Like a little suspense? Guest Author, M. S. Spencer

The author world is very small and most of us here on Main Street know a wide variety of authors in probably every genre. I’ve known M.S. Spencer for ages, and I’ve enjoyed her books.  But often she’s left me with my heart racing as I’ve read! So if you like a good file0001179129151suspense…she’ more than a cozy, much more, but she’s never gross or over the top with the suspense. So I figured I’d bring my friend here and let you peek at her books for a little change of pace. I can’t wait to read A Widow’s Walk.  Which one will you add to your TBR pile?  E. Ayers

Thanks so much for having me today! Before I give short introductions to two of my new releases, I’d like to talk about what it’s like when your whole world crashes in on you.

Melodramatic, you say? Somewhat histrionic? Well, yes, but for a few weeks after my wonderful publisher Secret Cravings, announced it was going out of business, it felt that way. SCP had published eight of my ten romantic suspense/murder mysteries. The publisher, staff, and authors were incredibly supportive, helpful, and accessible. Unfortunately, it is extremely hard to succeed in the indie publishing business, so last September I found myself faced with the prospect of finding new homes for my babies. I was lucky. Partly due to SCP’s reputation, several houses were willing to take them in.

I Heart Book Publishing and The Wild Rose Press have been wonderful, but it’s not as easy to transition to different publishers as you might think. They all have their little foibles—formatting preferences, contract terms, editing process, even style manuals. I found myself resisting the new rules—slamming my laptop closed, muttering curses, pacing. Thank God everyone agreed on the Oxford comma or I would have drowned myself (editor’s note: again with the histrionics?).

E. Ayers: I would have a major hissy-fit if the Oxford comma was removed!

Eventually I settled down, and now nine books have reentered the market and—I must confess—all the better for a good going over by new eyes. So all you writers who find yourselves in a similar position—and there are lots of you—fear not! Look at it as your chance to re-edit and polish your works as never before. Robert Frost, in answer to a question, replied something on the order of, “When is my manuscript done? When the editor pries it out of my cold, dead hands.” (I can’t find the exact quote, but you get my drift). Here’s another:

“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”
― Patricia Fuller

E. Ayers: Oh, I love that quote! Or as my grandmother would say your slip is showing. Does anyone know what a slip is today? 😉

Below are introductions to two of my releases—Whirlwind Romance came out August 17 from the Wild Rose Press, and A Widow’s Walk: Catherine’s Dilemma was published by I Heart in June.

Pirates, Puritans, and princes—pieces of the puzzle in the whirlwind romance between a jelly maker and a castaway.

WhirlwindRomance_3_850Whirlwind Romance

Wild Rose Press, 8/17/2016, Champagne Rose imprint
Contemporary romance/Action Adventure; M/F; 2 flames
Ebook 89,905 words; Print: 358 p.

Blurb:

In the aftermath of a hurricane, Lacey Delahaye finds herself marooned on an island on the Gulf coast of Florida with a mysterious man. They are immediately drawn to each other, but before Armand can confess his identity, they are kidnapped and taken to a tiny island in the western Caribbean. With the help of her son Crispin and a cadre of loyal followers, she and Armand must face down pirates, power-mad ideologues, and palace intrigue, if they are to restore the once idyllic tropical island to its former glory.

Buy Links:

TWRP: http://catalog.thewildrosepress.com/all-titles/4470-whirlwind-romance.html

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Whirlwind-Romance-M-S-Spencer-ebook/dp/B01HLSSS3Y/

AllRomanceEBooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-whirlwindromance-2069719-153.html

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/whirlwind-romance-ms-spencer/1120206448

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/whirlwind-romance-4

Bookstrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/whirlwind-romance-0

ITunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/whirlwind-romance/id1137681038?mt=11

My latest release from I Heart is A Widow’s Walk: Catherine’s Dilemma.

 Which will she choose—her old love or her new love?

A Widows Walk FINAL EBOOK COVER copyA Widow’s Walk: Catherine’s Dilemma

I Heart Book Publishing, June 6, 2016

Ebook: 71,500  words; Print:  227 pp.

Contemporary Romantic Suspense, M/F, 2 flames

Blurb:

Catherine Killean is a woman on a mission. When her new husband disappears, leaving a suicide note, she is determined to find out why. She follows his tracks first to the North Woods of Maine, then to Florida, and back again to Maine. Along the way, she meets the tall, dark, gruff Holden Taggart, a Maine guide.

In her doubt and loneliness she is drawn to Holden, leaving her confused and adrift. What will happen when her questions about Jonathan are finally answered? Will old loyalty or new love triumph?

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01FZSCYZK

ITunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/widows-walk-catherines-dilemma/id1116861603?mt=11

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/638502

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/a-widow-s-walk-catherine-s-dilemma

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-widows-walk-ms-spencer/1123844822?ean=2940153036274

All Romance Ebooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-awidow039swalkcatherine039sdilemma-2045648-149.html

About the Author:

M. S. SpencerAlthough M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents, the last thirty years were spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director, and parent. After many years in academia, she worked for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of the Interior, in several library systems, both public and academic, and at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia.

Ms. Spencer has published ten romantic suspense and murder mystery novels. She has two fabulous grown children and an incredible granddaughter. She divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.

 

Contacts:

Blog: http://msspencertalespinner.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/msspencerromance

Twitter: www.twitter.com/msspencerauthor

GoodReads:http://www.goodreads.com/msspencer
Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MSSpencerauthor

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/msspencerauthor/

 

Hurricane Season

In Florida, we are facing our yearly hurricane season. The weather channel forecasts worrisome news about hurricanes and tropical storms, and warns residents to be prepared.

For the last month, we had typical summer weather–hot, sunny or hazy in the morning. Sometimes we were lucky to enjoy a slight breeze. Around noon the wind picked up, the clouds threatened and the surf heightened. Before we knew it, we were drenched with pouring rain while lightning and thunder competed in the darkened sky.

From my desk, I could see the change in weather– squalls of heavy rain pelleting the window while my office turned dark. It was time to switch on the light and switch off the computer.

After facing this warning on a daily base, one can’t help worrying about nasty weather, especially when we remember the mess caused by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. It’s difficult to decide how to prepare and behave when the forecast predicts a hurricane. To panic and evacuate as we did during our first summer in Fort Lauderdale? Or stay and weather the storm hoping it would bypass us?

Writers from my local chapter are exchanging advice on how to protect their precious files. Some use an online ‘storage’. Others send a disk/flash drive with their current work in process to out-of-state family members or friends. Many email themselves with their own files as attachment.

My husband has networked my computer, his laptop and an external back-up hard disc, a small box that is easy to carry if we have to evacuate. Still, I prefer to save my own files on a flash drive every night.

While we hope that Mother Nature will spare us this year and Wilma will remain a memory, how do you protect your work during hurricane season in the South, tornadoes in the Midwest (years ago, I faced a memorable tornado,  in Cincinnati) or blizzard and disaster time if you live in the North?

