In Dead of Autumn, Alexa has a constant companion in her English mastiff, Scout. I based Scout on the three mastiffs that have been part of our family over the years. According to Wikipedia, the English Mastiff is “distinguishable by enormous size, massive head, and a limited range of colours, but always displaying a black mask …the Mastiff is noted for its gentle temperament. With a massive body, broad skull and head of generally square appearance, it is the largest dog breed in terms of mass.” Our first mastiff, Willie, was an apricot-colored puppy who died before his first birthday from a congenital heart defect. Although his time with us was brief, Willie introduced the Knowltons to some common mastiff traits – like always wanting to sit on your feet. Max, our second mastiff, was a true family dog. Our son was eight when we got this fawn puppy with the white mark on his tail. Max became the perfect companion for Josh. He and his friends spent many a day traipsing through the forest around our home, Max at their side. They dressed him in clothes and climbed all over the gentle dog. There were a few regrettable incidents when Max was a puppy—like the time he used a camera for a chew toy – but Max soon settled into the routine of a mature mastiff. Eat, sleep, then circle the house once or twice for exercise and then wait patiently on the doorstep until he was let inside to eat, sleep … you get the picture. Eventually, his black mask turned a grizzled gray, Max lived for almost thirteen years – an extraordinary age for a dog as large as a mastiff. Our last mastiff, Ajax, was a truly handsome fellow. A rambunctious puppy, Ajax grew into a 230-pound giant. (pictured here with my husband Mike, the driver, and his brother Steve) He loved to accompany my husband, Mike, on trips to town. People were drawn to the big beast and asked permission to scratch his ears. We would be rich if we had a nickel for every time we heard someone say, “Look at the head on that dog” or “I’ve never seen a dog that big.” It was a sad day when Ajax died at eight years old. He was probably the last mastiff we’ll have in our lives. But he, and the other two big guys, will always live in our memories as wonderful dogs. When I decided that Alexa should have a dog in Dead of Autumn, there was never any doubt what kind of dog he would be. Over the years, we’ve had many wonderful dogs -- but those three mastiffs stand out above the rest. So, of course, Scout had to be an English Mastiff.