Tag Archives: service dog

Do We Really Know the People We Know? (and a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

While writing my July 4th novella (which is releasing today, 19 days late, but, hey, it’s still July at least), I stumbled on an interesting and disturbing question. How well do we really know the people we know?

Unless we own a lie detector, how do we really know who we know?
Unless we own a lie detector (and our friends and acquaintances are willing to submit to it) how do we really know the people we know? (photo by Marcin Wichary from National Museum of Crime & Punishment, Washington, CC-BY-2.0, Wikimedia)

When we meet someone new—a new neighbor, co-worker, friend of a friend we meet at a party—we ask them about themselves. Where are they from, what do they do for a living, etc. And unless their eyeballs are bouncing around like jumping beans or they break out in a cold sweat, we take their answers on face value.

And after we’ve “known” them for a while, we assume we do truly know them, and all the things they’ve told us about themselves become solidified in our minds as fact.

But how do we really know the people we know are telling the truth?

A new employer or landlord will run a background check, or at least check one’s credit, but those we meet socially, we assume they are who and what they say they are.

In A Star-Spangled Mayfair, the mystery the protagonist Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) is trying to sort out revolves around her friend, Jess, who runs the local diner. When Jess becomes the prime suspect in her fiancé’s murder, Marcia discovers that the fiancé is not who he said he was.

Then Will Haines, Marcia’s significant other—who also happens to be a police detective—raises the issue of whether they truly know Jess:

“Look,” Will said, “when you think about it, what do we really know about Jess? All we know of her background is what she’s told us, and that’s precious little. She could be a Black-Widow type, on the run from other jurisdictions after knocking off multiple husbands and fiancés.”

I pulled away from him a little. “Will, she’s terrified of fireworks. No way would she have gotten anywhere near where they were actually setting them off, much less pick up one, light it and point it at her fiancé. It’s just ludicrous.”

He shook his head. “And how do you know she’s phobic of fireworks?”

“She–” My body slumped. “She told me so.”

from A Star-Spangled Mayfair, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #8

By the end of that scene, Marcia is even questioning if she truly “knows” Will. After all, she’s yet to meet his family.

I don’t have an answer to the question do we really know the people we know. I just found it rather amazing that I’d never really thought about it before. Oh, it’s often a premise in fiction—the character who isn’t what they seem—but in real life, most of us blithely go along assuming everything that everybody has told us about themselves is true.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten you, and myself, all paranoid about our friends and neighbors, here are the details about the book. It wasn’t intended to raise profound questions … mostly it’s just a fun read.

A Star-Spangled Mayfair, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #8

A Star-Spangled Mayfair cover

A flamboyant fiancé, a “Mob Killer” Roman candle, a yappy rescue dog, and a bison bull named Tarzan.

A recipe for chaos and calamity for Marcia’s introverted friend, Jess Randall.

When not serving up her to-die-for eggs and biscuits at the Mayfair Diner, Jess just wants to live quietly on their farm. But her fiancé Dan has impulsively offered to host the Mayfair Independence Day Extravaganza.

The day of the big bash, Marcia and her dog Buddy witness a public fight between the couple, and just hours later, Dan is found with a Roman candle through his chest. Was it an accident, or was it murder? And is Jess a killer, as the sheriff’s department believes?

Between dog-training sessions, Marcia feels compelled to investigate, especially when there are signs that the real killer may not be finished… Could Jess be the next target?

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Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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How Do You Feel About Controversy? (And a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

Nyalas literally locking hornsSome people don’t mind controversy; a few even thrive on it.

And with social media, these two groups seem to have found their voices more and more lately.

A friend of mine loves political debates online. She finds them stimulating.

But I’m in the group that pretty much hates controversy. I sit on my hands at least once a day, resisting the temptation to get into it with someone on Facebook or Twitter. It just isn’t worth the stress.

Zero Hero book coverIn my Kate Huntington mysteries, I have often touched on somewhat controversial social issues. I’ve been fortunate that they have been well received.

I really enjoyed writing those books, but more recently I’ve been having fun with a lighter cozy mystery series about a service dog trainer.

