Fictional attorney Andy Carpenter doesn’t care for Wisconsin.
People go to parties where casseroles are served. Everyone tells him to “have a good day." The weather, the endless brats, the green and gold outfits—well, it’s just not his kind of place.
But that’s fiction. In real life, author David Rosenfelt is happy to be anywhere dogs are or any place where he can support organizations trying to make life better for canines.
At 7 p.m. Saturday, Rosenfelt will be at Voigt Music Center’s main stage to talk about his books and his work with animals. A special VIP reception will be held at 5 p.m. The event is a fundraiser for the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin.
How much does Rosenfelt love dogs? We’ll address that later. First, the writing gig.
After leaving a successful career in the movie industry, Rosenfelt went on to write 29 novels. His first novel, “Open and Shut,” won the Shamus Award for best first novel and was nominated for an Edgar Award.
Almost all of his 19 Andy Carpenter novels have dogs on their covers and dog-based titles, such as “Bark of Night,” “Hounded” and “Collared.” Only one story takes place in Wisconsin. The rest are set in and around Patterson, New Jersey, where Carpenter makes his living as a smart-aleck attorney who doesn't really like to practice law.
Only a handful of stories feature a dog as their central character, but Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter books are all inextricably linked to dogs.
There’s Carpenter’s dog, Tara, of course. Carpenter talks to her like a human, but she does not respond in a cutesy fashion, nor does she solve mysteries by placing her paw on the appropriate piece of evidence or sniffing out the culprit in an abandoned barn. This is not a dog who would tell you if Timmy fell down a well.
At one point, Carpenter says “biscuit” is the only word she knows, and he might as well be saying, “Blah, blah, blah, biscuit, blah, blah.”
So Tara is a well-loved—but ordinary—dog.
Here’s what happened: In book six of the Carpenter series, a dog is part of the plot, and the publishers put a dog on the cover, Rosenfelt said.
The book then sold “like twice as many copies,” he said.
“From then on, a dog leads him (Andy Carpenter) into the case,” Rosenfelt said. “But the dogs are really not integral to the case, they’re just a gateway.”
Here’s how much Rosenfelt loves dogs:
When he and his wife, Debbie Myers, lived in California, they started Tara’s Foundation, an organization to help unwanted dogs find homes.
Now the couple live in Maine, where they share their home with 17 dogs, which he describes as “a more normal amount.” Previously, they had 27.
They no longer run the foundation because the shelter situation in New England is so much better, he said.
"Here’s what happens: The shelters here know us,” Rosenfelt said. “So when they have a dog that is very old or blind or epileptic or they can’t find a home for, those are the dogs we take.”
Trainers have told him that such a system would never work, that the dogs would fight. They don’t, and Rosenfelt thinks it’s because they understand that they’ve been given another chance.
"It's far and away the most rewarding thing I've ever done," he said. "You rescue these dogs that almost exclusively had bad lives. For whatever time they are here, they are happy and safe and loved, and they love you back. It's great. it's really great."
For more about the Rosenfelts' work, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpIZ3hxKRZU.