...for readers who love animals, and animal lovers who read!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Would You Like to Write for Writers & Other Animals?

by Sheila Webster Boneham

Over the Memorial Day weekend, I posted two posts rather than the usual one, so today I'm offering a "call for submissions." The information posted below is taken from my Guest Posts page, where you will find complete guidelines. 

What I'm looking for

First, quality writing. Second, animals. This does not mean that animals have to be the primary focus of your work, but in most cases, at least one animal must figure in your submission.
I will consider posts about most kinds of writing -- literary, genre, commercial, fiction, nonfiction, poetry.... The key, again, is quality. This does not mean I will take everything that comes my way, just that I have few biases at the "first read" stage. As with any publication, I reserve the right to make minor edits. If I think a major change is needed, I will ask you to make it (or decline the submission if I don't think it's right for this blog). 
I will consider many sorts of posts, including the following (and more):
  • posts about your work or an aspect of your work 
  • posts about topics related to your book(s) or other work
  • interviews (see questions and directions below)
  • "Seven (or ten or twelve) Things You Might Not Know About (your book, your protagonist, you the author, your setting, a character's career or hobby....)"
  • "Seven (or ten or twelve) Things You Might Not Know About (your favorite species/breed or animal sport/activity"
  • excerpts from books
  • previously published posts, but please let me know, provide a reference, and be sure you own the rights to republish
  • (potentially) critical pieces focused on work about animals, as long as it is accessible to readers who may not be schooled in a particular discipline - potentially this might include discussions of literary work, cultural portrayals and uses of animals, or...well, if you have an idea, email me.
  • other - if you have something else in mind, try me; you might scroll through older posts for inspiration

I'm happy to say that the calendar is reasonably full, but there are still plenty of openings for new participants. So if you write, and if animals figure in your work or your writing routine, I hope you'll consider being part of Writers & Other Animals!

Please come back on Sunday for "When Animals Speak" by author Waverly Fitzgerald. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

In Memoriam: Our Companions in War

by Sheila Webster Boneham

Animals who do not make wars but live, and die, in them just the same.

Goodby, Old Man by Fortunino Matania
My grandmother was a poet. Squarely in the sentimental Victorian tradition, her poems were published in Scottish and Canadian newspapers and small-press collections in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I have several fat notebooks filled with her poems, handwritten and pasted in from print sources. Years ago I read my way through them as a way to know the woman who had faded a bit in my mind (I was five when she died). I read most of the poems, but honestly, only one stands out in my mind. It began, "Farewell, my noble friend, farewell," and even now I can’t think of it without feeling the tears well up. The copy in the notebook was yellowed and frayed at the edges. On the facing page was a clipping, a picture that had run in the Drumheller, Alberta, paper and, I’ve learned, many others. It immortalizes the death of a war horse and the grief of his soldier at his death.

This image, long ago burned into my psyche, is a big reason that I have no desire to see the movie War Horse. I didn't know it at the time, but Italian illustrator Fortunino Matania not infrequently focused on the sad deaths of animals, especially horses, in the war.

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. This holiday, celebrated on the final Monday of May each year, is meant to honor those who have served in the American military. Originally May 30 was known as Decoration Day because one tradition of the day is the decoration of the graves of veterans, a practice that began during or just after the American Civil War (1861-65). The first official observation of remembrance was May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. By 1890, all Northern states had adopted the holiday, but most Southern states refused to do so until World War I, when the holiday was extended to honor the dead of all American wars.

We usually focus our national pageants on the human price of war. Here today, for a few moments, I ask you to again expand the meaning of Memorial Day and give a thought to the millions of animals who have served, suffered, and died in human wars over the centuries. Think not only of the heroes given our attention and honors, but also of the vast majority of animals recruited into military service who did as they were asked and died unsung. Spare a thought, too, for the millions of animals, domestic and wild, who died as "collateral damage" or by intentional slaughter for political or other purposes. (Hitler, for instance, had non-German breeds of dogs systematically exterminated in Europe.)

Whole books have been written on animals in war, so I won’t attempt any kind of thorough commentary. Instead, I give you a few photos and a few links to more information, and ask that, as we remember our service people, we also remember the animals. They had no choice.