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, Mona Risk published more than twenty books, some translated in German and French.
She received an Outstanding Achiever Award at Affaire de Coeur Magazine and is a
Best Romance Novel winner at Preditors & Editors Readers Poll;
Two-Time winner of Best Contemporary Romance Novel at Readers Favorite;
EPIC’s Ebook Award Finalist; and a Kindle Top 100 Bestselling Author

ON CHRISTMAS EVE is Book 6 of Holiday Babies Series, and my contribution to a coming Christmas anthology titled:

SWEET CHRISTMAS KISSES 3 on pre-order now:

Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jf8jjha
iTune /Apple http://tinyurl.com/jvc9n76
Kobo Books http://tinyurl.com/hhwm2c5
Google http://tinyurl.com/z5qzshr

The two previous boxes SWEET CHRISTMAS KISSES 1 and SWEET CHRISTMAS KISSES 2 reached the USA Today bestselling lists several times.

CoverFinalMD-OnChristmasEve-

Blue Background With Snowflake

 

 

Tiffany broke their engagement five years ago when she thought Matthew cheated on her. But fate keeps throwing him in her path. His tender gaze erases years of loneliness and her heart squeezes with longing. Until she notices the two little girls in his arms. His daughters? Where is their mother?
Can Tiffany and Matthew forgive each other, live in the present, and create a new future?

A Poodle and a Pinscher

We have no pets now since we lost our sweet Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Prissy a few years back. Prissy was a gift from our son and his wife after they married. They said she would fill the void and give us someone to care for. She sure did that!

Well, both hubby and I fell in love with her. She slept beside the bed at hubby’s side, on the floor. She was a big bundle of joy, kept us entertained and gave as much love as she received. When she became ill and passed away, our hearts were broken. We didn’t want to replace her, but we probably should have. As time went by we grew accustomed to just the two of us in the house.

But before Prissy went to ‘Doggy Heaven’ our granddaughter Emaleigh came along. What a thrill to welcome her into the world. She was our diamond, our jewel, our wonder, our angel. Emaleigh filled our lives with the sweetest joy imaginable.

Prissy was so gentle and protective when she was around Emaleigh. Prissy became Emaleigh’s delight when she visited. I think the feeling was mutual.

I believe it was 2003, Emaleigh’s Uncle Brad and Aunt Christy gifted her with an adorable bundle of fluff. A Toy Poodle.

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Emaleigh named her Cloe. Yes, the spelling is correct, because being seven,  that’s the way Emaleigh spelled her name and Mom and Dad didn’t want to correct her. Excited over Cloe, doesn’t even describe the way Emaleigh felt. Cloe was her baby and Cloe was treated accordingly, in every way.

I remember once calling Cloe a dog. Wow! Emaleigh became indignant and informed me, “Nana, Cloe isn’t a dog, she’s a Poodle.” Needless to say, I never called Cloe a dog again. Lol.

Fast forward several years. Our fabulous grandson, Owen wanted another dog, but Mom and Dad weren’t quite ready to make the leap to add to their family. Owen was saddened by the news, but accepted their decision.

Mom and Dad had a change of heart. Mom took Owen to check out a litter of Miniature Pinschers. Since neither Mom nor Owen could resist, the household had another member. Owen received his wish and Cloe had a little brother to play with.

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Owen named him, Comet. Comet sure lived up to his name. He and Cloe were definitely not playmates. Comet had, I believe, two bouts at behavior school to learn to keep out of mischief. He wanted to rule the roost and poor Cloe had no idea what was going on. It took a while, but now he and Cloe are almost best buds, though they still have their moments.

So…we are grandparents of two doggies. Oh, excuse me. One Toy Poodle and one Miniature Pinscher.

I wish you love, butterflies and music.

Please check out these links to my books, available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords. http://caroldevaney.weebly.com/my-books.html

 

Monkeys, and Ducks, and Dogs. Oh, My!

We’re talking pets this month on Main Street, and boy howdy! I’ve had some memorable ones.

For example, growing up in what, at the time, was a rural area of Long Island, my parents raised chickens and ducks.When I was a soon-to-be toddler, our family also had a St. Bernard who was instrumental in teaching me how to walk. I would pull myself to a standing position on his haunches and hold his tail to take my first steps.Unfortunately, on one of these walking adventures in my backyard, I tripped over a white duck named Donna. From that moment on, Donna Duck tormented me whenever I stepped out the back door. She’d chase me and flap her large wings at me and nip me. And let me tell you, those nips hurt! It reached the point where I refused to go outside, I was so terrified of her. Finally, my parents took Donna to a poultry farm, much to my relief. My husband swears my love for duck as an entree is rooted in those terror-filled days. He claims it’s my way of gaining revenge on my tormentor. I can’t deny the possibility.

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When I was six, my older brother came home with a squirrel monkey. Yes, you read that right. My family had a pet monkey. Sugar was not your typical adorable monkey. She was nasty to everyone but my father (including the brother who brought her home). She bit, she clawed, she screeched all hours of the day and night. My mother had to make her oatmeal every day (she hated bananas) and we had to pin up plastic sheeting because a lot of her food wound up thrown against the wall. Oddly, though, when I wrote my first book, THE BONDS OF MATRI-MONEY, I included a character who had a pet squirrel monkey (though I made “Honey” a lot sweeter in nature than Sugar.) My editor balked, claiming in this day and age, it was probably illegal to keep one as a pet. Honestly, it was probably illegal back in the 70s when we had one too, but, at the time, no one cared. To appease my publishing house, Honey the squirrel monkey became Buttons the cockatiel. But if you read between the lines, the bird still has a lot of monkey-style characteristics. Like this scene:

“You want to get the door while I clear the table?”

He shrugged. “No problem.”

Yeah, sure. No problem. With halting steps, he walked to the door, opened it, and saw no one. Then a screech pierced his ears, and his gaze traveled downward. He blinked twice, looked up at the ceiling, then down again, but the view didn’t change. Beneath a scrap of white gauze lay a pair of feathered cheeks with what looked like circles of heavy orange rouge.

“Um, Renata,” he called over his shoulder. “I know we didn’t have wine with dinner, and you’re probably not going to believe this, but there’s a bird in a bridal veil out here.”

Her laughter sent butterflies flitting across the base of his back. “That’s Buttons. Lillian’s probably on her way.”

“The woman has a pet parrot?”

Lillian’s responsive cackle sounded like the scratch of an old phonograph needle. “She’s a cockatiel, Connell. A gift from an admirer many years ago. And speaking of gifts…” She appeared in the hallway holding a large box wrapped in white paper with a giant silver bow.

“Here,” he offered. “Let me take that from you.”

“Thank you.” As she passed the parcel, she poked a bony elbow into his ribs. “Actually,” she continued in a raspy whisper indicative of someone who had smoked heavily at one time, “the original Buttons died in 1968. This is Buttons III.”

With her signature whistle, Buttons hopped inside and sat on the back of the sofa.

