Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Man’s Best Friends

by | May 13, 2012 | 4 comments

Once our son’s grew up and left home, my husband and I got puppies.  So now we do agility with our dogs, a Scottish terrier named Smokey and a Pembroke Welsh corgi named Bandit.

So now I’m thinking about how to incorporate dogs into my stories.  Since I write (mostly) in the American west, there are plenty of opportunity to have a dog as a character.  In one story the cowboy hero brings his new wife a puppy.  Ranches often had dogs, as they were useful in helping drive cattle.  My husband’s family had a dog, Buster, that would help his father round up the cattle.  Our Welsh corgi would be over the moon if we had some cows so we could tell him to go get and drive them in for milking.

Dogs were also served to hunt vermin, especially terrier type dogs.  Cats get mice, but terriers can get rats.  And farmers always have grain to protect.

And, of course, all dogs are watch dogs, who bark when something out of the ordinary happens.  I was always impressed by Buster, as if you drove up to my in-laws’ house in the Oklahoma county side, Buster would bark a warning as you drove up the long driveway. If, however, my in-laws were not at home, Buster would just lay on the porch and give you look like ‘nobody home, silly.’

I would assume that most dogs in the American west were not the purebreds we would see today at a dog show.  If a hunting dog had a reputation of being a good hunter, people would want puppies from them.  Same with herding dogs, or terriers based on their ability.

Finally, one of the most common reasons for keeping a dog was for companionship the dog provided.  And while our dogs have the run of our house, I’m pretty sure my heroine who runs a boarding house will only allow the dog in the back kitchen.  Our dogs don’t know how good they have it.

Blain’s Smokey of Santee, CGC, NA, NAJ
& Blain’s Sundance Bandit, CGC, NA, NAJ, CTL2-F, CTL2-H


  1. Angelyn

    I’ve had experience with Border collies. Very intelligent–needs lots of exercise. Good with herding gentle cattle but not those boss cows that get uppity every now and then. Great post.

  2. Terry Irene Blain

    we see a lot of border collies in agility — very intelligent dogs, but way to fast for first time handlers.

  3. Ally Broadfield

    My sister does agility with her dogs. She has a border collie and several Manchester terriers. I have five dogs myself. My great pyrenees are very good at guarding the children and doing perimeter checks.

    I do wonder what types of dogs they would have had in the West. I’ve never done any research about how dogs evolved in America. I’ve included a dog in nearly all of my books, but they’re set in Europe so it’s a bit easier to choose a breed that will work.

    Fun post!

  4. Terry Irene Blain

    I’m sure most farm/ranch dogs in the old west were pretty much mutts. The farm dog my in-laws had in Oklahoma was a big brown and black dog with a curly tail and a ruff at the neck. But the dog down the road was light tan, short coated, long tail, so I’m assuming I can have any kind of dog from herding to terrier types and be OK.

    The only problem is people at that time really didn’t let the dog in the house (maybe on the enclosed back porch?). Our dogs are in and out of the house, and sleep in their crates in the bedroom with us.



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