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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Food for Thought

by Susan J. Kroupa

© Caraman | Dreamstime.com
Recently, a reviewer who otherwise liked Bed-Bugged, gently chided me for that fact that Molly often slips Doodle some of her food. The reviewer stated she didn’t agree with the author that human food was good for dogs.

I smiled because the author was just allowing the characters to act naturally.

The quickest way to turn potentially engaging characters into cardboard is to have them become puppets to mouth all the author’s pet (no pun intended) ideas.

In the Doodlebugged books, the three main characters have three different ideas about what foods should be in a dog’s diet. The boss, Molly’s father, thinks Doodle should only eat dog food. Molly acts as most ten-year-old girls might—she slips Doodle scraps and extra treats when she gets the opportunity. And Doodle, well, he views the whole dogs-shouldn’t-eat-human-food idea as selfish behavior on the part of humans. Early in Bed-Bugged, when Doodle is still getting used to his new job, the boss picks up some hamburgers on the way home from work. Doodle notes,

“I can’t help but drool for the rest of the drive back, the scent of those burgers filling the van.
Of course, it’s the same old dry dog food in my dish when we get home . . . But I’ve known since I was a pup that the bosses are stingy with their own food, which they like to say is bad for us. I wonder if they say that so they can keep it all for themselves.”

Three different characters and three different views on the issue. 

That said, since the books are aimed both at middle-grade kids and readers of all ages who enjoy gentle mysteries, I wouldn’t want to promote, through a sympathetic character, anything that could be actively harmful to dogs. It is totally within character for Molly and the boss, as reasonably well-educated dog owners, never to give Doodle chocolate. Doodle, on the other hand, notes that chocolate smells wonderful, and views the fact that humans won’t share as more proof they want to keep it all for themselves.

He’s wrong, of course. We all know chocolate is bad for dogs, just as we know we have to be careful to keep it out of reach, since many dogs will eat it given the chance. 

But this got me wondering about dogs and food and I innocently wandered over to the Internet to read about what dogs should or shouldn’t eat. Image

As Doodle would say, Whoa! I’ll leave the often rancorous dog-diet wars (Omnivore or carnivore? Higher protein or lower protein? Raw food or cooked food? Grains or no grains?) to more hardy souls.

While I don’t subscribe to the idea that dogs should never be given any human food, I believe all dog owners should know which foods can be dangerous for their pets. Most sites agree that along with chocolate, forbidden foods should include grapes, macadamia nuts, coffee, anything with caffeine or alcohol, onions and garlic, xylitol (a sugar alcohol used in gums and some candies), and yeast dough. Some add dairy products because, like humans, some dogs can have lactose intolerance. And most advise to avoid or limit very fatty foods, as too much fat in a dog’s diet can lead to pancreatitis.  Finally, never give a dog any human medicine unless it has been prescribed by a vet. Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen lead the list of human meds that can be toxic to dogs.

The website http://hounddogsdrule.com/k9-classroom/dangerous-foods-toxic-substances/ has a colorful chart of foods that are both good and bad for dogs. Other sites might have some differences in their lists.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue slipping Shadow the occasional bite of cheese or banana.

Doodle would approve. 

Susan J. Kroupa is a dog lover currently owned by a 70 pound labradoodle whose superpower is bringing home dead possums and raccoons and who happens to be the inspiration for her Doodlebugged books. She’s also an award-winning author whose fiction has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, and in a variety of professional anthologies, including Bruce Coville's Shapeshifters. Her non-fiction publications include features about environmental issues and Hopi Indian culture for The Arizona Republic, High Country News, and American Forests.

She now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia, where she’s busy writing the next Doodlebugged mystery. You can find her books and read her blog at http://www.susankroupa.com and visit her Amazon Author page at http://amazon.com/author/susankroupa

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Help for Older Pet Owners

by Amber Polo

If you're reading this no one needs to tell you about the benefits of owning a  pet. You know a companion is good medicine and adds to your quality of life. You play, laugh, exercise, relax and touch your friend and even meet new people because you are owned by a  pet. Physical and mental health benefits make you feel and act younger and stay fitter.

But you still worry about your pet's health and your own. What if you need help caring for your best friend? That concern can come at any age, but bothers owners more often when mobility, financial, and lifestyle changes affect day to day activities. Older owners are more apt to fear the growing cost of pet care, health issues, and  pets prohibited where they need to live.

