What happens if you arrive at the Pearly Gates before your time?
F.B.I Agent Bentley Clanton finds out the hard way as he is directed to a little-known area devoted to correcting glitches in the longevity system. The Returns Department specializes in finding appropriate bodies for “early arrivals” before sending them back to earth. It seemed an acceptable solution until Bentley realizes his new body includes long velvety ears, four stubby legs with giant paws, and a tail. Helping him adjust to life as a Basset Hound is his rookie Guardian Angel, along with three other canine Returns.
Laugh along as a delightful Golden Retriever, a feisty Chihuahua, and Flamboyant Westie join Bentley to form an unlikely brotherhood of crime-fighting heroes. The Returns takes you on a fun-loving, junk food eating adventure through the exciting streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
*Selected as an Indie Book of the Day award winner
*Selected as The Best of 2013 Featured Great Read on Indie Book of the Day
“Hugely enjoyable, Very clever, and HIGHLY entertaining! It gives the term “good fun” a whole new twist!” L. Cooper – So, I Read This Book Today
“A MUST read for dog lovers!” D. Feyen – More Than A Review
“A book to keep you smiling from cover to cover! -Amazon Review
“Best book I have read in ages. This would be a wonderful book to be made into a movie!” -Amazon Review
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My Basset Hound Bentley was born with a perfect #7 on his hip. I thought it was so unusual and tried to imagine all of the reasons that he has that special marking. I decided that he must have been an FBI Agent in a previous human life!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
All of my animal characters are based on pets that I have loved in my life. The humans are a mish-mash of people.
Bentley woke to the feel of cold rain falling on him and the distinct smell of, eewww, wet dog. He tried to focus his eyes, only to have everything fade back to black.
“Oh, bless your poor little heart. C’mon and let me take you inside.” Faith reached down and wrapped an old flannel blanket around the shivering wet dog. Lifting him into her arms with a grunt she carried the smelly hound into her home.
Coming to the second time was just as disorienting for Bentley as the first time. At least he was dry and warm. Obviously, he was lying in front of a fireplace inside someone’s house.
As he started to sit up he heard tiny clicks on the hardwood floor. “Who is there?” he questioned, still trying to sit up.
“Holy guacamole, Faith! Have ju looked at dis guy? His head is bigger d’an da whole of Da Bones!” exclaimed a squeaky Spanish voice.
“Now Bones, be nice. Bentley just arrived so take it easy on him.” Then she whispered, “He doesn’t know yet.”
“What don’t I know yet? You know, I am lying right here, don’t you?” Bentley looked around. He saw a woman whispering into the ear of a trembling Chihuahua. “Hey, I am talking here. What is going on? What don’t I…oh my God, I am a freakin’ dog! Look at my feet, I have four freakin’ feet! No, I have four freakin’ paws! And what are these flaps…my ears?!? What the heck?”
He jumped up and attempted to walk over to where the two sat talking. On his second step, he tripped on his long ears and rolled over.
Howls of laughter rang out from the tiny dog. “Ju had better sit. Stay, amigo! Buen muchacho! D’ose ears of jours are muy largo!”
Bentley sat down hard on his butt. He looked at his now-human Guardian Angel. “I think you have some explainin’ to do, lady.”
Smiling, Faith squatted down beside him to scratch behind his ear. She began to explain. “You are Bentley, aren’t you? Well, I am not sure if you remember everything. I am Faith, your Angel. You were taken too soon, so the powers that be sent you back to Earth to complete your life.”
Bentley slowly recalled being shot and seeing angels. “Wait a minute. They said that I would be matched to a body similar to the one I left. I fail to see where the similarities match. And quit scratching my dang ears. How can I be a stinkin’ dog?!”
“We must never put a question mark where God puts a period, Bentley. Only a few souls are chosen to become dogs. It is the noblest of assignments. That is why dog is God spelled backwards,” she explained.
“Seriously, that is your explanation? Look at the way you turned out. You were gorgeous in Heaven and you look the same way here. Why aren’t you some kind of poodle? This is so not fair. I am nothing like I was before. I have to believe that another mistake has been made.” He whined as his back leg began scratching under his belly involuntarily.
“Well, that is not true. You kept your beautiful brown eyes, your black hair, firm square jaw and your badge number. You are quite an outstanding specimen of a Basset Hound. Show quality, I dare say,” Faith told him.
