Arts & Entertainment, Last Word

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas


By Miriam R. Kramer



At this time of year Old Town glitters by night with tangles of twinkling lights in the trees lining King Street, as shops and restaurants brace themselves for the onslaught of visitors celebrating events such as the Scottish Christmas Walk. One of my favorite parts of the Scottish Walk has always been the Scottish breeds of dogs that parade through the streets with their kilted humans, supporting Old Town’s dedication to its heritage. In their own way, they also celebrate Old Town’s special dedication to our four-footed furry family members. One fun, light-hearted way to relieve holiday pressures is to kick back with your dog by your side in front of a fire to read David Rosenfelt’s latest in his line of Andy Carpenter mysteries, The Twelve Dogs of Christmas.


Rosenfelt’s novels feature the quirky, self-deprecating Andy Carpenter, an independently wealthy defense attorney in Paterson, NJ who tries to do as little as possible. If he deigns to take a client, he believes in her. His funny, lackadaisical approach conceals a consuming dedication to solving his clients’ problems while simultaneously supporting the Tara Foundation, a rescue operation named after Andy’s beloved Golden Retriever and dedicated to supporting and placing dogs with the right families.


In The Twelve Dogs of Christmas, Andy’s brusque, loud-mouthed friend, Martha Boyer, finds herself in an unexpected pickle at the heart of a puzzling murder mystery. The modest-living Martha has not turned away a puppy for 24 years. Nicknamed “Pups,” she carefully raises newborns at home until they have matured enough to be adopted, rejecting potential adopters who might give a puppy a bad or indifferent home.


Suddenly the police have arrested her for three homicides: that of her beloved husband and a gangster named Big Tiny Parker over a year and a half ago, and the recent murder of the mysterious Randy Hennessey, a new neighbor who had filed a complaint against Pups for violating a zoning law by harboring more than three dogs. Knowing him as a dog-lover, Pups hires Andy to see the case through. She wants to continue to aid dogs both through her actions and her will, which leaves a considerable fortune to be divided among animal shelters. She also makes sure that Andy and his co-sponsor of the Tara Foundation can take her twelve current puppies while she remains in lock-up during the Christmas season.


Andy brings together his eccentric crew of lawyers, investigators, bodyguards, and assorted characters to tear the prosecutor’s case to shreds. This team includes his four IT-savvy octogenarians, who make Lisbeth Salander look like a newbie learning how to turn on a computer. They find themselves in the middle of an increasingly complex case that turns out to be a high-stakes conspiracy. Andy makes sure to take out time, however, to report to the incarcerated Pups and show her pictures of her twelve growing puppies and their new families.


Rosenfelt’s quick-reading Andy Carpenter series is simultaneously light-hearted and serious, filled with Andy’s funny one-liners and sharp sense of humor. Despite his smart-ass attitude and self-proclaimed status as a sports degenerate addicted to watching anything featuring a bouncing ball, his love for his ex–police officer wife, Laurie Collins, and their adopted son, Ricky, centers his life. The Twelve Dogs of Christmas is no exception in this regard. Andy’s focus also always features his love for his Golden Retriever, Tara, who serves as the inspiration for his rescue operation, the Tara Foundation. In this particular novel the reader also senses Rosenfelt’s dedication to issues such as the environment and social justice.


The author’s Andy Carpenter series reflects much of his own personal experience. After meeting his wife, Debbie Myers, and her Golden Retriever, Tara, Rosenfelt started a real Tara Foundation with Myers after Tara’s death. It focused particularly on picking out and placing older Goldens, but also accepted many other large breeds that would have particular problems being adopted from shelters at their age. They kept numerous dogs of their own and worked continually to place others. Another very fun book to read is Dogtripping, a real-life account of David and Debbie moving from California to Maine with the help of volunteer drivers and three RVs full of barking canines.


If the author David Rosenfelt, his wife Debbie Myers, and I have a mutual holiday wish, it would be that you do not get a pet at Christmas, or any other time of the year, without research and thoughtful consideration. You will be happier if you take the important step of looking at different breeds and their characteristics to find out what energy level and personality you or your family require. Mixed breeds are also sometimes healthier, so consider going to shelters to look at those wonderful mutts.


While my review has focused on dogs, this attitude applies to cats as well. Think about getting your dogs or cats from shelters or rescue organizations rather than purchasing them. Also, consider adopting older animals that are just as loving and often much less work than those adorable puppies and kittens. After adopting a ten-year-old Pug named Buzz two years ago, I cannot imagine life without him and his feisty, unadulterated sweetness.


Your four-footed family members represent the soul of the holidays, which we celebrate as a time of illumination and happiness within the gloom of winter. Their pure love and devotion to you is also a boundless light in the darkness. Happy holidays and much canine and feline love to you!

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