Horses, Donkeys, and Mules

I can't think of an animal more suited by nature to peace than the equines, and yet horses, donkeys, and mules have been used in human warfare since, probably, the first person threw a leg over an equine's back. Without horses for speed and donkeys and mules for stamina, we as a species would certainly not be where we are today, and our history, especially the history of conquest and war, would have unfolded very differently.

"L" Battery, R.H.A. Retreat from Mons
This British Horse artillery unit made a heroic stand 
against advancing German troops during the retreat from
Mons, Belgium on 1 September 1914. Mons stayed in 
German hands until liberated by Canadian troops on the 
last day of the war, 11 November 1918. L Battery R.H.A. 
How our Gunners Won the V.C. and Silenced the Fire of
 the German Guns in the Face of Overwhelming Odds. 
Retreat from Mons 1st September 1914. Print by 
Fortunino Matania. Canadian War Museum
There are many websites and books about horses in war, but a few I've found especially interesting include the following:

Horses, mules, and donkeys naturally became less important to most militaries after World War I, but they aren't out of the service entirely. In fact, they are being used by American forces today in Afghanistan, as shown on Olive Drab's page.

Carrier pigeons

Carrier pigeons have nearly as long a history in military service as do the equines. During World War I, the U.S. Signal Corps deployed at least 600 pigeons in France alone, and Britain used some 250,000 carrier pigeons during World War II. Paddy, an Irish carrier pigeon, was the first pigeon to cross the English Channel with news of success on D-Day. One of hundreds of birds dispatched from the front, Paddy flew 230 miles in 4 hours and 50 minutes. He is one of 32 carrier pigeons to be awarded the Dickin Medal, the highest British decoration for valor given to animals. Another recipient was an American pigeon, GI Joe (below).

To learn more about carrier pigeons who have served, start with these site:

The Dickin Medal

The PDSA Dickin Medal, recognised in Britain as the animals’ Victoria Cross, is awarded to animals displaying conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units. The Medal has been awarded to dogs, horses, pigeons, and one cat. The citations on the Rolls of Honour are moving tributes to the role animals play in our service during war, and to the courage of the individual animals who have received the medal.

No such medal exists in the United States as far as I know (please let me know if I've missed it in my search). In fact, in 2010 the Pentagon refused the request of military dog handlers to establish an official medal for valorous animals.

You're in the Navy Now

"War Veteran - 'Pooli', who rates three service ribbons 
and four battle stars, shows she can still get into 
her old uniform as she prepares to celebrate her 15th 
birthday. The cat served aboard an attack transport 
during World War II." Los Angeles, 1959

Although we tend to think of dogs and, sometimes, horses when we think of animals in the military, cats have also served in the military, often in the navy, like Pooli (below). For more great photos of cats in the Navy, visit Cats in the Sea Service .

Dogs, too, have served aboard ship, often as ship's mascots and de facto therapy dogs. Imagine how much fun the sailors on the USS Texas had with this gang in 1915. The Texas is now a museum near Houston and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. It is one of six surviving ships to have seen action in both World Wars. Check out the U.S. Naval Institute's Sea Dogs page for more canine sailors.

Love and War

Not all who serve fight, of course, and just having an animal to touch, to care for, and to love can be vital to a service man's or woman's emotional health.

Marine Pvt. John W. Emmons, and the Sixth Division's mascot dog 
sleep beside a 105mm howitzer on Okinawa, 1945. The Sixth Division 
suffered almost 2700 casualties during the battle, with another 1,300 
being evacuated because of either exhaustion or fatigue. 
( U.S. Naval Institute's Sea Dogs)
"Accepting her fate as an orphan of war, 'Miss Hap,' 
a two-week old Korean kitten chows down on canned milk, 
piped to her by medicine dropper with the help of 
Marine Sergeant Frank Praytor ... The Marine 
adopted the kitten after its mother was killed by a 
mortar barrage near Bunker Hill. The name, Miss Hap, 
Sergeant Praytor explained, was given to the kitten
 'because she was born at the wrong place at the 
wrong time'." Korea, ca 1953 

As you prepare for your cookout or whatever else you have planned for the holiday, please take a moment to pause and remember what it's really about, and raise a glass to the all the souls - human, canine, equine, feline, avian, and more - the day is meant to honor.

Then hug your animals. 

Excerpt: Close Call by Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna and Rhodry (1994–2008),
who inspired Pixel.
Susanna J. Sturgis is a freelance editor by trade and a writer by avocation. She blogs about writing and editing at Write Through It and about year-round Martha's Vineyard, where she lives at From the Seasonally Occupied Territories. Her first novel, The Mud of the Place (Speed-of-C Productions, 2008), included a much younger Pixel. This is an excerpt from her novel in progress.


As they rolled down twisty Tiah's Cove Road, Pixel climbed over Glory and stuck most of her head out the window. "Pixel!" yelled Glory. "You're wet!" On their walk, Pixel, a Malamute mix, had wandered off the trail several times to go wading in the adjacent pond.

Looking in the rearview mirror, Shannon slowed the car down to a near crawl. Glory was looking where Pixel's nose was pointing.

A big gray dog with a mostly white face was trotting loose and unaccompanied through the woods, a few yards in from the road.

Like wolves at Yellowstone, Shannon thought. Beautiful.

It had to be the Morrises' Alaskan Malamute, who was suspected of killing several hens and a lamb in recent months. In that moment the dog started to run, a long, loping run. "Shit," Shannon muttered. Just ahead of the running dog was a dirt side road, and at the end of that road was Everett Judd's farm. Everett Judd had no patience with dogs hassling his livestock. Everett Judd was a crackerjack shot.

Shannon pulled a U-turn in the middle of the road. "Try and keep him in sight," she said to Glory.

Glory and Pixel had already switched windows.

After turning down the dirt road, Shannon spotted the dog up ahead. He had a long head start but had slowed to a trot. The Judd farmhouse was still fifty yards ahead when he turned off the shady road to follow a post-and-rail fence. Shannon spotted sheep midway across the open field, and a pond glittering through scrub oak trees at the far end. Shit shit shit.

"Stay with Pixel, OK?" she told Glory.

"OK," said the girl, putting an arm around the old dog.

Shannon scooped Pixel's leash up off the floor and took off after the dog, stumbling over every clump of weeds, every depression in the ground.

The dog paused, looked back at her, then continued along the fence line. When Shannon gained a little ground, he trotted a little faster.

The sheep had stopped grazing. One of them bleated. The big dog hung a hard left where the fence turned a corner; he started to lope. Shannon was already twenty feet behind. Way up ahead and off to the left a screen door slammed.

Travvy - aka
ARCHX Masasyu's Fellow Traveller
on whom the unnamed dog in
 the story is based
Everett Judd was headed her way. He was carrying a shotgun. When he got to the gate, he used his free hand to raise the looped chain that held it closed. Passing through, he advanced across the pasture, sighting once as he walked. The sheep were freaking out but being sheep couldn't figure out which way to run. The dog was still outside the fence.

When Shannon caught up with him, he was trying frantically to squeeze through, but the rails were too close together and he didn't fit. Hoping the stitch in her side wasn't the beginning of a heart attack, she reached for his neck with one hand, hoping there was a collar under all that fur. He snarled at her, lips pulled back from very impressive teeth.

The sheep were finally making a beeline for the farthest corner of the field. The dog was going nuts trying to follow them.

Across the pasture Glory was running along the fence. "Don't shoot," she was screaming. In a flash she'd climbed the fence and dropped down on the inside. She kept running toward the man with the shotgun. "Don't shoot!"

The barrel of the gun come up slightly as Judd turned to see what was coming, then pointed toward the ground. The dog was briefly distracted by the commotion; Shannon made a loop of Pixel's leash and dropped it over his head, then pulled it snug around his neck. When he looked at her this time, she saw recognition in those almond-shaped brown eyes. He was a dog, not a wolf; she was a human, not a dog. She tugged him back from the fence.

"That your dog?" Judd asked, looking from her to Glory and back again.

"No," Shannon started to explain. "I--"

"I told 'em I'd shoot that dog if he showed up again," he said. The man was medium height and wiry, gray-haired and -bearded. He could probably run from here to town without breathing hard. "I could still shoot 'im. Dog like that's nothing but trouble."

I'll do you a favor, he was saying, and we'll all be better off. With the dog's snarling fangs fresh in her mind she half agreed with him. "Not now," she said. "Sorry about this."

Glory was watching and listening, stock still.

Shannon turned toward the car, giving the captive a mild tug on the leash. He dug in his paws and growled. She glanced involuntarily at Judd, who stood watching. Think smart, Shannon. She reached into her pocket, pulled out a tube of the string cheese that Pixel liked so much, and bit a piece off the end. She crinkled the wrapper. The dog sat down, wagging his tail on the grass. She offered him the piece of cheese. He started to snap at it. "Uh-uh," she said, pulling her hand back. She offered it again. He took it -- not quite softly, but at least she still had all her fingers.

"We'll see," she said, biting another piece off. To Everett Judd she said, "Thanks again," then she and Glory headed for the car with the big dog trotting between them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Horse Crazy Kid = Horse Crazy Author

by J.A. Campbell

I’ve always been something of a dreamer, a ‘what if’ sort of gal, if you will. What if I had a horse so smart I could talk to it? What if I could travel to other worlds and have adventures? What if I could actually write a novel and sell it? That last one, I think is the most fantastical of them all.
However, being a dreamer, the impossibility of those above ideas never really stopped me. Nine and a half years ago, I got my own horse. I swear she was smart enough to hold conversations with, and she was certainly smart enough to travel to other worlds with me in tow and create adventures. I just had to be smart enough to listen, and put her ideas to paper.
Sabaska’s Tale is a novel inspired by my life on the trail and my horse and turned into a fantasy novel. And before you ask, no, I’m not the MC, but my horse, Sabaska, is the main horse character, also called Sabaska. Much of this story came about on my many adventures with my her. It didn’t take much effort to translate our adventures into something far more interesting than a trail ride in the mountains, it just took writing it down.
I’ve been told that my passion for horses and Sabaska in particular really comes out in this story. That pleases me and I think that because we had so many adventures in our 9 years together, it gave me the depth and experience to write a something that does display my passion and knowledge of horses and I hope it inspires others to have adventures with their horses and maybe even turn their adventures into more novels for horse crazy teens to read.
I don’t actually know how the horse bug bit me, but it did. As long as I can remember I’ve been riding horses. My parents let me do pony rides and trail rides as a kid and as soon as I got big enough they let me take lessons relatively frequently. There’s a barn close to where I grew up and I learned to ride English-style on Saddlebreds. I took lessons until I got to high school and then I got too busy and horses kind of went on a back burner. However, when I went to college in Colorado they came flooding back into my life. There were horses everywhere and I was going crazy that I couldn’t ride. Finally I found someone with a few too many horses and she let me ride with her, and learn from her and that’s where I met Sabaska.
She was basically half wild and barely trained. As I worked with her, teaching her that people were kind of cool, and learning from both her and my friend what it was to train a horse, I fell in love. Eventually I decided it was time to have my own horse and I wanted Sabaska. I bought her and moved her closer to my home so I could work with her every day. Progress went quickly. Sabaska had an eager and willing mind and she enjoyed doing things with me. I discovered endurance racing and decided that was the sport for us. This discovery set me and Sabaska on hundreds of miles of trails and adventure, which inspired this story. Sabaska was an amazing horse, as you’ll discover if you read the novel. A lot of her personality comes through in the fictional Sabaska. She was brave and bold and I couldn’t have had a better companion. One day while we were out riding I realized it really felt like we were in a different world and this sparked a story idea. What if I really was traveling to a different world? I wrote this book knowing it was the book I wanted to read when I was a kid, but didn’t exist. Hopefully it will find its way into the hands of horse crazy teens and inspire them to fantastical adventures on their own horses.
I lost Sabaska in 2012 to colic, but our adventures live on in these stories. She’ll never be replaced, but she gave me so many valuable gifts and lessons and the joy of having that special bond with a horse that I’ve never seen matched with any other creature.

J.A. Campbell has been many things over the last few years, from college student, to bookstore clerk and an over the road trucker. She’s worked as a 911 dispatcher and in computer tech support, but through it all she’s been a writer and when she’s not out riding horses, she can usually be found sitting in front of her computer. She lives in Colorado with her three cats, her vampire-hunting dog Kira, her new horse and Traveler-in training, Triska, and her Irish Sailor. She is the author of many Vampire and Ghost-Hunting Dog stories and the young adult urban fantasy series The Clanless. She’s the editor of Steampunk Trails fiction magazine and a member of both the Horror Writers Association and the Dog Writers Association of America.

