Before writing this delightful new book, Colin Butcher served in the Royal Navy, then as a police constable, eventually making it to detective rank in the Surrey (UK) police force. For the past few years, he’s run his own agency, specializing in finding lost pets, particularly felines. (Sounds awfully like a BBC series, doesn’t it? Part James Herriot, part Miss Marple.) Not only does he use his professional expertise to locate lost pet cats, a particularly challenging species to find, he does it with an inimitable sleuthing partner by his side: the remarkable and beguiling Molly, his rescue Cocker Spaniel.
As he explains it, he has always been a great animal lover. When he was a rookie officer, he learned that finding a lost cat or runaway dog helped keep the “locals on their side.” He also worked and palled around with the force’s police-dog section, marveling at the close and loving bond between those officers and their K9 partners.
After retiring from the police force, he set up shop under the shingle UK Pet Detectives. He worked with a couple of other partners, although it wasn’t until Molly came on the scene that the lost-cat side of his business really took off. Butcher, a great believer in helping “life’s unwanted animals,” knew that if he were to take on a canine partner, she must also be a rescue (he also was set on a female), but finding the ideal match wasn’t easy.
Upon the advice of one of his clients, he consulted with the Medical Detection Dogs organization, hoping to learn how to train a dog for feline scent-recognition work, assuming he could find the right one. That proved to be the key: not only did they help him find his high-spirited Molly—who at 10 months old already had three unsuccessful adoptions on her resume (see excerpt below)—but they helped train her too.
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Molly’s training took months, during which time Butcher studied up on cat behavior. Finally, the pair was ready to start work. The rest of the book is replete with wonderful stories of their first year together. They’ve worked on many interesting cases, most with successful and
poignant reunions. Molly proves herself to be one incredible dog, with amazing olfactory capabilities and a sterling work ethic.
One of the best things about this book is that it is so utterly positive and upbeat in the way that Butcher writes about their assignments, his clients, their moggies (a Brit term for cat) and the deep gratitude he feels for his dog. He knows how to tell a good story and he certainly knows how to care for Molly, which is, in itself, heartwarming.
The book ends on a note that implies there’s more to come. This reader, for one, eagerly looks forward to finding out what’s next for this charming detecting duo. Molly will make an excellent holiday book gift for young and old alike.
Read an excerpt of Molly below.
Finding the Right Detection Dog
NEEDS A GOOD HOME, the advert had succinctly stated. OWNER CANNOT COPE.
“Now, forgive me for being negative, Rob, but—”
“Colin, I know exactly what you’re going to say. This dog sounds like trouble. But just bear with me on this one. I’m driving up this afternoon to see her, and I’ll ring you later.”
“What’s her name?”
“Molly. Her name’s Molly.”
Molly. The same name as my friend Anna’s dearly departed dog. That’s a good omen, I thought to myself, comforted by the fact that fellow dog-lovers often experienced these spiritual, serendipitous connections.
“Right, first the bad news,” said Rob, when, as promised, he called me with an update. My shoulders sagged as I braced myself for yet more disappointment.
“Molly’s very, very demanding. She’s been badly deprived of love and affection. She suffers from terrible separation anxiety. She barks like crazy when she’s frustrated. She steals food from people’s plates and pinches treats from their pocket. And she’s one of the most willful, wayward and stubborn dogs I’ve ever met.”
“And the good news?” I replied despondently.
“I reckon we’ve found our dog, Colin.”
I rarely found myself lost for words but, on this occasion, I was stunned into silence.
“Yep, you heard me correctly,” said Rob, laughing. “Molly’s amazing. Sharp as a tack. Bags of energy. Brimming with confidence. She’s exactly what we’re looking for.”
I slowly rubbed my forehead, trying to absorb Rob’s glad tidings.
“Don’t get me wrong, Colin, she’s a dog who’d need an incredible amount of training, but I honestly think she could be perfect for the role.”
“This is the best news I’ve had in ages,” I said, allowing myself a little smile.
From Molly by Colin Butcher. Copyright © 2019 by the author and reprinted with permission of Celadon Books, a division of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC.