swear at the beginning we were discussing dinosaurs not cadaver dogs.
Today I’m celebrating the release of the second book in Kylie’s new series, the Jazz Ramsey Mysteries. Book One: The Scent of Murder was released last May and Book Two: The Secret of Bones, was released last week.
Booklist from the American Library Association had this to say: “Recommended for cozy readers who like some mysteries a bit darker as well as suspense fans who want something more traditional.”
Jazz Ramsey trains and handles cadaver dogs. That’s right, the dogs who help law enforcement find the missing dead. I thought it would be fun to talk about Kylie’s own dogs a little, along with some of the research she’s done and finally, the colorful, historical neighborhood of Tremont in Cleveland, OH, where the mysteries are set.
I know you’re a dog lover, especially of Airedales. How many Airedales have you had and do you have stories to tell about any of them?
Yes, big Airedale lover. Don’t ask me why! They are smart, and they can also be stubborn. But oh, how I love them! Over the years, we’ve had four. Hoover was our first, a giant of a guy who ate everything in sight including a door and rocks. Ernie came along next, the most laid back Airedale on the planet! What a sweetie he was. At the same time we had him, we had the opportunity to foster a senior Airedale. Her name was Casey, she was 13, and her owner simply didn’t want her anymore, was going to have her put down. Of course we couldn’t let that happen. She was quiet, she was sweet and lived with us for a year and a half.
Now we have Eliot. What can I say? He’s either the most loving dog we’ve ever had, or the neediest. Loves to cuddle. Loves to sit and be patted. He’s a show dog and automatically, people think that must mean he’s well-behaved. Not! He’s a show dog because physically, he’s the perfect Airedale. That does not change his trouble-makin’ heart. He’s enthusiastic about everything he does, whether it’s eating my library card, jumping on my lap when I least expect it, or body slamming his sister, Lucy (a shaggy white creature of questionable parentage who is way, way bigger than he is).
You’ve accompanied cadaver dog trainers into the field. What are the hardest parts of their job, do you think?
I am overwhelmed by the dedication of these people! They are constantly learning, constantly training. They’re tested and certified, and the standards are exacting. And they’re volunteers! I admire them no end.
The dogs are trained from puppies. They have to not only learn the scent of human decomposition, they have to be able to distinguish it from the scent of other animals. The last thing a handler needs when looking for the deceased is to have a dog that keeps finding dead raccoons or rabbits! Training starts slow, sometimes with something like a tennis ball that’s stored with the “bait” (sometimes an actual human body part, sometimes a chemical scent). As the dog plays with the toy, he comes to associate its scent with the scent his trainer wants him to find. And this is play for the dogs. They learn that if they do their job and do it well, they’re rewarded with play time and their favorite toy.
What piqued your interest in cadaver dogs and led to the series? Did you consider becoming a handler yourself?
We belong to an Airedale club. No surprise there, right? A few years ago, we had an HRD (Human Remains Detection) dog trainer speak at one of our meetings. That’s when I got interested and knew I wanted to write about these amazing people and their dogs. As for me becoming a handler? See above, I simply don’t have the dedication or the energy! Would Eliot or Lucy love it? Yes, I think they both would. The group we’ve trained with goes out every single Sunday morning, rain or shine, snow or blistering heat. I am, in fact, too lazy for that!
What kind of dogs are best for this work? Our beagle had the nose but not the attention span.
That’s the trick, finding a dog with just the right combination of interest and talent. And the dog can be any breed. The dog needs to be taught ground scenting techniques (for when dead cells fall to the earth) as well air scenting. They have to be hardy enough to work over all terrain and in all weather. They have to be loyal enough to their handlers to obey (that might leave Eliot out right there!), but they also have to be smart enough to work on their own and make their own decisions. And yes, attention span has a lot to do with it. Some handlers won’t even start training their dogs until the dog is two years old. Until then, they say the attention span is just not there.
The books are set in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland, OH. I’ve been there so I know how historical some of the churches are. What are your favorite things to see there?
Tremont is an amazing area of town. Originally settled by New England farmers, it is an area of town that borders Cleveland’s industrial heartland. Eventually it became the home of the thousands of immigrants who came to work in the city’s factories. And yes, there are a lot of churches! That’s because the Poles had their own church where the spoke their own language. The Greeks had the same. And the Russians. And the Hungarians. That’s one of the things that makes the neighborhood so unique. It really was a melting pot. I love the history of the neighborhood and yes, those incredible churches. I think there are 38 of them in a two-square-mile area. These days Tremont is also home to the great Cleveland food scene, and a center for galleries and boutiques.
Many thanks to Kylie for taking the time to answer my questions. It’s always a pleasure to help my readers find great books. And equally a pleasure to interview a friend.