Can you train a Scottie to dance?

Yes . . . and no. Here’s what my amateur sleuth, Liss MacCrimmon, discovers when she takes on the job of substituting for the human third of “Deidre and her Dancing Doggies.”

Although the dancing involved was minimal, in the end Liss had to admire what Deidre had accomplished. Liss had always heard that Scotties were a tough breed to train and that they condescended to learn tricks only when it suited them. It seemed to her that they must have been very fond of Deidre. They’d tried hard to please her, even if all they ended up doing were variations of sit, stand, and spin.

In her spiral-bound notebook, Deidre had written down the hand signals she used as commands. The illusion of dancing came as much from her movements as from what the dogs did. As Liss watched the screen and studied the pages from Deidre’s notebook, her admiration continued to grow. Deidre had cleverly designed routines that showcased the dogs. She hadn’t been half bad at acting, either, a talent that was part and parcel of any successful dancer’s repertoire. Liss anticipated few difficulties in duplicating Deidre’s steps, but making the whole package come together smoothly would take practice. Lots and lots of practice.

The amateur sleuth in my Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries is a former professional Scottish dancer who now owns a gift shop specializing in Scottish imports. The ninth book in the series, The Scottie Barked at Midnight, involves Liss with Scottie dogs and reality TV—a competition called Variety, Live.

When Dandy, the Scottish terrier who is one of the two dogs in “Deidre and her Dancing Doggies,” is dognapped, it is Liss who finds her and returns her to her owner. Because of this, and her training in dance, Liss is asked to take Deidre’s place after the other woman’s sudden death.

To find out how much dancing a Scottie could reasonably be expected to learn, I consulted an expert advisor, the owner of four Scottish terriers. It seems Scotties can be trained to do tricks, and they are very talented in agility trials and also take part in Earthdog den trials (a simulated hunt) and barn hunts, all events that involve following directions, interacting with their owners, and obeying commands. The best Scottie trick is the “Scottie spin” but they can also learn to beg, sit, and stay. Even better, for purposes of the story, Scotties are agreeable to being put into costumes, although they apparently do not like to wear hats.

How do you train your Scottie to dance? With a great deal of patience and a lot of love. As Liss works with the dogs in private, she is delighted to discover that they will obey her hand signals, but the first time they practice in the presence of other competitors, things don’t go quite as she expects:

The number started well enough. Dandy and Dondi loved to do tricks. But Deidre had taught them more than one dance, and Liss was still a novice at giving hand signals to her two canine partners. She finished a second pirouette only to discover that the dogs had broken formation completely. They were supposed to be standing on their hind legs with Dandy’s front paws resting lightly on Dondi’s back. Instead, both sat on their rumps, their big, expressive brown eyes following her movements as if they were spectators instead of part of the act.

Liss couldn’t bring herself to scold them. She knelt down, murmured a few words of encouragement, and began the routine a second time. On the reboot, the two Scotties made it to the halfway point before they began to improvise.

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Spring is just a few weeks away, but winter is still digging its claws into tiny Moosetookalook, Maine. Even business at the Scottish Emporium has frozen up, so Liss MacCrimmon is cautiously optimistic when a twist of fate lands her on a reality competition show—until the contest gets a little too cutthroat…

Driving on an icy road on a truly dark and stormy night, Liss swerves her car when something darts out in front of it. She braves the weather and discovers a Scottish terrier shivering in the snow. Relieved that the dog survived their run-in, Liss sets out in search of her owner, unaware that the Scottie is actually a tiny celebrity—or that she was dognapped.

Liss soon sniffs out the pup’s owner, a well-heeled woman named Deidre Amendole, who is ecstatic to be reunited with her furry friend. Deidre and her Dancing Doggies recently won Variety Live, and the trio is slated to appear in the reality show’s “champion of champions” competition. But for Deidre, the contest is over before it’s begun when she turns up dead…

Deidre’s daughter asks Liss to help find out what happened to her mother—and to take Deidre’s place on the upcoming show. Before Liss can tell her she’s barking up the wrong tree, she finds herself ensnarled in the strange world of reality competitions and hot on the trail of a deadly dognapper. And just as she starts pawing at the truth, Liss realizes she could be next on the murderer’s list…

Praise for Kaitlyn Dunnett and her Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries!

Ho-Ho-Homicide

“An enjoyable small-town Christmas cozy.” —Library Journal

Vampires, Bones, And Treacle Scones

“Spooky…Cozy fans are in for a Halloween treat.” —Publishers Weekly

Bagpipes, Brides, And Homicides

“Fans of Scottish lore or bookstore mysteries like Lorna Barrett’s and Carolyn Hart’s will enjoy this one.” —Booklist

Scotched

“This well-plotted novel provides pure entertainment.” —RT Book Reviews

A Wee Christmas Homicide

“The blend of romance and cozy mystery will please lovers of all things Scottish.” —Kirkus Reviews

Kilt Dead

“If you have an affinity for all things Scottish, this is the book for you.” —Deadly Pleasures

KaitlynDunnett_smKaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award in 2008 for best mystery nonfiction for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2014 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (The Scottie Barked at Midnight) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries as Kathy (Murder in the Merchant’s Hall). The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com.

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