By Lynne Murray

I gave away the last of my how-to-write-a-mystery books last night. That dream is over.

That may be why I went to bed and dreamed about police dachshunds and the strapping young officers who handle them.

I used to write mysteries, but my little whodunit series bit the dust in the mid-list massacre of the early 2000s. It’s a young author's game now, though you've still got the occasional courtly, silver-haired gentleman who writes with alarming relish about the inner thoughts of psychopathic serial killers. But Miss Marple-ized old dames like myself can't hack it in the world of live mutilation lit. The heavy gore and dismemberment scenes play hell with my arthritis, and I keep losing my knitting needles.

In my dream, I joined some other San Francisco-based mystery writers to attend an event in New York—perhaps something to do with the Edgars mystery awards. A literary festival the same weekend took us out into the streets—where we so seldom go. That's where we encountered the San Francisco K-9 group with their Dachshunds, also in New York for a conference.

Due to budgetary considerations, our San Francisco department could only afford the smaller dogs. I understand the Dachshunds are not great at restraining suspects, but they are excellent at sniffing out drugs, particularly if the drugs are hidden down low, close to the ground.

Unfortunately, the size of their dogs made our local K-9 division into targets for a lot of ribbing from other departments who could afford standard-issue, big dogs. Police dogs are referred to as Canine Officers and the words, "Officer Wiener Dog" could be overheard as we loitered near the policemen, hoping to pick up some authentic dialog.

We witnessed one officer (not sure what city he was from, hard to read his shoulder patch with bifocals) sic his German Shepherd on one of the police Dachshunds. The dogs were too disciplined to fight, but the men nearly came to blows.

Later, outside our hotel, we saw the SFPD K-9 group with their Dachshunds and we approached one of them, who had spoken at a Mystery Writers of America banquet a few years earlier. While the human officer spoke, the Canine Officer sniffed the crowd for drugs. Vain hope in that group, although one of the cozy mystery writers did have some catnip in her purse.

I explained that we had witnessed the "Officer Wiener Dog" incident the day before, and we were all writing letters to protest this ill treatment.

The officer just wanted the facts, of course, and he did call me ma'am. They all talk like Jack Webb—if Jack Webb were alive and 25 and wearing a uniform. Their parents were in diapers when "Dragnet" went off the air, so they must pick it up on cable TV.

He seemed happy to hear about the letters. They like it when we write letters. I'm not sure if the pen really is mightier than the assault weapon, but it is what we do best after all.

The K-9 officer gave me his card, and I said I would call when I got back home in case they needed a witness report. Once upon a time that card would have been golden. But now it was just a card, and the dream was just a dream.

But I miss the research.

How else would a timid, middle-aged woman of a certain avoirdupois be able to engage the total attention of a muscular young policeman in full gear.

I used to be able to ask, "What would you be wearing, officer? I mean the beat cop in my book... When he discovered the body... Tell me about your—um, his equipment. Uh, would that include the um, big black belt with all the gear on it? Yes? What would be on the belt exactly? Can you show me?"

I've moved on to write about other subjects such, as "Why do Vampires look like underwear models. What if they didn't?"

But somehow it's not the same.


© Lynne Murray