“You must really love cockatiels,” he said, staring in fascination at the creature peeking at him through the gauzy white veil.

Lillian shook her head. “I loved Oscar.”

“Oscar?”

“Oscar Hammerstein. We worked together in the original Broadway production of South Pacific. I was a chorus girl then. He gave me my first Buttons as a token of his affection. When I brought her home, the owner of this building was less than enthused about having a cockatiel roaming around.” She winked. “I used my powers of persuasion to gain his permission to keep her. But he insisted once she died, no more birds. Thus, every time a Buttons dies, I replace her before the landlord finds out.”

“So he and the owner think you have the world’s oldest living cockatiel.”

“It’s the only way to keep the memory of my dear Oscar alive.”  

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The Kindle version of BONDS is currently on sale at Amazon for 99 cents. Pick up a copy and see how many monkey characteristics Button got away with!

We also had the usual cats and dogs, including Kismet, my bionic Labrador retriever. When Kismet was about three or four, she tore her ACL while playing ball with my husband and required surgical repair that included a titanium part. She was known as the six-million-dollar pup from then on – with good reason. Don’t ask about the cost. Let’s just say my boss was thrilled because it meant I wouldn’t be leaving my job anytime soon. Kismet passed away last year, just a few months’ shy of her sweet sixteen birthday. ‘Til the end, she was a companion, a playmate, and a guardian for both my kids.In fact, my daughter loved her so much, she had her favorite photo of her beloved Kismet made into a tattoo.

Kismet

 

 

 

 

 

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These days, we live with Zoe the Wonder Pup. She’s a shelter dog, of cocker spaniel descent, and just too darn cute for words. So cute, in fact, she was featured in advertisements at the NY Daily News for the 2015 Puppy Bowl. You can see the video and photos here. At the time, she was the cocker known as Lily Rose, the younger of the two featured (the one in the ref’s lap). She’s grown since then, of course, and now looks like this:

Zoe w football

As you can see, she’s still a big football fan. You know what this means, though, right? No matter what I do in life, I’ll never be as famous as my dog.

<sigh!>

 

Celtic Canines and My Nordic Beasts

Vince &amp; Hounds-3There are three Scottish Deerhounds, one Westie, and two cats in our household. Life is rarely dull and always filled with affection in our home.

aug3-5We got our first Deerhound, Somerled, from a breeder in Tennessee. I still remember the 14 hour drive with my young family – my son was two when we got Somer. My daughter was in fifth grade.

Originally, my husband and I were looking at Irish Wolfhounds. After months of research and speaking with breeders across the country, we settled on Deerhounds instead.

The choice was made on health and longevity alone. I have a tendency to love deeply, as does my husband, so longer life expectancy matters.

Smiling HoundsWe got to the breeder, who owned several fenced in acres, and saw through the six-foot high fence that the yard was empty. After helping my children out of the car, the yard was no longer empty. Lined up across the front were eight completely silent grey coated giants; regal and quietly assured that they were, as Sir Walter Scot put it, “the most perfect creatures under heaven.”

I looked at my husband and said, “What were we thinking?” completely oblivious to the fact that I’d subconsciously pulled my children close.

Well, we went in, greeted our pup, and I fell instantly in love. So did my entire family.

IMG_5070We adopted Somerled’s half-brother, Fingal, about two years later from the same breeder. We adopted Puck, Somerled and Fingal’s great-niece, about three years after that from a breeder in Ontario.

Somerled, my big boy, was over seven feet tall when he put his front paws on my shoulders. He could easily clear off the top of the refrigerator – he didn’t, he was too polite for that. Yes, cookies did go missing once or twice, but that was probably the fairies.

We lost Somerled and Fingal after long lives – far longer than their littermates. They continue to add joy to my life every morning when I smile at their photos on my wall and know how much I and the rest of my family were loved.

IMG_4940Puck, my sweet girl, is still with us, two years after the best emergency vet clinic in the state told us to say goodbye. What a gift, that.

I wanted a big boy again so we started our search for another Deerhound. The first took us four years. This time took eighteen months. After a series of quasi-comical events, we ended up going to Ontario for an eleven-week-old girl, Awen. We came home with Awen (I named her for the Druid word for “Inspiration”) along with one of her brothers, the runt of the litter, as well.28904837-mjs_highland-_nws-_sears-_1

Somerled was the runt of his litter. He grew far taller and more regal than any Deerhound from his breeder – far taller than the tallest Wolfhound I’ve ever seen. I chair the Celtic Canine tent at our local Highland Games, so I’ve seen plenty.

IMG_3764Awen’s brother, Merlin, is now gigantic. The two are now eleven-months-old and Merlin is as tall as Somerled was, and he’s still growing. Talk about a “What were we thinking” moment. Honestly speaking, there was no “we” in the two puppy deal – that was all me. After much chewing of family items, I am often reminded of this fact.

Deerhounds are exceptional creatures. Even with the chewing, we are blessed.

Gandalf is our West Highland White Terrier, more commonly called a “Westie”. He is my “Little General.” My daughter, son, and I drove to Ohio when we learned he was the last available pup – again the runt with astronomically big ears that no one wanted.

2016-06-25 13.50.59Somerled had passed and Fingal wasn’t feeling as spry as he once was, so within two hours of becoming aware that there was a Westie puppy available, we left for Ohio.

What a wonderful decision that was.

2015-04-30 17.25.46Gandalf is my first “small” dog. He’s grown into his ears and is now a big boy, topping out at the highest end of the breed standard. He still hasn’t grown into his personality.

He’s a clown and so loving that he makes everyone smile. He’s stubborn though – like most Scots.

Our cats are talkative. One sleeps near my feet and the other constantly head-butts me when I’m working at the computer. She’s also the one who holds my face and pets me with her front paws. Loki and Freya are the most loving cats I have ever known.

I’ve got an odd bunch of animals – some no one thought would amount to much more than misfits of their own breed. Awen and Puck are the exceptions, as both girls are gorgeous and would have shown beautifully had I any interest in showing.

I don’t.

Our interest is in having loving members of our own rag-tag family. In that, Puck, Loki, Freya, Gandalf, Awen and Merlin excel.

Here’s to animal lovers everywhere!

May our hearts be open and our lives enhanced through our mutual and elemental love of our pets.

Leigh

Remembering Cleo

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About 1987

This month we’re blogging about pets. I don’t have any pets now because I’m allergic to cats and dogs (and lack the time, energy and money for pet ownership). But there was one special cat in my life for many years—a Siamese named Cleo.

My mother brought her home when I was fifteen. Our old cat had recently died, and Mom decided to get a new companion for our six-year-old Siamese, Tia. I remember the excitement of coming home from school to meet the new kitten, who was sitting on a dining room chair when I arrived. When I pulled out the chair, this adorable, delicate little thing looked up at me with bright blue eyes that were slightly crossed—giving her a look somewhere between dimwitted and deranged—and bellowed at me. It was more of a “waah!” than a meow. Her loud human-baby-like voice was part of her charm.

Because of my allergies, Mom banished the kitten from my bedroom. But I smuggled her in that first night and let her sleep in my bed, tucked under the covers next to me with her paws over my arm. Her purr was just about as loud as her voice and rumbled on for ages. She slept in my bed every night until I moved out of the house years later.

People have the impression Siamese cats are nasty, but Cleo was sweet and loving. Like any cat, she had her destructive tendencies. In the wee hours, she would jump onto the shelves in my room and knock things over. She chewed up my headphones and shredded the picture sleeves on my precious 45s (if you are of a certain age, you know what I’m talking about). She was persnickety, and yowled and muttered in complaint if things were not to her liking.

Tia didn’t appreciate the interloper and never accepted her. Often Cleo ran to me for protection from Tia’s wrath. And in return, Cleo saved me from many teenage bouts of despair, comforting me with cuddles and purrs. She sat in my lap when I watched TV, and enjoyed being carried around with her chin resting on my shoulder. When I felt like I didn’t have a friend in the world, she reassured me otherwise.

After I moved away to go to college, for a while Cleo sat on my bed in the evenings and yowled. I missed her, too, alone in my little bed in residence. Eventually we got used to being apart. Not being around her as much, I developed an allergic reaction to her. I got busy with marriage and having a baby, and she became sickly.

Cleo died at the ripe old age of eighteen, after a good life in a loving home. When I think about her, I still miss her, and wish very much that I could find another cat just like her. But I doubt that’s possible.

Living with cats

black cat named Athena

“I’m not fat, I’m fluffy.”

is nothing like living with dogs. (Dogs greet you at the door to love you, not demand the food bowl be filled. Because, OMG, I can see the silver at the bottom of the bowl.)

is demands of rub my tummy, rub my tummy, oh, I’m okay now, leave me alone. (At least twenty times a day and stops way before the human wants it to.)

is tiptoeing around the animal who thinks she is the goddess of the house and sleeps all day to prove it. (What she is sleeping to recover from, I have no idea.)

is to find constant hairs glued to your stove, countertops, and any other surface you would like to not have hair glued to. (This one I could live without.)

is to have a companion at your side when you are crying over the sappy happily ever after in the current book you are reading or writing. (Bestest part of living with cats.)

is to have your forehead connected with theirs to let you know you are part of the pack. To be groomed with a sandpapery tongue because you are a member of her family. (Good to know, otherwise I would wonder if I was the next meal.)

is priceless. (No words needed.)


Jill James, romance writer and lover of cats.
Time of Zombies series soon in audiobook!

Menagerie

E came up with the brilliant idea of focusing our posts around our pets for the month of August. I love this not only because I love pets, but also I’ve been immersed in animism. Don’t know what that is? Animism (from Latin anima, “breath, spirit, life”) is the worldview that non-human entities—such as animals, plants, and inanimate objects—possess a spiritual essence.

And the reason I’m neck deep into it is I’m a hair-breath away from finishing my latest book, Menagerie. It’s the story of seventeen-year old Lizbet Woods who has spent her life cloistered on an island in the Puget Sound with her mom and a menagerie of animals–some domesticated and some not. She talks to them, and they talk back. Sometimes this helps, but sometimes it hurts, too.

I hope to have it published sometime in September.

menagerie

CHAPTER ONE

Animism (from Latin anima, “breath, spirit, life”) is the worldview that non-human entities—such as animals, plants, and inanimate objects—possess a spiritual essence.

From Declan’s Research

The birds heralded the storm, as they always did. They liked to be the bearers of scuttlebutt although, as Lizbet had learned long ago, not all birds were created equal, and some species were much more reliable than others. Not that they lied, very few creatures had the ability or cunning, but rather in their haste to be the first in the know, some blurted out misconceptions and half-truths.

Not that Lizbet had much familiarity with liars—or people, in general—but she’d read of several, as Rose, her mother, had accumulated an impressive library over the years. Not that Lizbet was in any position to know what was and was not impressive library-wise, or any otherwise, since Lizbet herself had never been off the island she and Rose called home.

The howling wind drowned out the calls of birds, and the chatter of squirrels and chipmunks. Opossum, skunks, and fox sought shelter in the forest’s thickets. Rats and mice scurried to find hidey-holes. Lizbet fetched an armful of wood from the shed to stoke the fire while her mother gathered candles.

Wind rustled the tarp protecting the woodpile. The pine trees, used to standing straight and tall, moaned as the wind whipped through their canopy, and bent them in directions they didn’t wish to go.

“A man approaches,” Wordsworth whined, terror tainting his words.

Lizbet looked over the German Shepherd’s furry head to the storm-tossed sea. The Sound, normally a tranquil gray-blue slate, roiled as if shaken by an invisible hand. Lizbet couldn’t see anyone, but her heart quickened. “Are you sure?” She saw nothing but a curtain of rain, an angry sky, and churning tide. The gulls, who generally swooped above the bay, had wisely found shelter. The otters, too, had disappeared, and for once the noisy, boisterous sea lions, were silent.

The dog nodded. “He’s lost, but hopeful.”

“Hopeful? Of what?”

Wordsworth shook his head. His ears flattened and his tail drooped when another flash of lightening lit the sky. He cowered as the thunder boomed.

“Come,” Lizbet said, “let’s go inside. Only an idiot would be out on the water today.”

“He’s no longer on the water,” Wordsworth whined. “His boat has landed.”

Lizbet peered into the storm, saw nothing more than before, added another log to her collection. Their cottage was made of stone, but the adjacent shed which housed the woodpile, gardening tools, and bird seed, was constructed of recycled wood. Wind blew through the slats and rattled the shake roof. The cottage would be warm and dry in a way that the shed never could.

Wordsworth whimpered again. Lizbet knew he longed for the comforts of the house as much as she did, but she also understood Wordsworth had an important job to do, and he would never back away from protecting her from strangers.

“There’s no one there,” Lizbet said, stomping toward the cottage. She climbed the steps and pulled open the Dutch door. The warm comforting scent of the crackling fire mingled with the aroma of ginger cookies.

Rose stood at a large pine table, stacking the cookies onto a plate. Lizbet stared at the amount, knowing that she and her mother would never be able to eat so many. Her mother was waif-thin with flyaway blond hair as insubstantial as her slender frame.

“There’s a man in the cove,” Lizbet said, wondering if her mother already knew, and if so, why she hadn’t warned her.

Rose kept her gaze focused on the cookies and blushed the color of her namesake. Rose was as fair as Lizbet was dark. We are as night and day, her mother would say, together, we are all we need.

“Are you expecting someone?” Lizbet demanded.

“No, not really, but I…” Rose’s voice trailed away.

Lizbet clomped through the kitchen to the living room, weaving through the stacks of books to the fireplace. She dropped her logs onto the hearth, placed her hands on her hips, and marched back into the kitchen. She hated surprises, but she was also curious.

“Who is this man?” Not Leonard, the postman—her mother would never blush for the potato-shaped letter carrier. Besides, Leonard would never venture to the island in a storm. He only came every other Tuesday. Today was Saturday.

“You don’t need to worry about him,” Rose said without meeting Lizbet’s eye.

“Why is he coming? Will he bring books?”

Rose laughed, but it sounded strange—strained and nervous. Lizbet decided that she already disliked this man. She plucked a cookie off the plate.

Rose looked up sharply, an expectant look on her face.

Lizbet studied her cookie, suddenly suspicious. Her mother studied and experimented with herbs and she’d taught Lizbet a variety of recipes. Lilies to lighten the mood, lavender to soothe worries, chamomile to bring sleep, basil to stimulate energy, and gingerroot to make one forget. Lizbet sniffed the cookie and touched it with her tongue.

Her mother watched.

Lizbet smiled, took a big bite and left the kitchen. In the privacy of her own room, she went to the window and pulled it open. A cold breeze flew in, ruffling the drapes, and blowing about the papers on her desk. Ignoring the wind, Lizbet stuck her head outside and spat the cookie out into the storm. She slammed the window closed.

“What are you doing?” Rose asked.

Lizbet started. She hadn’t heard her mother come in. Wrapping her arms around herself, Lizbet said, “I was looking for the man.”

Rose’s lips lifted into a smile. “Please, don’t worry about him. Here, I’ve brought you some tea.” She set down a steaming mug on Lizbet’s bedside table. “Gingerroot, your favorite.”

“Thanks.”

“Want to come and read by the fire?” Rose asked.

Lizbet glanced back at the storm on the other side of the window. An idea tickled in the back of her mind. “In a second,” she said. After plopping down on her bed, Lizbet sipped from the teacup, but she didn’t swallow. Instead, she let the tea warm her tongue.

Rose lifted her own mug to her lips and watched Lizbet.

Lizbet set the mug back down and met her mother’s gaze. After an awkward moment, Rose lifted her shoulder in a half-hearted shrug and headed down the hall.

Lizbet bounced from the bed, closed the door, and spat the tea back into the mug. She poured the entire cup down the toilet in the adjacent restroom, flushed, and climbed back onto her bed. She lay perfectly still, waiting for her mom to re-enter the room. She didn’t have to wait long.

A few moments later, her bedroom door creaked open. With her eyes firmly closed, Lizbet practiced her corpse pose and didn’t even flinch as she heard her mother steal into the room. Rose tucked a quilt around Lizbet’s shoulders before creeping back out and closing the door with a whisper click.

Lizbet peeked open an eye and met Wordsworth’s steady, brown-eyed gaze. “Who is he?”

“I don’t know,” the dog whimpered, “but he isn’t scared.”

“How can you tell?” Lizbet asked.

“The smell. All emotions have a smell.”

“My mom—what’s her smell?”

Wordsworth jumped up on the bed beside Lizbet and nestled against her. “She loves you.”

“I know. But I don’t know what that has to do with anything.”

Wordsworth whimpered again and snuggled closer. “You have to let me out so I can meet this man.”

“I can’t. If I do, she’ll know I’m awake. You’re on your own.”

Wordsworth blew out a breath, stood, shook himself, and jumped down. He went to the door to bark and whine. It didn’t do any good. Her mother ignored him, which told Lizbet two things. One: the potion Rose had given Lizbet must have been so strong that Rose didn’t worry about Wordsworth waking her. Two: Rose didn’t want to be interrupted.

Lizbet sat up as a thought assaulted her.

Wordsworth, as if reading her mind, jumped back up beside her and gazed into her eyes.

“This man is my father!” Lizbet blurted out.

“You cannot know this,” Wordsworth whimpered.

“She loves him enough to drug me just to spend time with him! Of course, he’s my father!”

Wordsworth moaned a disagreement.

Lizbet had a lot of questions—mostly because she was only twelve, but also because she lived a solitary life with her mother on an uninhabited island in the Puget Sound. She had faith that all of her questions would eventually be answered, but the biggest questions in her heart and mind all centered around her father.

Lizbet kicked off the quilt and crawled off the bed.

Wordsworth placed his nose against her thigh, stopping her. “There must be a good reason why your mother doesn’t want you to meet this man.”

“She never said she didn’t want me to meet him.”

Wordsworth snorted. “If she had wanted you to meet him, she wouldn’t have drugged you.”

Suddenly Lizbet hated her mother. “She can’t keep me from my own father.”

Wordsworth parked his butt against the door like a giant hairy roadblock. “You do not know he is your father.”

“Of course, he’s my father. Now move.” She grabbed Wordsworth’s collar to pull him away. His fur bunched up around his collar, but he wouldn’t budge.

Lizbet tried the doorknob, but since Wordsworth outweighed her by nearly fifty pounds the door wouldn’t open. Lizbet flounced to the window.

“Where are you going?” Wordsworth asked, his ears poking toward the ceiling.

“To meet my dad.” Lizbet threw open the window. The wind spat rain in her face and carried a breath of bone-chilling cold into the room.

Wordsworth stood, shook himself, but didn’t move away from the door.

Lizbet had one leg thrown over the sill, and her exposed foot was already soaking from the storm.

“You’ll look like a drowned cat if you go outside,” Wordsworth said.

She sent him a dirty look. He gazed back at her. She clambered out the window. The rain hit her like hundreds shards of ice. The cold stung her face and pierced her clothes. She ran around to the side of the house so she could look in the windows.

Inside, sitting side by side on the sofa amongst the towers of books, snuggled together in front of the fire was her mom and a man. Lizbet knew she’d never seen him before—not that she could remember, at least—but there was something in her that recognized him. She felt as drawn to him as a bird to a worm.

But as she watched him laughing with her mother, Lizbet had another realization. She knew that even if she introduced herself to this man, because of the cookies on the platter, in time, he would never remember her. She’d only be a vague recollection—a face he couldn’t place.

Lizbet never drank gingerroot tea again.

And the man returned, year after year.

 

CHAPTER TWO

“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

― Francis of Assisi

From Declan’s Research

 

 

FIVE YEARS LATER

In mid-April when the crocus began to lift their heads from the ground and the daffodils unfurled toward the bleak but not yet warm sun, a pod of gray whales splashed past the western side of the island. Lizbet loved this time of year when the plants and animals roused themselves from winter’s frozen grasp. The garden, still crusty with ice, yielded beneath Lizbet’s hoe as she worked the compost into the soil. Lizbet longed to be out in the dingy to hear of the whales’ southern adventures, but Rose kept her in the garden.

Lizbet slid her mother a glance. Beneath the enormous straw hat Rose always wore, a worry line etched between Rose’s eyebrows, and her lips pulled into a thin, straight line. Tension radiated from her, and Lizbet felt powerless against it.

Wordsworth sat at the garden’s edge, his ears pricked, his eyes vigilant, despite the cataracts clouding his vision. Tennyson perched in the branches of the maple tree, flicking his tail and complaining about the birds swooping around him.

“A man comes,” Wordsworth whimpered.

Lizbet braced against her hoe and glanced out at the tranquil bay. Wispy clouds trailed across the robin’s egg blue sky. She couldn’t see an approaching boat. “Is it him?” she asked, referring to her mother’s secret lover, the man she suspected of being her father. He had come many times over the years, always following an offering of her mother’s ginger root tea.

“John? No. Someone else.”

“A postman?”

“No.”

Lizbet resumed hoeing when she caught her mother’s gaze. She’d learned long ago that her mother couldn’t hear or understand the animals the way she did. At first, this bothered her. For years, she had believed her mother to be all knowing and all-powerful, but in time, Lizbet grew to love that she had an ability her mother not only didn’t share but also discounted as a childish whim akin to make-believe friends and monsters beneath the bed.

“The whales dislike him. His boat is loud and he’s disrupting their path.”

Lizbet frowned against the sun.

“Tired already?” Rose asked without looking up from her work.

“No, I thought I heard an engine.”

Rose’s head jerked over her shoulder and her spine stiffened. She cocked her head, listening.

Gulls cried out as they wheeled overhead. “A man, a man, a man.”

“I don’t hear anything,” Rose said slowly, resuming her hoeing.

It had been months since John had been to visit, and Lizbet had yet to understand why he came and went as infrequently as a summer storm.

“A large boat, yet manned alone,” Wordsworth said.

Not quite,” Tennyson said, twitching his whiskers as he lounged in a nearby apple tree. The tree’s pinky blossoms offset his orange fur and Lizbet wondered if the cat knew this. He was so vain she thought he might. “He brings a creature.”

Creature was Tennyson’s word for dog.

Wordsworth’s ears pricked up. “I cannot smell him.”

Nor I, but the Albatross spotted him,” Tennyson said. “He’s wolfish.”

Wordsworth began to pace along the garden’s edge.

Rose lifted her face to the sun. Lizbet saw the questions in her mother’s sapphire eyes, but she didn’t know the answers. She wasn’t even sure of the questions.

“There’s something I need to tell you, Pet,” Rose began. “Not just one thing, actually…” She paused and twisted lips. “Things I should have told you a long time ago.”

Lizbet, of course, knew that her mother had secrets. The many books she read told her that very few lived in isolation the way that she and her mother did. There had to be a world beyond the island, a place peopled with more than friendly postmen and the occasional visitor.

An engine roared. A big beautiful boat slid into the cove. Sunlight sparkled off its shiny chrome and glass. This boat was bigger than anything Lizbet had ever seen.

“How?” Rose whispered, dropping her hoe. “He’s found me.”

“Who is it, Mama?” Lizbet asked.

Rose quickly bent and retrieved her hoe, but this time she carried it like a weapon. “No questions, love. I need you to run and hide.”

“Hide? Where? Why?”

Rose shook her hoe at Lizbet. “I said no questions! Go to the woods. There’s the old shack where Daugherty brewed her ale, go there.” Rose sucked in a deep breath. “No one can trespass the woods,” she muttered beneath her breath.

Lizbet’s memories of Daugherty were vague, but she knew the shack. “But what about you?”

Rose gripped her hoe like a weapon. “I’ll join you soon. Now go.”

Lizbet picked up her shovel for no other reason than her mom had a hoe and ran into the woods. Wordsworth loped beside her.

“Who is he?” Lizbet asked the birds flying above her.

“A big man,” a swallow answered.

“A wolf creature,” a robin put in.

“Hide in my tree,” a squirrel called out as Lizbet ran past. “It’s hollow inside. He’ll never find you.”

“Thank you, but no,” Lizbet said, her pace slowing. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hide from this man and his large boat. A wicked part of her wanted him to find her and take her to the cities where people and buildings resided. She had only read of cars, trucks, and helicopters. Occasionally, an airplane would fly overhead, so she knew—sort of—what a plane looked like from a great distance. But all other vehicles were nothing more than figments of her imagination. She had a bicycle, a rusted contraption, but had never seen a motorcycle. There was so very much that she’d never seen, and this man, this stranger, may have seen everything. Maybe he could show her—introduce her to this word beyond the island. Her thoughts ticked over cities she’d like to visit: London, Paris, Rome, New York, and Sherwood Forest.

“This man is not your friend,” Wordsworth warned her.

A friend. Lizbet ached for a friend, but even as she did so, a wave of guilt washed over her because she knew her mother should be enough. Her mother worked hard to keep them safe, to provide food and warmth, to supply the books for Lizbet’s entertainment and education. Lizbet knew her mother had sacrificed her own life—a life with John —to keep Lizbet sheltered from the world and its evil men and cunning women.

But what if I don’t want to be sheltered? The thought was so astounding it halted her. Lizbet froze on the path to Daugherty’s shack.

Wordsworth pressed his nose to the back of her leg, urging her to go on.

“I don’t want to be here anymore,” Liz thought.

“Hurry, hurry, hurry,” a friendly squirrel chattered.

“No!” Lizbet found her voice.

“Go! Go! Go!” The crows swooped around her.

“No! I don’t think so.”

“Not safe! Not safe! Not safe!” The crows contended.

Slowly, Lizbet began picking her way toward the shack because she knew and trusted the crows. They were much more clever than most of the animals and were almost never wrong. Although, unlike Wordsworth, they were self-serving.

“Why don’t you think it’s safe?” Lizbet asked the crows.

“A gun! A gun! A gun!” the birds responded.

“He has a gun?” Lizbet halted. She’d read about guns. They were mostly used and possessed by villains and soldiers, and as far as she knew, there weren’t any wars being waged on the island… which could only mean that this man meant them harm. “I have to warn my mom!”

“Go to Daugherty’s shack as your mom asked,” Wordsworth said. “I will protect your mom.”

Lizbet brushed past him, heading for her mother. Moments later, her knees buckled as a blinding pain slammed onto the top of her head.

It’s November in August

Yesterday, I got a fan letter about my Calendar Girls series. As trite as it sounds, I love hearing from my readers, and I do answer every fan who writes to me, whether it’s via email, Facebook or Twitter. I’m always thrilled when a reader takes the time to let me know they enjoyed my work. I delight in learning they stayed up ’til two in the morning reading. After all, it’s only fair. I had lots of long nights writing those words.

This particular reader had devoured all four of the stories available in the series in the last month and was anxiously waiting for the next installment. I hesitate to tell her, I’ve only written the first chapter of that book. I mean, the most recent book, HOMECOMING IN NOVEMBER, was only released on July 28.

If you haven’t checked out my Calendar Girls, now might be a good time. Each book features two different women from the same Long Island seaside town, Snug Harbor, at a different crossroads in their lives. In HOMECOMING, you’ll meet Terri O’Mara, a recovering alcoholic, and Dr. Jayne Herrera , the new veterinarian in town who’s struggling to get over her own sordid past.

Continue after the cover to read an excerpt:

HomecominginNovember 500x750

“What I want is for you to relax and spend some time with me.”

“Why?” Yes, my mouth often ran faster than my brain, thanks for asking.

To his credit, Max just laughed. How about that? I made Max Trayham laugh.

“Do you know why I sat next to you at the meeting?”

This time, I sipped my juice before answering. “Now that you mention it, umm, no. Why did you?”

“Because, right now, I need a friend. And out of everyone in that room, you looked like the one person I could trust.”

“I did?”

“Yes. And I sensed you could use a friend, too. You had this air of desperation about you that called to me.”

“Gee. Thanks.”

“I don’t mean that the way it sounded. We’re all freakin’ desperate at those meetings. I saw you race inside, and I felt this need around you, like you were hoping something or someone could fix whatever sent you there. And I realized I was in the exact same situation. Then I thought, ‘what if she and I could fix each other?’ I’m new to the program, new to this town, but I wonder if you and I might become ‘sober buddies.’ Not a sponsor relationship. I’m too much of a rebel when it comes to authority figures. We would be two people, two equals, who help each other stay straight. No judgment, just support, encouragement, and a sympathetic ear. You know what I mean?”

Throughout his speech, I gaped at him, sure this was some colossal joke my friends were playing on me. This wasn’t the real Max Trayham, but a celebrity lookalike. Any minute now, Siobhan and Pan would jump out of the kitchen and shout, “Gotcha!” But no one did. And he really did look like the real Max Trayham, a Max Trayham waiting for my answer.

“I think so. But here’s the thing.” There went my mouth again, leapfrogging over my brain. I drained the last of my juice to buy time for my gray matter to catch up, but when it did, it agreed with my mouth. I owed Max the truth. No matter how crushing the fallout would be. “I’m only forty-nine days sober myself.”

I expected him to realize he’d misjudged me. And when he leaned forward, I prepared for his speech about how he suddenly had an appointment he’d forgotten about. I even had my no-big-deal face ready to slip on. But, instead, he reached for his glass and sat back to sip, completely at ease. “That’s perfect, actually. You and I can find our way together. We’ll keep each other honest and on the straight and narrow. What do you think?”

What did I think? That he was either insane, or I was. My mind couldn’t get past the idea this television star wanted to be “sober buddies” with me: boring, small-town, ne’er-do-well Terri O’Mara.

“Don’t you have close friends or family you’d rather spend time with?” Curse my wicked mouth and empty juice glass.

“Honestly?” He offered me a wry grin, the one his television character wore whenever he was about to outwit a business rival. “That’s part of my problem. All my friends are what dragged me down. I need to find new friends—people outside the spotlight who can help me stay sober. People like you, who are also struggling and understand what I’m going through. People with their priorities in order. People who aren’t caught up in the Hollywood game. People who are down-to-earth, grounded, and fighting some of the same demons I’m facing—without the glitter. People who won’t sell me out to the tabloids for a quick buck. What do you say? You feel like doing me a solid?”

“So…we’d…like…call each other and stuff?”

“Absolutely. Any time. You get that itch in the back of your throat—you know the one I’m talking about—at three in the morning and don’t think you can fight it off, you call me. And I’d be able to call you in the reverse situation.”

“You’re going to call me. And I can call you.” I knew I sounded like an echo chamber or some robot on repeat, but I couldn’t fathom how I’d managed to get a television star to want to be my new buddy. Believe it or not, this kinda stuff didn’t happen to me on a regular basis. Still, there was only one answer I could give him. “Deal!”

HOMECOMING IN NOVEMBER is available now from Amazon.

 

Dog Days of Summer

We all know about the intense heat the summer brings us. Those days where you don’t want to leave your air conditioning even to make a dash for the car, which is probably hotter. Dog days is an odd term for summer’s heat just as Indian summer comes in the fall or dogwood winters descend on us often in February.

If you’d like to read more about the dog days of summer, please read my friend’s blog,  CalliopesWritingTablet    She will take you on an interesting voyage through history and how dog days came to be named.

This year as the dog days hit, my air conditioner quit! My repair guy couldn’t get here for a few days, making life pretty miserable. Fortunately, it was only a small part  that needed replacement and it only cost a few hundred dollars! As though a few hundred dollars wasn’t a major dent in my budget, sending me into this month way behind on bills. 😦 But such is life and I’m thankful I didn’t have a few thousand to pay for a new unit.

Normally my little eight-pound dog loves the warm weather. I’ll let her out, and she will sniff everything  including flowers that she can reach such as dandelions and others that grow close to the ground. The day she tried sniffing a dandelion that had gone to seed was quite funny. That must have really tickled.  She’s a sniffer. She raises her head and sniffs the air, she sniffs blades of grass, and everything else out there.

We read things that come into our house and she sniffs things that come into her yard. She likes knowing what is going on in her neighborhood and what creatures have been in her backyard.  Lately that has been a tiny little opossum. I know she smells it, and sniffs to discover where it has been and probably how long ago. But summer also means more people are outside, and being I live in the “city”, there’s more foot traffic. She barks to warn everyone to stay away. And I assume to warn me that there is real danger on my sidewalk. Oh, seriously? It doesn’t seem to matter how much I tell her not to bark, she does. And small dogs are yappy! I doubt her little bark scares anyone! But on these sweltering hot days, she goes out, and does what she must before running back inside. And there are times I must convince her to stay out there long enough to handle her needs.

Pets are such a part of our lives, and if I didn’t have her, I’d be lonely. Sometimes I don’t speak to anyone other than her. A friend might call and ask me if she has awakened me. No, I just haven’t actually talked since I’ve been awake. Most people don’t understand that. But I’ve also come to enjoy the quiet of living alone, and my little girl and I do just fine.

When my husband died, I went to the local city pound aka animal shelter and adopted a grown boxer. All I wanted was a barking doorbell and something that at least seemed like protection for me. She’d been badly abused. Then she was abandoned and left chained in a backyard without food or water. She was in terrible shape shape when they found her, under 20 pounds. She was so skinny I was afraid to pet her for fear of hurting her, so I’d pet her floppy cheeks. She was up to 25 pounds when I was able to bring her home. These dogs will go from 50-to 80 pounds. Slated to be put to sleep because she was so ill, the folks who worked there were thrilled I was taking her because they all saw her wonderful personality that shined through her malnourished exterior.

She was expensive to  save, but I did it! She had every worm and parasite known to dogs. You don’t want to know what I went through so that she did not infect her own backyard for those first 3 weeks. She was not the first pet I adopted from a pound or the first pet that had been mistreated.

I grew up with a dog and then my sister bought a dog. But when I got married, I adopted a dog from the pound. So cute! She didn’t live long and I will always remember her. Then we were given a beagle. With a small child in the house, I was going nuts. It was put the dog out and bring my daughter inside then I’d flip and my daughter would go out and the dog would come in. The beagle was playful. With a child who didn’t weigh very much yet walked early, the beagle would knock her down. I could see my toddler’s frustration.

