Writing Research + Pet Selection—Why The English Setter

I’m writing a new mystery, and since I like to push my main characters to their limit and beyond, I decided to give this main character a pet. While I was researching, I found one that had its own type of personal challenge. Wicks, the English Setter in my latest, is deaf.dog-48321_1280

10-12% of all English Setters become deaf weeks after birth. It has to do with their coat and skin tones. Many are destroyed for that reason.

My main character is a softhearted dog lover trying to be a tough business woman.

When I made the match, this is what I considered:

An extremely gentle animal, not a guard dog, doesn’t do well being left alone all day.

When they catch the scent of a small animal/bird, they move in slowly and eventually mesmerize their prey.

Easily distracted by birds. (I remember meeting an Irish Setter that barked into the sky every time a flock passed overhead.)

She will need pampering and trips to the beauty salon.

Long silky hair will be shed constantly.

setter-181676_1920The breed is smart and can learn everything but herding commands.

They need a lot of exercise.

They can be very stubborn to the point where refuse to move. Think donkey.

Deaf dogs must be kept on their leash outside of their home.

Deaf dogs are called by a vibrating collar, flashing lights, or stomping foot.

When waking a deaf dog, one must do it gently so not to frighten them.

Some of the things I thought I’d incorporate in to my story:

Wicks is very dependent and stubborn. Dog/people arguments will happen, during bath time, car-ride time, exercise time and anytime the main character is in a hurry.

Wicks and the main character will communicate through hand signals. They will start off with sit, down, and wait. Then move on to seek, retrieve, and hide. She’ll be directed to search for evidence and when she finds the item, she’ll retrieve it. I’m thinking that Wicks will do this without being asked occasionally to increase story tension.

Being a birder, Wicks is okay with guns. She can altert the main character when someone is carrying a weapon.

Wicks will stalk and mesmerize other people’s pets, kids and whatever else catches her eye.

And here I’m pushing the envelope—Wicks will learn some commands by scent. The MC bestie is an essential oils queen. I want my MC to communicate through scent. Rose means stay close. Therefore, the main character rubs some oil on dog-634202_1920someone and her dog will follow them. Another scent could mean distract. I don’t know if it will work or not but I plan to include it in my first draft.

I’m really looking forward to driving my soft-hearted dog-loving main character crazy with her new puppy. Can you think of any other challenges or behaviors Wicks could add to the story?

Gleaned from:


30 responses to “Writing Research + Pet Selection—Why The English Setter

  1. I love what you’re doing! So many good things. Yes, adds an extra element to the plot and characterization. People love dogs. You will teach your readers about dogs with disabilities. I can’t wait to read it!

  2. I had an English setter for years. Wonderful and intelligent animals.

  3. Well, that was an eye-opening post. I’ve never really thought about the amount of research that would be necessary to include a pet in a story. Pets are great for adding another interesting dimension to the story, and you’ve obviously thought of all the details. I’m looking forward to reading it!

  4. This is great. My characters usually don’t have pets.

  5. I had no idea that they were prone to being deaf. That is so interesting and sad too. I love pets in books. I know it isn’t the genre you are writing in by Kristan Higgins always has a dog or cat in her books as the MCs sidekick and I love it!

  6. What a wonderful character study. I’ve read several series where the dog played a big part in shaping the main character’s personality–one where the dog–like yours–was deaf. As was the owner. Besides the well-crafted plot, that kept me reading.

  7. Dogs are great fun to write! Sounds like you’ve really done your research. Another challenge would be paper-training the puppy–that’s always good times.

  8. I love pets in stories and had no idea about the deafness,

  9. What a great pairing! I think you nailed that one on the head. Can’t wait to see how the dynamic plays out.

  10. So interesting and unique! Good luck with the draft! 🙂

  11. Using scents to give secret commands to the dog opens up all sorts of intriguing possibilities.

  12. I can’t think of anything but you certainly gave me a lot to think about as a writer. I love the name Wicks too. I can’t wait to read it.

    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  13. I’m thinking Wicks will be a great addition to your story. Critters seem to bug some people but I like the added extra. You have me curious. 🙂
    sherry @ fundinmental

  14. I think it sounds fascinating (see the pun there)! I like the whole deaf dog thing because it adds a unique element. Go for it, Anna! 🙂

  15. This is great and eye-opening. I’m actually revising tonight a novel that has a cat, but I made it easy by modeling the character after one of my own cats…and he fits the story.

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