I thought I had left the somewhat darker topics behind. My muse, however, had a different idea. She spun out a story in my head that involves two less than likeable members of groups that normally inspire high levels of sympathy in people.

In my new release, launching today (Yay!!), I have a crabby paraplegic veteran, who has an unhealthy obsession with his sister’s love life, and a brash, hard-to-like sexual assault survivor.

My main character, Marcia Banks, doesn’t particularly care for either of these people when she first meets them. And she feels guilty about that. How can you dislike a veteran in a wheelchair? she asks herself.

But the reality is that people in most groups come in all sizes, shapes, and personality types. Some of them aren’t going to be likeable. And my early readers have told me that I have handled these delicate topics well. I appreciate that reassuring feedback.

Nonetheless, I’m feeling a bit of trepidation as this book releases. I know I will get blow-back from some folks. I hope it doesn’t get too nasty.

Because there’s a lot of good, fun stuff in this book as well, as Marcia gets herself in a few scrapes that have her detective boyfriend tearing his hair out. And there are, of course, cute dogs and some humor, and horses. And a couple of romances…

So I do hope you will check it out!

How do you feel about controversy? Do you hate it like me, or does it get your juices flowing like it does for my friend?

Patches in the Rye cover

Patches in the Rye, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, Book 5

Nothing about her new client is what service dog trainer Marcia Banks expected—from the posh house that says family money to his paranoid preoccupation with his sister’s love life—but when he dangles a thousand-dollar retainer under her nose, she can’t resist playing private detective.

In between training sessions, Marcia digs into the sister’s boyfriend’s sketchy past. But the deeper she digs, the more questions arise. How is a disastrous fraternity party five years ago linked to blackmail, prostitutes, and murder today? And who’s driving the black SUV that keeps trying to turn Marcia and her dog Buddy into roadkill?

She can’t let it go, not when there are innocents at risk who are depending on her to find the truth. But the deepest, darkest truth is the one she wishes she never uncovered.

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Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

“Working Through” Instead of Pushing Past the Past

by Kassandra Lamb

row of flagsBelieve it or not, this is a Veterans’ Day post. I’ll get back to that.

As is the case with everything from clothing to baby names to the size of one’s car, mental health is affected by trends in our society. During most of my career as a psychotherapist, the trend was to explore one’s past for explanations of one’s neuroses, so that one could heal whatever trauma lurked back there and then move on. (Key words: Move On!)

This trend was fortunate for me, since I discovered that I had a real talent for trauma recovery. It became my specialty, and I walked the path with hundreds of people, over the twenty years of my career, who’d been abused in a variety of ways as kids. I was honored to be a part of helping them heal and blossom into the people they were meant to be. As hard as it was to face the past, it was what they needed to do in order to truly “work through” that past, rather than ignoring it and have it continue to affect their behavior, moods, parenting, relationships, etc. And most of them came out the other end of the process far, far healthier and happier than they had ever been in their lives.

In my parents’ day, the WW II era, the trend was to “buck up” and push past the past. Best I can tell, this had been the attitude, off and on, for generations, until the more recent trend to go through one’s “recovery process.” As a result of this buck-up attitude, the damage done by trauma in people’s pasts continued to not only affect them but their children.

PTSD existed during WW II—it has always existed—but back then it was called shell shock or battle fatigue, and soldiers who suffered from it were at best pitied and at worst scorned as cowards. It wasn’t until the Vietnam War era that the concept of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder developed and new and better treatments were discovered.

WW II era submarine

My husband’s uncle was a Navy seaman in WW II, on a submarine in the Pacific. For decades, the only impact from that experience he would admit to was ringing in his ears, a residual symptom from all the depth charges that went off in the water around his sub. It wasn’t until his sixties that he started talking about his experiences during the war. It became obvious to my husband and myself that he had suffered from PTSD his entire life. But he’d never dealt with it. He didn’t have permission to deal with it. Instead he drank too much and smoked too much (even after he had emphysema) and took his anger at the world out on his sons.

At the time that I was a practicing therapist, I didn’t realize that the shift away from that buck-up attitude was just a trend. I thought our society had actually turned the corner and was beginning to understand what was involved in obtaining and maintaining good mental health.