One day, a gal at the bank admired the young beagle as I came through the drive-thru. Her dad had a bunch of beagles he kept as hunting dogs, but they were also family pets that were well loved. I knew her family. She said she wanted to take my beagle home with her because it was cute! Really? Okay! She called home and I gave her my beagle on the spot! I felt bad and I didn’t because I know it would be loved. That family owned a few hundred acres and the dog would be safe. Then a neighbor gave me her poodle. He was old and she was going blind. It was a bad situation and she felt as though she couldn’t handle the dog and everything else in her life. Her children (teens) were free to visit the dog whenever they wanted and they came often! We moved far away and one day, the dog went out and never came home. We lived in the middle of corn fields. I searched and searched. My husband checked the roads. We never found him. He was slowing down in his old age, about 24 YO, and several people including the vet said that dogs will often go off to die.

One day my youngest (at the time she was about 13 with a boyfriend) started saying she wanted a baby! HUH?!? (She attended a school where several young girls were pregnant and her boyfriend’s married sister was pregnant.) A friend said get her a dog, quick! So we did. My neighbor found the perfect dog at the pound. I had to take off from work a few minutes early to meet this dog and adopt him. By the time, I got there he was gone! He’d been adopted. The next day he was back and this time with a big red note attached to the cage. Biter! He was slated to be put down the next morning. My neighbor talked to the woman who cleaned the cages, and in general, cared for the animals. She said whoever adopted him the day before had several small children. He growled at the children and then snapped at the youngest. She swore there was nothing wrong with the dog. I take off from work early again and go down. Here’s this beautiful Cocker Spaniel who was as friendly as they come. I was told he hates children. I didn’t have small children! My youngest was 13! They let me adopt him.  He was a wonderful dog!

Dogs do growl and he had the most horrible, vicious growl on him! I always figured that dogs can’t talk . If they don’t like something, they growl! It’s their way of saying no! Ignore it and you will get bit! If he got out the door and could get into a car, you had to take him for a ride. Once around the court was enough. But try to get him out of that car without giving him a ride, and he would growl. It was so funny! He’d roll his lips and show off his teeth with a deep throaty sound. “Just a loop around the court!” They would and then open the door. He’d hop out and come back into the house all happy with his tail swinging  because he’d had a car ride.

Those dogs are only supposed to live until they are about 14. He was over 20 when he died. Half blind with cataracts and totally deaf, his congestive heart failure finally caught up with him. He wanted to go outside and I took him out. He could barely walk, so I carried him. I sat with him as my hubby dug the dog’s grave. We found out later that there are laws preventing you from burying pets in the backyard. I promise this hole was almost to China. Hubby never once shed a tear but that hole just kept getting deeper and deeper.

That dog had been part of our lives forever. When my daughter brought home her child from the hospital, I  said give that baby to the dog. She looked at me weird  and spread the blanket on the floor, put the baby in the middle of it, and then called her dog.  The old boy walked over, sniffed at the new baby, licked her little face as if to taste, and walked off.  After that, we made certain that she didn’t pull his hair, etc. She ‘d toddle over to him and often pet him. He was fine with that, but anything beyond that was off limits! Yet he slept under her crib constantly, as if keeping vigil over an innocent child.

He came with medical records so we never changed his name or anything, but he wasn’t in our house for long when we figured things out. If a male raised his hand, even if in fun, that dog wanted to eat him! He was very protective of the females in the house.  We also knew he had some serious injuries before we got him. Whoever owned him must have abused his wife and the dog. One daughter actually gave up a boyfriend who wanted to play a little too hard around the dog. That dog got to the point he didn’t want that guy in the house! I told my daughter that the dog was telling her something.

I think I cried for three months when we lost that old dog. He’d been with us for over 14 years. And he wasn’t young when we got him. He was such a part of our lives. I wrote a story about him after he died. When my computer crashed, I lost that story, but I know it. I think one day I’ll rewrite it and have it published. It’s not a story for children

My little dog was bought as a pet for my barking doorbell, the Boxer.  Oh, she mourned that Boxer’s death as much as I did. My little one was a mistake. A local woman works close with a rescue group. A friend of hers died and the children asked if she would take her friend’s old male dog. She said yes, so she had a 22 YO Schnauzer move in. Shortly after that she obtained a tiny poodle via the local rescue who needed a place to hold her until she could be put up for adoption.  They set up for each pet to be spayed or neutered. But it seems that old Schnauzer took a liking to a pretty little poodle and when the woman went to take the poodle for spaying she was pregnant! What?

The poodle had that litter and a friend got one of the puppies! Oh, so cute! But before the woman could get the poodle spayed, darn, if that old dog didn’t do it again! So much for thinking that old dogs couldn’t. My dog came from that second litter. She was born on Christmas Eve, so I named her Sugarplum.

I can’t imagine not having animals in my life.  There’s also an old, fat cat name Hook around here. My housemate upstairs has three black cats. (That’s a long story!) Guess who is allergic to cats? Guess who the cats love to visit while she’s sleeping? Guess who often wakes ups up gasping for breath because one of those cats has joined her as she has slept? Are they beautiful? Of course. Do they get into trouble? OMG! YES!!! They have knocked things off my walls, cleared my mantels, and in general made a huge mess of things! And they are like petting pure silk! One in particular loves me, but she doesn’t understand that that she can’t get in my face. Old Hook can’t physically make it to my bed and do such stuff. So he’s easier for me to handle. I can pet him and wash my hands.

But pets have always been part of my life. It doesn’t matter if they swim in water or are covered with feathers or fur. They know they will be loved and cared for the same as my two-legged family. For non-pet people, that might be hard to understand, but for those with pets, they get it. So many times I told my children to sit or stay, and I found myself laughing inside, for it sounded as though I was talking to a dog. They all respond to simple commands.

My husband had been raised to believe that pets were dirty and vicious. He learned to accept the ones I brought home. But when a neighbors two Doberman’s got loose and came running across the yards to me, my husband almost freaked because I had our toddler granddaughter in my arms. He instantly took the child from me. I grabbed at the dogs’ collars as they licked my face. Dobie’s have big tongues! They weren’t happy when I walked them home and made them go through their gate into their own fenced yard. I ruined their fun! But a four-foot fence is never going to retain a big dog. To them that fence was a reminder to stay home.

Not saying I’ve never seen a mean dog, but they are rare. I believe that family pets know to protect their family and also most know that I will never hurt them. Don’t let a stranger near those Dobies! They will go into protective mode! I watched them jump that fence when a friend had her children in her backyard. A male friend who was unknown to those Dobies came around the house and into that section of yard while the children were out there. It was a tense few minutes. Those Dobies were going to protect her children! Their reaction was instinctive. They weren’t vicious, they were protecting the children!

I probably could write a book filled with stories of the animals that I have known and loved. (Oops, maybe I just did with this long post.) It’s difficult in today’s hectic time to have animals in our lives, and I understand that, but I also think so many young families are missing out on a wonderful element when there is no pet in the household.

Do/Did you have a special animal in your life?