“I kept my eyes and my badge number? I am a Basset Hound so exactly which pocket do I carry my badge?” he asked sarcastically. “Do you have a mirror so I can at least see what I look like?”
Faith stood up and sighed. “I will show you, but you have to not freak out. It is not like you are the only one to ever come back as a dog. Take Bones here. He used to be quite famous in his human days.” Bentley snorted as the little dog jumped up and down on tiny legs.
“Si Señor. José ‘Bones’ Juarez, was da World Champion Featherweight boxer so don’t mess wit’ me. Dynamite comes in small packages. Bones kick jour butt.”
The way the little guy was quivering so hard, Bentley couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah well, Dynamite, you look like you are about to detonate. You keep shakin’ like that and you’re gonna blow.”
Bones puffed up his tiny hairless chest, “Ju wanna piece of dis? Ju wanna piece of ‘Da Bones’?” With his Mohawk hairstyle sticking up between his two giant ears, Bentley could imagine that Bones must have really been something as a man.
Faith came in just in time to pick Bones up. She gave him a kiss on his big apple-shaped head. “Tell him, Faith; tell him Bones trembles with power.” His big bugged eyes were full of love for his Angel.
“Well of course, that is the reason for your shaking. There is so much power in such a small vehicle. You are just like a Lamborghini, my love. Now, run along and join the other two in your bedroom.” He hopped down and circled Bentley before heading off down the hall.
She lowered a mirror down to floor level. Bentley got the first look at his new body. He had to admit for a hound, he was not ugly. He was looking out of his same cocoa-colored eyes and black hair on his head, but the rest of his body was a tri-color mixture of brown, black and white. As he took in his long stubby body, he saw what Faith meant about his badge. There, on his left side, was a perfect white number seven against the black hair of his hindquarter.
“Well, that is really great, Faith. I suppose that you are going to tell me that I can still be an agent as a dog. You really do believe in miracles.” Speaking of miracles, it slowly dawned on him that he was a dog, talking to a human. “Why do you understand me? Can I talk to people or are you some kind of Doctor Doolittle angel that talks to the animals?”
“You can only talk to me and any animal that has been returned. It is mostly dogs, but a few cats and the occasional bird. Lots of cows too, but they are mostly in India. Let me answer some of the questions that the others have asked when they first returned. If you have any others, I will try to answer them as well.
“First of all, there are a total of four dogs here under my care as a Guardian Angel. Usually, it is one angel per soul, but there was a problem with our new Angel Die-Pads. We had a backlog of cases. Second, no, you can’t trade your body in for another one. The angels in Reprocessing are experts at what they do. If they deemed you a Basset Hound, then that is what you were meant to be. Third, yes, you see in color, that whole black and white thing is just an urban legend. Does that about cover everything?” she asked with a feeble but hopeful smile.
“Sweetheart that does not even begin to scrape the surface of my questions. Who are the others? I am guessing the little guy with the big attitude is one of them. Where the heck are we and why? And for the record, I refuse to eat any kind of dog food; dog treats or those dried pig’s ears. And most importantly, where can I go pee?”
He suddenly thought about his last question and cringed. Surely, he was not expected to go outdoors to relieve himself. Oh, there was no way that was gonna happen. “Better yet, just show me to the guest bathroom. I will tend to my business in there. Maybe, I can take a quick shower. That wet dog smells kinda hangs on, ya know?”
Following his Angel down the hall, she opened the door to a room that appeared to be a dog grooming station. “Everything has been converted for you boys to use. The shower and toilet can be activated by stepping on these controls. Adjust your shower height by raising and lowering this lever. There is a soap and shampoo dispenser for you to use. When you get out, the hair dryer is on the wall. After you clean up, please come back and meet the gang.” She left him on his own to ponder his new existence and clean up.
M. K. Clinton lives in Louisiana. She and her husband have been happily married for over thirty years. The parents of two grown children, they are now enjoying the freedom of not punching a clock every day. After working at a local high school for many years, M. K. decided to stay home and concentrate on writing. In addition to her books, she writes a daily dog blog, Barking from the Bayou. http://www.mkclinton.com Stop by for a visit!
The couple shares their home with Bentley, a lovable Basset Hound and Pierre, a feisty West Highland Terrier. She found the inspiration for her first book series, The Returns, on Bentley’s coat. He was born with a perfect number seven on his hip. Ironically, he is also the seventh dog that the family has owned.
Have you read this book or others by this author? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!