If you are choosing a new  pet, take advice from experts and shelters to wisely select a  pet that fits your present and future living arrangements. Size, grooming needs, age, and energy level requirements, even allergies need to be considered.

Assuming you already have a  pet, more and more services are available to help you both. Mobile vets, groomers, dog walkers or local teens (usually girls who adore  pets), even pooper scooper services can come to you. You may order food and supplies by phone, online, and request home delivery. In some areas pet taxis help you get your  pet to caregivers’ services. Travelers find it easier to find pet friendly transportation, hotels, and B & Bs than in the past. Some boarding kennels offer senior discounts.

When finances are tight, ask pet supply stores and veterinarians about senior discounts. Veterinary insurance may help with unanticipated costs or payment plans for needed treatments. Food banks provide  pet food for owners with limited funds. No-cost or low-cost spay and neuter is available in some areas.

Some hospitals offers programs for inpatients who have no alternatives for pet care. You may be eligible for assistance from volunteers or local facilities. Volunteer caregivers groups provide assistance to older adults living without family or friends,  providing emergency  pet walking/grooming, transportation to vet appointments, feeding, and more, including pet food and supplies and pet boarding due to hospitalizations. Regional councils on aging may be able to help with housing issues.

Some  pet lovers who can't afford the cost of ownership volunteer at shelters, foster  pets waiting for forever homes, or pet sit.

More and more services are available to both older  pets and  their owners. Ask your veterinarian, local shelter, rescue group, or supplier what help is available in your area. Be creative to find the services that keep you and your  pet happy and healthy.


Amber Polo is the author of the award-winning The Shapeshifters’ Library series (Released, Retrieved, Recovered, and Reprinted), an canine cozy fantasy filled with books, librarians, dogs and a library everyone will love.

In addition to her award-winning fantasy and Arizona romance novels, she wrote
Relaxing the Writer  to offer tips to help writers and readers relax.

After living in seven states, she happily calls a small town in Arizona home. To learn more about her books and read excerpts, visit her website and find her on Facebook and The Shapeshifters’ Library Facebook page filled with lots of dogs. E-mail her at

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Interview with Strays Author Jennifer Caloyeras

It's my pleasure to welcome Jennifer Caloyeras, author of Strays (published by Ashland Creek Press in May). Jennifer will be back in coming weeks with an excerpt from the book and more. ~ Sheila 

Tell us a bit about your latest book.
My latest novel, Strays, is about a teenage girl with anger issues who is sentenced to a summer rehabilitating aggressive dogs. Here, she’s matched up with a three-legged pit bull rescue named Roman, who ends up teaching Iris more than she ever thought possible. 
How do you develop your characters? Are any of them based on real animals or people?
Roman, the pit bull in my novel, has redirected aggression. When he can’t reach the thing (be it object or animal) he wants to attack, he lashes out at the person closest to him instead. I had my own, very challenging experience with our dog, Willie. We took him to over five dog trainers for help. Roman was definitely based on a real animal that was a fixture in my own life. 
What was it about the subject that inspired you to write?
I have been the dog columnist for the Los Feliz Ledger (in Los Angeles) for over ten years. Years ago, when I was doing some research, I came across a great non-profit organization in Santa Monica called K-9 Connection that pairs at-risk teens with rescue dogs. I thought to myself, “this would be a great premise for a young adult novel.” And a book was born.
How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”
I am a writer who needs a plan. That doesn’t mean the plan won’t change, but I like to start this writing journey with a roadmap of sorts. It keeps me focused. Once I understand what the story is about, I begin an outline. I try to make it as detailed as possible as this makes the task of writing easier. I try my best to keep a forward trajectory and not go back and revise or judge my work until I’ve worked through an entire first draft. Then put it away for a few weeks (sometimes a few months) so I can approach with a renewed vigor. On these subsequent reads, I always end up changing the initial story line and changing character arcs. But the outline works to ground me, even if it completely ends up changing by the book’s end. 
What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I am the kind of writer who gets restless easily, so I always like to be in various stages of various projects. The ideal situation for me is to be out promoting a recently published novel, working on revising a draft of a completed novel and hatching out a plan for a new novel. I am lucky to be currently working on three things at once! I am eager, of course, to share my latest young adult novel, Strays, with the world. I am currently revising another young adult novel (I had put it away for about a year and I’ve only recently unearthed it.) This marks my first stab at dystopic fiction, which I find really fun, but also really challenging. And finally, I am whittling away an outline for my very first chapter book which is aimed at middle grade readers. I am, by no means an artist, so I really look forward to what someone might draw to accompany this story.

Jennifer Caloyeras is a novelist and short fiction writer living in Los Angeles. She holds a B.A. In English from the University of California at Santa Cruz, an M.A. in English Literature from California State University Los Angeles and an M.F.A. in creative writing through the University of British Columbia.            

Her short stories have been published in Monday Night Literary, Wilde Magazine, Storm Cellar and Booth. She has been a college instructor, elementary school teacher and camp counselor. She is the dog columnist for the Los Feliz Ledger and the Larchmont Ledger.
Links of interest: 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Mr. Washington's Hounds

Happy independence day! I've bumped the schedule a day to celebrate the Fourth with a little bit about Mr. Washington and his hounds. After all, who can think of American history without thinking of George Washington?

Many portraits of General Washington show him on horseback, and there's no doubt that he was an excellent horseman. Not only did he ride to get from here to there, but he rode for pleasure, too. He was an avid foxhunter and maintained a pack of hounds to which, when his schedule allowed, he rode three or four times a week.

Foxhounds of the Trader's Point Hunt Club, Zionsville, Indiana, waiting to be let out. 
Photo courtesy of Barbara Gresham. ©Barbara Lentz Gresham

Washington also loved dogs, especially hounds. Oddly, few of his portraits include his dogs, but many written accounts mention his passion for his canine companions. Washington himself wrote about his hounds in his journals and mentioned at least thirty individuals by name, including "Drunkard,” “Tipler,” and “Tipsy,” which makes me wonder what was going on in the kennels at Mt. Vernon! 

On a darker note, despite his own love of hounds and appreciation for human-canine relationships, Washington forbade the slaves at Mt. Vernon to own dogs, and punishments were in place if dogs were found in the slave quarters. It's hard to fathom that Washington and other champions of national independence could deny even the simple yet profound pleasure of a dog's love to people whose every other freedom they had stolen.

Trader's Point Hunt, Huntsman and Whippers-in with the pack. Most 
American hunts today are "drag hunts," meaning the hounds follow a scent 
laid down by dragging a scented cloth. There is no kill. The point is the fun 
of the ride, which is absolutely the most exhiilarating experience you can 
imagine! Photo courtesy of Barbara Gresham. ©Barbara Lentz Gresham

Washington, like all the Founding Fathers, certainly had his faults. But we see with the benefit of historical perspective, and we should give him credit where it's due. Did you know that George Washington is considered to be the father not only of his country, but of the breed we now know as the American Foxhound? In 1770, Washington imported a number of foxhounds from England, and in 1785 the Marquis de Lafayette sent him several French foxhounds. Through careful selection and interbreeding, Washington developed a type of hound suited to the terrain and conditions in Virginia, and that hound eventually came to be called the American Foxhound.

One anecdote from the War concerned a little dog named Lila, found on the field among dead and wounded soldiers from both sides after the Battle of Germantown. Washington checked the dog, who was wearing a collar and tag, and was surprised to discover she belonged to General Howe, the commander of the British forces. Washington's men wanted to keep the dog as war booty, but Washington said the dog was not the enemy and should be returned to her owner. A truce was arranged so that Lila could be sent back to Howe with a note tucked into her collar:  “General Washington’s compliments to General Howe. He does himself the pleasure to return him a dog, which accidentally fell into his hands, and by the inscription on the Collar appears to belong to General Howe.”

Another titbit I found has made me see old George in a softer light than suggested by his stern-jawed portraits. He had a favorite hound for many years; she was more pet than hunter, living with him in the house and often accompanying him on his travels. Her name was Sweetlips.

Here I am (left) at the Blessing of the Hounds, New Britton Hunt, near Indianapolis, October many moons ago - I was 15. The horse was named Witch - my horse was injured and my coach loaned her to me for the Blessing.

Sheila Webster Boneham is the author of the Animals in Focus Mystery series. Drop Dead on Recall, the first in the series, won the Dog Writers Association of America Award in Fiction, Mystery, or Humor. The fourth book, Shepherd's Crook, will be out this fall. She is also the author of 17 nonfiction books, six of which have won major awards from the Dog Writers Association of America and the Cat Writers Association. For the past two decades Boneham has been showing her Australian Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers in various canine sports. Sheila has bred top-winning Aussies, and founded rescue groups for Aussies and Labs. Boneham holds a doctorate in folklore from Indiana University and an MFA in creative writing from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine. For more information, visit SheilaBoneham.com.