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Best-selling author Robert Crais is known for his gripping crime novels such as Taken and the award-winning series that features private detective Elvis Cole and his sidekick, Joe Pike. His latest endeavor, Suspect, takes readers on a very different journey — through the eyes of a furry protagonist.
In his recent novel, Crais turns our attention to Maggie, a German Shepherd who is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving as a military working dog in Afghanistan. As part of her recovery, this heroic canine is transferred to a Los Angeles Police Department K-9 unit where she is paired up with Scott James, a cop who is battling both physical and emotional scars from a traumatic shootout that left his partner Stephanie dead. Together the duo must work to overcome their handicaps as they set out to uncover the perpetrators responsible for Stephanie’s murder.
Vetstreet caught up with Crais, who told us that Suspect was inspired by his personal journey to overcome the grief of losing his childhood dog. He also discussed his research into canine PTSD and his days spent shadowing LAPD K-9 trainers, which helped him bring Maggie to life.
A: Robert Crais: The idea for Suspect grew out of grief I felt about losing my dog, Yoshi. I've always had dogs, ever since I was a boy, and my last dog we got as a puppy. In fact, I picked him out from a litter when he was 3 days old, before his eyes were open. I knew Yoshi was for me the first moment I saw him — the way he wiggled along with his brothers and sisters. I was drawn to him. He was a big guy — an Akita. He was my boy. He grew from a fuzzy, black and white sausage into a towering, 105-pound guardian who looked like a scowling bear. I've never gotten over losing him, though it was 16 years ago. His loyalty and devotion were absolute, and in turn, he had mine. I was never able to replace him, and this inability to move past his loss inspired my research. I wanted to find out if feeling so much grief was normal. When I began researching military working dogs and police K-9 dogs that the handlers all have, I learned that the leash is a nerve — that the emotions that are felt between a handler and his or her partner flow through the leash. I remembered Yoshi, once again, and how close we were. So the book really came from me doing research into the human-canine relationship and constantly being reminded of Yoshi.
A: Creating Maggie, a retired U.S. Marine Corps German Shepherd patrol dog who lost her handler in Afghanistan and who becomes a police patrol dog suffering from canine PTSD, helped clarify my fierce loyalty to Yoshi, and his to me, and why dogs have such an importance in all of our lives. Through developing her relationship and partnership with Scott, an LAPD officer suffering himself from PTSD issues after losing his partner, I was once again reminded that there is no more devoted a friend than a dog and how truly special and healing all our relationships with our dogs can be.
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