The Rescue is a gripping thriller that explores the strength of the human-animal bond and how far we will go to protect what we love by three-time Edgar Award winner and New York Times bestselling author T. Jefferson Parker. And he found that inspiration through his own, lovable rescue dog.
By T. Jefferson Parker:
On a stormy November morning two years ago, I woke up and decided that my wife, Rita, and I, should get a dog.
We had lost our beloved family Labrador some years prior and had been a little afraid to get another one, given the years of love and affection that a dog can give and take, all the joy they are, and what absolute misery it is to watch them die. Not to mention the general obligations and limitations when building your time and travels around an animal who depends on you for everything.
“What kind of dog do you want?” Rita asked me.
“I’ve been reading about rat terriers and I want one,” I said. “They’re small and cute and ferocious on squirrels and gophers.”
We live in Fallbrook, north of San Diego – semi-rural, oak and avocado country loaded with these tree, bush and flower destroyers.
“I don’t want a purebred dog,” said Rita. “I want a rescue.”
“Everyone tells me how grateful they are.”
“Let me check the Fallbrook Animal Sanctuary and see what they’ve got.”
What they had, front of their web page, was a “terrier mix” named Rhett, rescued as a puppy from the streets of Tijuana six months ago. He was diseased, tick-ridden, malnourished and terrified. Now he was in perfect health and ready for his first home.
A Mexican street dog, and damned cute.
“Rita, you have to understand that if we go down and look at that dog, we’ll be coming home with him.”
When we got to the sanctuary, 13-lb. Rhett wiggled over to greet us, throwing himself at us when we knelt down to size him up. He looked somewhat terrier-like to me, but I saw more Chihuahua and whippet in him. A bit of Jack Russell, maybe. Short haired, cream with tan ovals and spots, and those distinctive button/rose ears that so many Mexican street dogs end up with.
Just a note: there are a loosely estimated 18,000,000 street dogs living in Mexico without homes, medical care, regular food, or clean water. They’re known as callejeros, “street dogs.” They’re not neutered so they breed swiftly. You see them everywhere, on beaches and in villages, cities, at the border crossings – mongrels begging for food, and sometimes willing to let you pet them on the hugely off chance that you’ll let them follow home.
At the Fallbrook Animal Sanctuary, Vicky told us about Rhett’s rescue from Tijuana. She had video of him being lifted from the dirt road where he was curled up, resting with a look of resignation and misery on his flea-bitten face. Vicky couldn’t really tell us too much about his life in Tijuana – how could she? – but she said he’d likely grow to about 50-lbs. and that he’d probably never lived in a human home for very long, if at all. (Many callejeros are born on the streets.)
Now, here at the sanctuary, Rhett was a healthy, wriggling, goofy-eared dog that we happily snatched up and took home!
Over the next days I wondered long and hard – part of a writer’s job – what this little dog’s life was like in Mexico. What was his story? What had happened to him, both good and bad? We renamed him Jasper for his high-strung, at times borderline neurotic behavior.
When two different DNA tests gave us eighteen different breeds of which Jasper is made – everything from the Korean Gindo to the German Shephard – it began to dawn on me that I wasn’t ever going to learn anything about Jasper’s former life than what his rescuers had told me.
There was nothing more to him to know than that ten second video clip of him being picked up from the street in Tijuana, and a couple of photos of him on a veterinarian’s table.
The more I thought about the first six months of his life, the more the mystery of it bothered me.
So, with only this wisp of a biography to work with, I did what any writer would do:
I imagined his story.
Here it is – THE RESCUE – a novel about a Mexican street dog who gets a shot at a new life in California.
And a whole lot more.
Click below to pre-order your copy of The Rescue, coming April 25th, 2023!