Find out more about Julie at  www.writerjacampbell.com  and follow her on twitter @Pfirewolf
Website: www.writerjacampbell.com                                                        
FB: https://www.facebook.com/J.A.Campbell.Author

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Animals, Novels and Me by Linda O. Johnston

Anyone who reads my novels lately may see a theme in many of them.  I’m currently writing cozy mysteries, paranormal romances and romantic suspense novels--three fun but different genres.  What’s similar about them?  Well, mine all contain some degree of romance and suspense.  But the first two--cozy mysteries and paranormal romances?  They all involve animals!

Which is why I'm absolutely delighted to be guest blogging here at Writers & Other Animals.  I can blog about my writing, sure.  But I can also blog about how much I adore animals--especially dogs!

My most recent cozy mysteries are the Pet Rescue Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime.  The protagonist, Lauren Vancouver, runs a private no-kill animal shelter and finds herself in all sorts of situations in which she not only has to save animals' lives, but also solves murders when she, or her friends, are accused of the killings.  The latest, TEACUP TURBULENCE, features the situation in which dogs are rescued in areas where it's very hard to find them loving homes--so rescuers remedy that by moving them to areas where they're in demand.  Yes, such organizations really exist, I'm delighted to say.  In TEACUP TURBULENCE, rescued teacup-sized dogs are moved from middle America, where they're not wanted, to Los Angeles.  In reality, there's usually a glut of small dogs here in L.A., where I live, but in my story some amazingly cute ads put them in demand.  And in the Pet Rescue Mysteries, "no-kill" means pets, not people!

The Pet Rescue Mysteries are a spinoff from my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mystery series, also for Berkley Prime Crime. 

And I'm delighted to report that my first Superstition Mystery, LOST UNDER A LADDER, will be published in October 2014 by Midnight Ink.  Yes, it's about superstitions.  But it's also about animals, including the superstitions involving them.  Plus my protagonist Rory Chasen winds up running the Lucky Dog Boutique in the fictional town of Destiny, California, where the Superstition Mystery stories occur.

Then there are my Harlequin Nocturnes, paranormal romances.  The first, ALPHA WOLF, was published five years ago, and several more have been published since then, including novellas.  Two more novels will be published this year: UNTAMED WOLF and LOYAL WOLF.  You can tell from the titles that wolves are involved--but not just any wolves.  These stories all involve Alpha Force, a super-secret U.S. military force... of shapeshifters.  And all of the shapeshifters have cover animals as pets that look like them when they're shifted.  I’ve also written another Nocturne, BACK TO LIFE, about a woman with Valkyrie powers of bringing the dying back to life--and she happens also to be a canine cop. 

Unfortunately, so far neither of my Harlequin Romantic Suspense novels has involved animals.  But if the situation arises, I'll work a pet or two in one of those stories, too!

And, yes, there are more to come that also include animals... but I'll talk about them some other time. 

Come visit me at my website:  www.LindaOJohnston.com  You can also friend me on Facebook. I recently joined the Writers & Other Animalsgroup there!  I additionally blog weekly on KillerHobbies.blogspot.com   on Wednesdays, where my Killer Hobby is supposed to be pets--but we all know that pets aren’t hobbies.  They’re family!  I also blog on the 18th of each month on Killer Characters--or at least my characters do.  And I additionally blog on Inkspot, the blog of Midnight Ink authors, and on the 6th of each month at A Slice of Orange, the blog of the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America.  Come to think of it, I blog a lot! 

Which only makes me happier to be here--and I hope to blog at Writers & Other Animals often.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How I Became a Canine Co-author

 by John Sheirer

Dogs have a special wisdom that makes them among the most beloved creatures on earth. Libby Speaks (written by Libby, as told to me) gives us a peek into the delightful doggie mind of Libby, our happy and lovable Border Terrier. Libby Speaks features more than 100 photographs of Libby as a backdrop for her to share her wisdom and life lessons.

When I appeared on a local radio show recently to promote the book, the host looked at the cover, smiled, sighed, and said with affected seriousness, "John, you seem to be a mentally healthy person. And Libby seems like a wonderful dog. But Libby … is a dog. You do know that dogs can't write, don't you?"

He winked at me, and we both laughed. I enjoy speaking about Libby as the book's author. Of course, I know that dog's can't write in the sense of grasping a pen or directing their paws along a computer keyboard. But that doesn't mean they can't inspire. And what is writing if not inspiration? 

Libby's collaboration with me began even before she came to our home. When we first visited her and her siblings at the breeder, Libby's curiosity, bravery, and joy began "speaking" to my wife Betsy and me right away. She let us know that she was small, but we shouldn't hold that against her.

Libby quickly grew in size and in the space she took up in our hearts and home. And her communication with us also grew. Each day, she taught me something new about how to approach life with a renewed spirit and enthusiasm--a lesson all humans need on a regular basis.

When I woke up tired, she pulled me along until I was running alongside her in the cool morning air. When I found myself preoccupied with the abstract concerns of my job or current events, she curled against my leg with her tail wagging like a crazed metronome, reminding me not to take life so seriously. When I was recovering from knee surgery, she gently climbed into my lap to let me know that a warm friend was even more therapeutic than an ice pack. When I was happy, as I usually am, she reminded me how right I was to enjoy life and be kind to those around me.

My writing specialty is the personal essay, digging into my experiences with words the same way Libby digs into a snow bank with her strong little paws. I might search for insight while she digs for a buried stick, but our technique is similar. Oddly, Libby's presence in my life hasn't inspired many essays. But she has appealed far more to my visual-learner side. Her body language and facial expressions have communicated far more effectively than my words could capture.

I'd been taking pictures of her since we brought her home. I'm purely an amateur shutterbug, but some days I think that if I tossed the camera in the air, it would come back to earth with a dozen wonderful shots of Libby. That's an over-simplification, of course. The pleasure of digital photography is that there's no film to waste. I'm happy to take one thousand mediocre shots of Libby if that yields one good photo and one life lesson.

So instead of essays, I began searching for the shorthand messages she communicated through our photos. Sometimes her thoughts were crystal clear as the shutter clicked. Other times I wouldn't discover what she had been telling me until months later as I sorted through the cache of photos that filled my camera's memory card.

Throughout Libby Speaks, she rolls on the beach, romps in the snow, hikes through the woods, and shares her happiness with her human and canine family. Libby fully inhabits the pages as she contemplates the meaning of life, chews on a stick, or simply gazes in wonder at the big world around her. A little dog with a large life, soulful eyes, haystack fur, and crooked tail, Libby provides both the photographic and philosophical focal point of the book. She's my coauthor in every sense of the word. We couldn't make these books without each other.

Photographing and transcribing her messages has been my pleasure, and I plan to keep doing so for as long as she keeps giving me material. I'm happy to report that she hasn't shown any signs of clamming up. Of course, I know that dogs can't actually talk, and Libby is no exception. But when I keep my mind open to what she has to tell me, I know this above all else: Libby Speaks.

John Sheirer is the coauthor and photographer of the book, Libby Speaks: The Wit and Wisdom of the World's Wisest Dog, as well as several previous books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. He lives with his wonderful wife Betsy in Northampton, Massachusetts, and is a full-time faculty member teaching English and Communication at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut. Libby and John welcome everyone to visit Libby's Facebook page for news about their lives and writing careers. John can also be found at his homepage.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Some Thoughts on Mothers of Various Sorts

By Sheila Webster Boneham

One of the best books I ever read had, on its surface, nothing to do with animals. It was Women as Mothers (1978) by anthropologist Sheila Kitzinger, and its message was that there is no "right" way to raise children. Kitzinger drew on ethnographic and sociological studies from around the world, and wrote about the widely divergent beliefs and practices that frame the human journey from birth to adulthood. She looked at everything from toilet training to discipline to education to play to.... You get the picture. 

Yesterday, May 9, the last litter that my husband Roger and I bred turned thirteen. How can that be? In the time we were breeding under the kennel name Perennial, we produced eight litters. The puppies, who went to homes from Washington state to Florida, Massachusetts to Arizona, and to Europe, Australia, and New Zealand as well, earned championships and many titles in obedience, agility, herding, flyball, tracking, and other sports. Many were registered therapy dogs. They were all "pets." 

Jay at one day, with his mother,
Sage (Champion Kantera's Head of
the Class, CD, CGC, TDI). 1998
And guess what? The mothers of those litters were as varied in their mothering styles as were the women of Kitzinger's book. Holly was good to her babies, but quite content to turn their care over to babysitters if the opportunity came up. Missy had only one puppy - a "singleton" - after she came to us, but she tried to take over care of Holly's babies (who were, through their sire, Missy's great-grandpups). Magic wouldn't willingly leave her puppies for the first couple of weeks -- I had to pick her up and carry her outside to take care of her own biological needs! Roger and I have tried to remember how Magic imposed discipline. Neither of us remember her ever being cross with a puppy, nor can be recall any of her puppies giving her any nonsense. (I suspect she had a "look" a bit like the one my own mother used on me!) Satin kept her puppies well-fed and spotlessly clean, but she didn't hover. No, once her chores were finished, she'd hop out of the whelping box and stretch out on the air mattress where I slept the first couple of weeks. (I had to fight her for it on more than one occasion!) 

Holly (Catalina's Simply Irresistible, CD, CGC, TDI) in 1997
with her puppies: the boys --  Chip, Sage, Harper, Poet,
George, Silky, and Mickey; the girls -- Trophy and Lacy.

Just as not all human mom's are very good at motherhood, not all doggy moms are, either. All of my girls were, but I whelped a litter for another breeder once, and that mama dog had no interest in the job. Had there not been people (or perhaps another bitch) on hand, her puppies would have died. First, she wouldn't voluntarily nurse them, so I had to hold her down while her puppies nursed. Besides that, newborn puppies cannot eliminate without stimulation. Since this gal had no interest in caring for her pups, I had to use a wash cloth several times a day to get them to pee and poop. I didn't mind the job, but I was pretty disgusted with doggy dearest's 

All of which is to say that there are all sorts of mothers. I didn't see eye to eye on everything with my own mom, but I am thankful for a couple of passions she passed along: books and dogs. I hope she has plenty of both, wherever she is. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Cat by Any Other Name

by Lois Winston

Shortly after my husband and I became a couple, a stray cat wandered onto our friends’ property and gave birth to a litter of kittens. When Mama Cat subsequently lost her life to a speeding car, we became the proud adoptive parents of two kittens from that litter. We named one Bulldog McNurkle and the other Grayface. For the life of me, I can’t remember the reason behind the names. Stranger still, Grayface somehow morphed into Frog.

Like all babies, no matter the species, kittens are not born with fully developed motor skills. This fact was made clear to me one day while I was taking a bath. Frog nosed open the bathroom door, jumped up onto the tub ledge, and proceeded to lose his footing, falling into the water. Before I could scoop him up, he used my back as a ladder to climb his way out. I think I still have scars from his claws.

While still kittens, one of Bulldog’s and Frog’s favorite pastimes was to race across the living room, take a flying leap, and claw up our drapes. One day my husband and I came home from work to find the drapes in shreds. The cats had grown too heavy for the fabric to support their weight.

Another time we arrived home to find defrosted pork chops sitting on the living room floor. Because we had a galley kitchen open to the living room, I used to put frozen food in the spare bedroom to defrost. On that particular day, I apparently hadn’t made sure the door was securely latched. You’d think I would have learned my lesson after the bathtub incident.

Unfortunately, after several years of progressively worsening allergies that eventually caused me to develop bronchial asthma, we found it necessary to find new parents for our boys. Cats haven’t been part of our family for many years, yet they often play a role – usually a comical one – in my fiction.

In my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, my protagonist’s much-married mother claims to descend from Russian royalty. Her extremely corpulent white Persian cat is named Catherine the Great. And believe me, she’s every inch the reincarnation of her namesake – proud, regal, demanding, and not one to suffer fools – or dogs – lightly. This causes all sorts of mayhem in the Pollack household where Mama is forced to share a bedroom with Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law and her dog, aptly named Manifesto. Catherine the Great and Manifesto get along as well as their two owners. In other words, they fight like...well, like cats and dogs. Or Russian royalty and Bolsheviks.

You’ll find Catherine the Great strutting her stuff in all four of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries – Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, Death by Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, and Decoupage Can Be Deadly.

In Hooking Mr. Right, a romantic comedy I wrote under my Emma Carlyle pen name, you’ll find Cu (short for Cupid,) a punk-rock looking alley cat.

After writing a doctoral thesis that exposed fraud in the pop-psychology genre, thirty-two year old professor Althea Chandler has to sacrifice her professional integrity to save her family from financial disaster. She secretly becomes best-selling romance guru Dr. Trulee Lovejoy, a self-proclaimed expert on how to catch a man, even though Thea’s a miserable failure when it comes to relationships especially those with the opposite sex.

Burned by a failed marriage, Luke Bennett finds himself pursued by Dr. Lovejoy toting women after a gossip columnist dubs him New York’s most eligible bachelor. When he at first mistakes Thea for one of the women out to snare him, sparks fly, but the two soon find themselves battling sparks of a less hostile nature, thanks in part to the aforementioned alley cat.

Luke believes he’s finally found an honest woman. Unfortunately, Thea is anything but honest. She’s got more secrets than the CIA and a desperate gossip columnist out to expose her. Cupid definitely has his work cut out for him, but like all cats, he’s got a mind of his own. And he’s not about to let human stubbornness stand in the way of a happy ending.

Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. She’s also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Lois is also an award-winning crafts and needlework designer and an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Visit her at http://www.loiswinston.com, visit Emma at http://www.emmacarlyle.com, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers character blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Behind the Scenes at the Deadly Dog Show

by Jerold Last

The doggiest book in the Roger and Suzanne series, The Deadly Dog Show, is getting excellent reviews and seems to appeal to both dog lovers and mystery fans.  As indicated in the book’s foreword, the canine heroine of the novel, Juliet, is very much modeled after one of our own dogs, Jolie.  The cover photo is of Jolie being shown at a California dog show, at one of the venues from the novel.  Behind the Scenes explores the real-life origins of a few specific scenes in the novel.
We live almost exactly in the epicenter of the Northern California dog show circuit described in the novel.  Woodland’s Yolo County fairgrounds are less than 10 miles from our house.  Stockton, Vallejo, and Sacramento are all less than an hour’s drive away, while San Francisco’s Cow Palace and Fresno are each about a 1.5-hour drive from our home.  My wife Elaine has been showing her dogs in these local shows for more than 30 years, so she knows the venues intimately.  She’s dragged me to as many shows as she could, so I’ve been to all of the places described in the book at least once, and for some of the closer show grounds a lot more frequently.  Elaine shared her memory of the details for each venue as the book evolved and we decided exactly where to find a body or to interview a suspect.
Bruce’s dog training techniques as described in the story are also authentic.  Bruce uses the methods we learned from modern show and field trainers who work with positive rewards, mainly praise and food, as opposed to the old time approaches that stress discipline and physical punishment like ear pinches for errors.  The positive rewards not only work well (we currently have three well trained senior hunters, two of whom should complete their master hunter certification in the near future), but also make the entire experience a lot more fun both for dog and trainer. 
I did a short course on nose work with Viña, much like Bruce’s training of Juliet in the book, a few years ago.  This kind of searching by smell is easy and instinctual for German Shorthaired Pointers, so she excelled at it----if she could figure out the scent you wanted her to find, she found it.  Schöne, her granddaughter, has an even better nose than Viña.  It would be a lot of fun to train her for search and rescue work or as a cadaver dog.  Time permitting I’ll try doing this in a year or two after she finishes her MH degree.
German Shorthaired Pointers are really as fast and as athletic as Juliet is described in this novel.  Schöne likes to do chins on the 6-foot fences between our back yard and the neighbor’s to see what’s going on next door.  She has easily jumped over 6-foot fences when she wanted to get out of a fenced-in area.  The only thing that keeps the dogs in our yard is their training and their desire to please their humans.  They know they’re supposed to stay in the yard, and they do.
The Deadly Dog Show, a suspenseful journey into the world of canine conformation contests, provides an unusual backdrop for murder.  This whodunit novel should appeal especially to readers who want to learn more about the world of dog show conformation competition. 

Jerold Last is a scientist on the faculty of the University of California and a big fan of mystery novels. The Deadly Dog Show is the fourth novel and seventh book in a series, but can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone entry.  Jerry and his wife Elaine live in Northern California, where Elaine breeds prize-winning German Shorthaired Pointer dogs and enjoys being a grandmother to three granddaughters and a grandson. A blog describing the background and birth of Jerry's books (with links to all of the books on Amazon); Jerry, Elaine, and the dogs' lives; and all things mysterious can be found at http://rogerandsuzannemysteries.blogspot.com. Please come visit my blog and take a look.
The Deadly Dog Show is available as a Kindle E-book, $2.99, free to borrow from KOLL for Prime members.  Amazon   -- In the UK - Amazon UK