Inspiration, part 2

In my last post, I found pictures to represent most of the major characters in my work-in-progress, Doubting River. I saved one important character for his very own post — River, the title character. Before we talk about River, though, I want to talk just a moment about setting.

Doubting River is set in a small, imaginary town in rural Mississippi. This photo is actually startlingly close to how I imagine Marlie’s farm to look.

Now let’s talk about River. River is a curly coated retriever, just like the dog I named for him. I don’t have any pictures of my dog here, though, because I haven’t had him out in the field, and River is most definitely a field retriever. Instead I asked my dog’s breeder to share some of her photos. First, here are some shots of curlies in their natural habitat.

In the book, Charm and Lucas are training River for an AKC retriever field trial. These trials are extremely competitive events open to both professional and amateur trainers. Of the seven eligible retriever breeds, the vast, vast, vast majority of the dogs who run in the trials are Labrador retrievers. In addition to Labs, a small number of golden retrievers and an even smaller number of Chesapeake Bay retrievers compete. The other four breeds are virtually unheard of in the sport, and to my knowledge no breed other than Lab, golden, or Cheesie has even won. That includes curly coated retrievers.

Dawn doesn’t compete in field trials, but she does do hunt tests through various organizations. These photos aren’t, then, exactly representative of what Charm and Lucas will be doing, but I think you’ll get the idea.

See the fake gun in the next picture? That’s common in some venues. In a real hunting situation, the dog’s handler would be shooting the ducks that the dog retrieves. In a hunt test (and field trial), the live flyers are shot by someone in the field so the handler can focus on the dog. The handlers are still required to carry a gun in some venues, however. This picture also has a good full-body shot of a curly. They’re taller and leaner than the other retrievers. My River (the living, breathing one) stands 28″ or 29″ at the shoulder and, at 16 months old, weighs about 90lbs.

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3 Responses to Inspiration, part 2

  1. Maggie says:

    Love the pics. So gorgeous. You’re an outdoor lover too, I see. There’s nothing better than being outside.

  2. Mark says:


    Thank you for posting Doubting River, I live in Oregon City and have two labs, I have been watching out for the book Doubting River. Is there any way to get the book? The first chapter is fantastic.

    • Melissa says:

      Wow — thanks so much! It has been so long since you posted, but I just saw the comment. Sorry about that. Doubting River isn’t finished. It has become a priority again, though, I’m GOING to finish it in 2013. Thanks for the push in the right direction!!

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