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27 May 2012 ·

Artists and Animals: Sally Odgers, Jack Russells and Dog Detectives

Sally Odgers is an amazingly prolific Tasmanian author who runs the Affordable Manuscript Assessment service. I remember reading her books when I first started writing and hoping that I could do something like that one day! Thanks for those years of inspiration, Sally! Find out more about her at 
Have you ever been inspired by an animal, or animals in general, in your life or art?
Yes, very often.  Of my 200+ books the majority have animal characters in them.   Jack Russell, in the Jack Russell: Dog Detective series I co-wrote with my husband, was inspired by our Jack Russell Terrier Ace. Ace’s son, Preacher, now credited to Jack, appears as himself in the later books. Then, way back in the 1980s, my first dog Poddles appeared in “The Haunting of Ace” under the name of Poodle McAllister.  These are just two of a great many characters. To see more of them, check out the character lists at
Did you have pets as a child? Or: what was the pet you most wanted as a child?
I had a dog named Poddles from 7 to 17  and cats named Pinkie, Tammy, an Penny. I also had a fat pony named Ras. In my teens I had a dog named Jane and a donkey named Achilles.
Do you have an animal companion now? How did it get its name? Does your pet have a story to share?
I live with five Jack Russell Terriers at present;  our daughter named old Tess, whose 13th anniversary with us is tomorrow, and my husband named Trump, Pipwen, Jeannie and Preacher who were born here. Trump is named after the dog belonging to the original “Jack Russell”, Pipwen is a mash-up of Pippi and Wedneday (she was the middle pup and born on a Wednesday), Jeannie was a breech birth and so is named after Jean Lee, the last woman hanged in Australia, and Preacher is after the Rev Russell.  We also have a cockatoo named Cracker (daughter named him too, a corella named Joe-wug (that’s what he calls himself, anyway) and a Major Mitchell named Pippin (husband named her). Then there’s Jake, the rainbow lorikeet, who is staying with us at present.
What would your pet tell us about you?
The dogs would no doubt say my report card should be “should try harder” and “stingy with the treats”… and “Only two walks a day? That’s criminal!”.  I think they’re quite fond of me though they know I am not in charge. My husband is their pack leader.  They probably regard me as senior bitch but I’m not quite sure. Tess may be senior to me since she is , at 13, older than I am at 54.  Fortunately, Tess does like me!
If you were an animal, what would you be?
A perverse old dog probably, who loves to please as long as it doesn’t mean putting herself out too much. At the first sign of thunder or a raised voice, she’d be hiding under the bed.
Any advice for people wanting a pet?


Make sure you have the time and the room in your life.  Pets take time and lots of it.  They can also be expensive if they need vet care (Tess’s dental operation set us back nearly $500 ). They need secure sleeping/living arrangements and, if dogs, proper fencing, good quality collars/harnesses and leashes.  It takes time and patience to  civilise a pet,  and many of them will expect to live with you as part of the family.  They will expect affection.  If you can’t give them this time, affection and money, not just now but next year and when they’re old and deaf, or if you have a baby, or if you get a new job, or find a romantic partner… then don’t get a pet with more brains than a goldfish.  Pet sit for others, or visit friends who have pets instead.  (My old dad has a cat. He’s more of a dog person, but he understands he couldn’t manage a dog now. Our old Tess visits him often,  so he has dog-company without the walking/feeding routine.)  
Favourite animal books?
That’s easy – the Jack Russell: Dog Detective and Pet Vet series!


  1. margaretlynettesharp The significance of pets in our lives is massive. A happy pet can make you feel happy. Conversely, loss or sickness of your furry friend can be devastating. In balance, I believe that the amount of love that a happy pet can bring to your life makes the potential for problems, a risk worth taking.
    May 28, 2012 at 2:33 am · Reply
  2. margaretlynettesharp It's hard to overestimate the importance of the pets in our lives. A happy pet can make us happy, too. Conversely, loss or serious illness of our adopted furry child can be devastating.
    The amount of unconditional love that a dog can bring into your life makes the drawbacks pale into insignificance.
    May 28, 2012 at 2:33 am · Reply
  3. Robert Vescio Hi Wendy and Sally,
    I really enjoyed what Sally had to say about her pets and her advice for people wanting a pet - something I need to think about before I commit so thanks for the interview Wendy.
    Robert Vescio
    June 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm · Reply
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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio