"Why does your family always talk about dogs?"

When I was first going out with The Husband he wondered why conversations swerved to the topic of our dogs at family gatherings. We smiled and laughed as we exchanged well-worn tales about Max, Tara, Loony...

"It's because we can talk about dogs and not argue."

While my family doesn't argue much about politics, we argue about everything else. Loudly and earnestly, with irrelevant criticisms and unnecessary references to old conflicts. But we loved our pets.

I've been collecting old photos and among them are always pictures of the families' dogs. I wonder what tales these people told about their dogs, and what joys and experiences they shared.

My newish dog, Lola, sleeps on my bed as I write this. She has a gentle snore that I like, reassuring me that I'm not alone. When I meet with my family, I'll share a few stories about her latest activities and my brothers will tell me something about their dogs.

We may not agree on everything, but we agree on dogs. The next time an opinionated relative gets cranky at a meal, ask about his first pet. I bet you'll hear a great story.

It's only 12 days until the release of The Dog Thief. My main character, Maddie Whitney, has emotional and behavioral problems. But there's one way she can connect with others and it's through her deep love and understanding of dogs.