In the 1990s, sadly, the pendulum swung back toward the old-fashioned attitudes (not all the way back, but dangerously close for a while). Exploring and working through the harmful mistakes one’s parents may have made so that one could forgive those parents for being human—and then most likely have a better relationship with them thereafter—became “parent bashing” and “whining about the past.” Those going through their recovery process were sometimes viewed as “looking for excuses” for their own behavior and choices. (Nothing could be further from the truth; the process, when done right, is all about taking responsibility for oneself and one’s life.)

The pendulum has now swung more toward the middle ground, but I still see or hear statements on social media, pretty much on a weekly basis, along the lines of “stop whining about the past” or “you are not your past, move on” or “stop blaming your parents” (I repeat, recovery from the past is not and never was about parent-bashing).

inside of submarine

Inside of a submarine (photo by by Eteil CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wkimedia Commons)

Once Uncle Pete opened the door to the past, a lot came pouring out. Fifty years later, he was finally talking about how terrified that nineteen-year-old seaman and his buddies were, as those depth charges exploded in the water around their submarine, how they feared that sub would become their coffin and perhaps their bodies would never be recovered from the depths of the sea.

Show me a combat veteran and I’ll show you a man or woman who has at least some psychological scar tissue (whether they admit it or not) due to what they have experienced protecting us and our country. One of the best ways we can honor our veterans is to continue to acknowledge what they have gone through emotionally, continue to give them permission to seek help so they can heal those wounds, and to continue to fight for and support funding for mental health services for them.

service dog

(DoD photo by EJ Hersom, CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons))

If you see a veteran sweating and shaking in public from an anxiety attack, know that they came by those anxieties while fighting for your freedoms. Having never been in such a veteran’s shoes, I can’t tell you what would be most helpful to them right then, but turning away and denying that their internal wounds are real is definitely not helpful.

And if you see a healthy-looking woman or a big strapping man with no obvious physical disability being accompanied by a service dog, don’t make assumptions. You have no idea what they are dealing with inside.

Speaking of service dogs (and to lighten the mood!), I have a new novella coming out in the Marcia Banks and Buddy series, a Christmas story.

Here’s the cover! Isn’t it awesome?

A Mayfair Christmas Carol book cover

A Mayfair Christmas Carol, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Christmas Novella

A Christmas extravaganza in Mayfair, Florida, complete with an ice skating rink. What could go wrong?

When excavation for the skating rink uncovers a decades-old skeleton, its secrets threaten more than the town’s Christmas plans. Worried about her friends in her adopted town and feeling responsible since the let’s-attract-more-tourists idea was hers initially, dog trainer Marcia Banks is determined to help her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery—whether he wants her help or not. Perhaps she can wheedle more out of the townspeople than he can.

But will she and her Black Lab, Buddy, be able to keep the ghost of Christmas past from destroying what is left of Mayfair’s founding family, or will her meddling make matters worse?

A Mayfair Christmas Carol will be available for preorder on November 27th (Cyber Monday) and will be released on December 2nd. So stay tuned!

Your thoughts on the trends in mental health? Have you or someone you love ever been on the receiving end of the “buck”up” attitude?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Service Dogs for PTSD (And a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

PTSD was my specialty when I was a practicing therapist, and yet I realized recently that I’ve never blogged about it to any great extent. Well, now I have a really good reason for doing so.

Lately I’ve become fascinated by the use of service dogs to help people suffering from this disorder. So much so that I’ve started a new mystery series about a woman who trains these service dogs for combat veterans, and her experiences with a variety of clients. (More on the first release in this series in a bit.)

service dog with his veteran handler

A service dog with his veteran handler (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the diagnosis given when a person suffers symptoms as a result of exposure to a severe trauma. In the general population, the life-time prevalence rate is 8%, which is pretty high. Only phobias, depression and drug abuse are more common.

The list of symptoms is extensive, so I’m just going to hit on the most common ones, and how service dogs can help manage them.

But first let’s define trauma. This is a word that tends to be overused in our society for anything that makes us feel bad. The best definition I’ve ever heard for trauma comes from Lenore Terr, MD in her book, Unchained Memories (I’m paraphrasing her a little here):

A traumatic event is so emotionally overwhelming that the person experiencing it cannot process it cognitively nor emotionally at the time that it happens.

Such events are often sudden and unexpected. They might be a bad car accident, a natural disaster, a criminal assault, being in combat, etc.

PTSD was first identified in combat veterans. It was once called shell shock or battle fatigue. And this group still has one of the highest rates of PTSD, ranging from 12% (Gulf War vets) to 30% (Vietnam-era vets). The rate of PTSD currently in veterans of the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts is 13.8%.

The most common and debilitating of the symptoms are anxiety attacks (triggered by reminders of the trauma), nightmares and flashbacks. Service dogs are trained to pick up on the early stages of these symptoms and interrupt them.

If you have a dog, you know how sensitive they can be to their owner’s moods. When you’re depressed or anxious, they tend to sense it and often try to offer comfort. In service dogs, this natural tendency is enhanced through training and then the dog is taught to do something about it.

I’m still learning about all this myself for my new mystery series, but I know that for nightmares, this may mean waking their handlers by barking or nudging him/her with their noses. The service dogs also provide grounding and a calming effect. Again, if you have a dog (or a cat), you know how soothing it can be to stroke their coat and their silky ears.

hand petting dog

Both human and dog benefit from pets and ear scratches. 🙂 (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

(Research has been done on this aspect of therapy/service dogs in general. Petting and interacting with them lowers heart rate and blood pressure and improves mood.)

With anxiety attacks, the dog often can alert their human that the attack is starting before the person has become consciously aware of the building anxiety. Then s/he can implement strategies (taught by his/her counselor) to nip the attack in the bud.

Service dogs also make it easier for veterans suffering from PTSD to go out in public. Two other PTSD symptoms are hypervigilance and an exaggerated startle response. Scary things have taken this person by surprise before, so now their nervous system is constantly on the alert, which is not good for their mental nor physical health.

There are two things the service dogs are trained to do to help with this hypervigilance. One is called the cover command. Whenever their human stops moving, the dog turns around and faces the way they came. The dog literally has the person’s back. S/he signals the handler if someone is approaching from behind, usually with a perking of their ears or a tail wag.

The dogs are also trained to step between their handler and anyone approaching them. These may sound like small things to most of us, but for those who suffer from PTSD, they can allow the person to relax a good bit more when out and about in the world.

service dog with his handler

public domain, Wikimedia Commons

This and also the strong sense of connection with the dog are particularly helpful for overcoming one of the most subtle and potentially destructive of the symptoms, a sense of isolation from others. People who have experienced extreme events sometimes are left feeling like they are different from others in some irrevocable way; they may even feel like they are “damaged goods.”

Being more comfortable in public and experiencing the unconditional love of a canine companion can go a long way toward overcoming this feeling of otherness, and help the veteran become more integrated into his/her community.

Combat veterans should only feel set apart in a proud way, that they have served their country well and are respected for their sacrifices. Service dogs can help them hold their heads high and get on with their lives.

(Stay tuned for more about this wonderful boon for veterans as I learn more myself.)

And today is the cover reveal for my new series. Another masterpiece by Melinda VanLone. Ta-da!! (Psst! The book is available for pre-order for just $1.99; it goes up after the release.)

ToKillALabrador FINALTo Kill A Labrador, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery

Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) likes to think of herself as a normal person, even though she has a rather abnormal vocation. She trains service dogs for combat veterans with PTSD. Then the ex-Marine owner of her first trainee is accused of murdering his wife, and Marcia gets sucked into an even more abnormal avocation–amateur sleuth.

Called in to dog-sit the Labrador service dog, Buddy, she’s outraged that his veteran owner is being presumed guilty until proven innocent. With Buddy’s help, she tries to uncover the real killer.

Even after the hunky local sheriff politely tells her to butt out, Marcia keeps poking around. Until the killer finally pokes back.

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AND, I’m having a Facebook party next week to celebrate the new series. Click here to check it out and sign up. There’ll be lots of prizes and fun!!

FB party banner

Are you a combat veteran or do you know one personally? What obstacles have you/they encountered in the reentry-into-civilian-life process?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )