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

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Excerpt from Karma’s a Killer by Tracy Weber

Author's note: I’ve been entranced by the friendship my dog has with several local crows for years, so it seemed natural to include them in my newest mystery.  The excerpt below features Blackie, a rehabilitated crow who will play an interesting role in the mystery. ~ 

Excerpt from Karma's a Killer
Judith yelled, “Hey, stop! What are you doing?” Even Tiffany ran over to check out the commotion.
Blackie’s cage lay open on the ground. He stood next to it, looking confused. A teenage girl waved her arms and stomped her feet, trying to scare him away. “Go on, fly! Be free! Animals should never be prisoners!”
I’d never met the young woman who was yelling, but I recognized her outfit: black jeans, black boots, long-sleeved black T-shirt decorated with an orange flame emblem. The jagged ends of her purple-black hair brushed against multiple silver ear-piercings.
Black lipstick and eyeliner highlighted the matching jewelry in her left eyebrow and lower lip. The Goth Girl kept yelling, sounding frustrated. “Go on, you stupid bird, fly! You’re free!”
Blackie cocked his head right, then left, then right again, as if paradoxically confused, entranced, and annoyed by the oddly adorned female. He tried to approach her; he tried to make friends; I’m pretty sure he asked for a peanut. Each time he hopped closer, she shooed him away, calling him names and ordering him to take flight.He finally took her advice. He flapped his wings and soared—away from his supposed freedom and straight to Judith’s shoulder.The whole episode was laughable, at least at first. Blackie clicked, preened, and nuzzled Judith’s ear, looking happy and completely at home. Goth Girl yelled, waved her arms, and tried to scare him away from afar. “Get out of here before that evil animal terrorist traps you again!”Judith turned toward Goth Girl and shouted, “Shut your trap, you little punk! You’ll scare him.”Blackie ignored them both. He let out a loud caw and flew from Judith’s shoulder to my table, where he landed next to Maggie’s clipboard. He cocked his head forward and stared, transfixed by her shiny keys.“Blackie, no!” Judith yelled.
Her words had no effect. Three quick hops later, Blackie leaned down and picked up the key ring. Judith snatched Bella’s bag of dog cookies, grabbed a large handful, and threw. Miniature goats rained to the ground in a five-foot radius.“Look, Blackie! Treats!”It almost worked.Blackie paused, distracted by the yummy-looking morsels littering the grass. For a split second, he dropped the keys.
Judith lunged, faster than I would have thought possible for a seventy-five-year-old woman with obvious arthritis. But before she could reach him, Blackie picked up the key ring again, looped it securely around the bottom half of his beak, and took flight, carrying his treasure off into the distance.Crows cawed from every direction, as if celebrating his victory. A half-dozen dropped down to clean up the plunder. By the time I looked back at Blackie’s cage, Goth Girl had disappeared.

About Karma’s a Killer:
Yoga instructor Kate Davidson is about to discover that when it comes to murder, there’s no place like om. When she agrees to teach doga—yoga for dogs—at a fundraiser for Dogma, a local animal rescue, Kate believes the only real damage will be to her reputation. But when an animal rights protest at the event leads to a suspicious fire and a drowning, a few downward-facing dogs will be the least of Kate’s problems…
The police arrest Dharma, a woman claiming to be Kate’s estranged mother, and charge her with murder. To prove Dharma’s innocence, Kate, her boyfriend Michael, and her German shepherd sidekick Bella dive deeply into the worlds of animal activism, organizational politics, and the dangerous obsessions that drive them.
And if solving a murder weren't complicated enough, Kate will also have to decide whether or not to reconcile with the estranged mother who abandoned her over thirty years ago. Not to mention having to contend with an almost-bankrupt animal rescue, a cantankerous crow, an unwanted pigeon houseguest, and a rabbit in a doga class. What could possibly go wrong?
A taut tale with more twists and turns than a vinyasa yoga class, Karma’s a Killer brims with suspense, wit and whimsy. With a to-die-for plot, sensational storyline, and charming characters—of both the two- and four-legged varieties—Karma’s a Killer is a clever, colorful, and utterly captivating cozy mystery.

Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series.  The first book in the series, Murder Strikes a Pose, won the Maxwell Award for Fiction and was nominated for the Agatha award for Best First Novel.
A certified yoga therapist, Tracy is the owner of Whole Life Yoga, a Seattle yoga studio, as well as the creator and director of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any way possible.
Tracy and her husband Marc live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German Shepherd, Tasha. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. 
Karma’s a Killer is her third novel. For more information on Tracy and the Downward Dog Mysteries, visit her author website: http://TracyWeberAuthor.com/

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Throwback Thursday a Day Early! Solving the Mystery of EPI with Tracy Weber

"Including a dog with EPI in my series was no accident. Like most fiction authors, my primary goal is to entertain. To immerse my readers in a world they would otherwise never experience. But that’s not my only goal. My secondary, not-so-secret goal is to spread awareness of EPI and provide hope to owners of animals impacted by the condition."
Tracy Weber will share an excerpt from her brand new Downward Dog Mystery, Karma’s a Killer, on Sunday. In the meantime, we're flashing back to her post "Fact in Fiction: Solving the Mystery of EPI," which ran April 19, 2015.

Fact in Fiction: Solving the Mystery of EPI

Bella, the German Shepherd hero in my Downward Dog Mystery series, is very special dog. Like most heroes, Bella is brave, loyal, and willing to make great sacrifices to protect those she loves. But her heroism isn’t the only thing that makes Bella special. Like my own German shepherd Tasha, she lives with an autoimmune disease called Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI).

One of the many unwritten rules I follow when writing a cozy mystery is that no animals shall ever be harmed. Bella will be no exception. But “not harmed” doesn’t mean “not challenged.” In Bella’s case, her challenge is a significant, lifelong, yet manageable health condition.
Keiara in agility. When
she was diagnosed, she
had lost so much muscle
she couldn't walk
Including a dog with EPI in my series was no accident. Like most fiction authors, my primary goal is to entertain. To immerse my readers in a world they would otherwise never experience. But that’s not my only goal. My secondary, not-so-secret goal is to spread awareness of EPI and provide hope to owners of animals impacted by the condition.
EPI is an autoimmune disease that destroys the exocrine cells of the pancreas—the cells that produce digestive enzymes. Without digestive enzymes, EPI-dogs can no longer digest food, no matter how high the quality. Symptoms begin manifesting when the pancreas is 90% destroyed, at which time the dog starts losing significant weight.

Izzy, 6 years after EPI diagnosis
and doing great
The disease is primarily diagnosed in adolescent German Shepherds, but it can occur in any breed, even in cats and sometimes in humans. With lifelong treatment, an animal with EPI can live a basically normal life. EPI dogs go on to be search and rescue dogs, agility champions, therapy dogs, and cherished companions. Without treatment, those same dogs would literally starve to death.
The true tragedy of EPI lies not in the illness itself, at least not in most cases. It lies in the lost lives of dogs that were needlessly euthanized, either because EPI was never diagnosed or because owners falsely believed that they couldn’t afford the animal’s lifelong treatment. While this may have been true in the past, today treatment is much more affordable. Enzyme co-ops can furnish the needed medicine at one-third retail cost, and multiple online support groups have formed that coach owners through the frustrating trial-and-error beginning stages of treatment.
Tasha, still thriving at 10 years old
My own girl Tasha was diagnosed at age two, after losing twenty-five pounds in a month. As I watched her waste away in the weeks before diagnosis, I was convinced that I would soon lose her. Six months after we started treatment, she reached her goal weight of one hundred pounds, which she has maintained for the past eight years. No one who sees her now would guess that she has a wasting disease. Her vet has even nicknamed her “Fatty.”
Strangers used to chastise me because they wrongly assumed I was starving my dog.  Now they stop to tell me how gorgeous she is, even at age ten.  The same can be true for the vast majority of dogs with this condition.
A simple blood test can determine whether or not an animal has EPI. If you or someone you know owns a dog with the following symptoms, ask your vet if a Serum Trypsin-Like Immunoreactivity (TLI) test might be appropriate.
If your dog is a German shepherd, insist on it. 
Symptoms of EPI Include:
Caesar, 3-year-old Spanish Mastiff
  • Rapid weight loss in spite of a voracious appetite
  •  Frequent elimination of greasy, malformed, often yellow-colored stools
  • Rumbling sounds in the abdomen
  • Pica (eating of inappropriate substances)

If you have questions about EPI, please feel free to contact me at Tracy@WholeLifeYoga.com. Be sure to check out the website EPI4dogs. The before and after pictures will astound you.
Sometimes all it takes is information—and hope—to save a life.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at all of these gorgeous animals, each thriving with EPI.


Tracy Weber is the author of the award-winning Downward Dog Mysteries series featuring yoga teacher Kate and her feisty German shepherd, Bella. Tracy loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible. The second book in her series, A Killer Retreat, was released January, 2015 by Midnight Ink.
Tracy and her husband live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. 

Visit her at TracyWeberAuthor.com, friend her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tracywe, or e-mail her at Tracy@WholeLifeYoga.com

Sunday, December 20, 2015

I Want My Sleep Back by Jacki Skole

When my younger daughter was an infant, she didn’t sleep. Not at night. Not at nap time. What she did was cry, especially in the evening, so I took it upon myself to diagnose her with colic. Thus, I had an explanation for why she cried and why there was nothing I could do to stop it.
The colic eventually passed, as did her habit of rising before the sun. She never took to napping, at least not until she went to daycare and was under somebody else’s watch. It took several years, but now she sleeps like a champ.
Over that long haul, I came to savor a good night’s sleep. And I’ve become adept at getting one.
But recently, Galen has started messing with my beauty rest.
When Galen was a puppy, Kevin and I let her hang out on our bed while we watched TV or read, but she slept in a pen in the corner of the bedroom. As she got older, she became less interested in the pen, so we took to bribing her with American cheese. One night, she refused the bribe. She looked at me, looked at the cheese, and didn’t move. I put the cheese under her nose so she could get a good whiff. Nothing. I picked her up, put her in the pen, gave her the cheese, and turned out the light.
Almost immediately, whining. Kevin and I ignored it. More whining. More ignoring. The whining got louder. Is a dog like a baby, we wondered? Should we let her whine it out? If we did, would she wake our daughters? How many nights would it take? Because we each had work the next day, we let Galen back onto the bed. We agreed to take a hard line over the weekend.
The weekend came and went.
Once Galen sensed she was on the bed to stay, she left the no-man’s land at the foot of the bed to nestle her fifty-eight pound frame up against Kevin. That proved problematic, because Kevin doesn’t sleep well. He tosses and turns and wakes during the night. Having nearly sixty pounds of dead weight inhibiting all that movement made his pursuit of zzz’s all the more challenging. He started threatening to put Galen back in the pen; she would whine, he said, but she would get over it.
I cringed. When we wanted our daughters to sleep through the night, we let them cry. But for some reason, I couldn’t do that to Galen.
Perhaps I should have.
A few weeks ago, Galen settled into a new night-time routine. She jumps off our bed at lights out and retreats to the family room to curl up in her crate. Then, around 4:40 a.m.—I think the delivery of our newspaper must wake her—she returns, lies next to me, and because I’m a side sleeper, she whacks me on the back with her paw. I give her head or belly a quick rub. When I stop, she whacks me again. And again. Until I pet her. If I stop, whack. This goes on until my alarm goes off.
If Galen persists, I may be inclined to do something I’ve repeatedly said I do not want to do: I might have to cancel the newspaper.
Jacki Skole is an award-winning journalist and adjunct professor of communication. She launched her journalism career at CNN, first as a news writer, then as a producer in the network’s documentary unit; she’s also produced programs for Animal Planet and HGTV.
Jacki lives in New Jersey with her husband and three daughters—two human, one canine. It is Galen, Jacki’s canine daughter, who inspired the journey that resulted in DOGLAND.

Helpful Links:
DOGLAND on Amazon
Twitter @JackiSkole

Facebook fan page

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The True Story of Mindy Moo the Monkey Dog

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

I don’t write about animals, but with two neurotic cats and a very prissy little dog – all rescues from horrific situations – I live with them all the time.

Mindy is a small 12 pound blonde dog who is half terrier mix and half pure diva. As far as she is concerned the house and everything in it – except perhaps our bossy little tuxedo cat Squeaky Boots – belongs to her. She has as many toys as the average day care center, and no matter how often I pick up they litter the floor like a minefield.

It wasn’t always so, though. When my husband returned from his last Iraqi deployment I told him it was time to get another dog, as our beloved little poodle had died just before he shipped out. We went down to East Lake Pet Orphanage, where we get all our animals, and asked to see a little dog. We were told they only had one, and she was spoken for by a woman who was coming to pick her up in a few days.

I asked if we could just play with the little dog for a while. Knowing that my husband had just returned from a war zone, they happily agreed and put us in an empty room. When Mindy came in I knew instantly that she had to be ours. She was hesitant and darling and wearing one of the ugliest dog dresses I had ever seen. We played with her for half an hour, each minute making me feel ever more strongly that she was our dog.

When the adoptions lady – whom we had known for years – came back, I started negotiating, doing everything in my power to get this dog. She was sympathetic but firm, saying that this other woman had been talking to them for over a month about Mindy, and that there was no way we could have her.

I don’t know why, but I looked her straight in the eye and said, “When she calls and tells you she doesn’t want the dog, we do and she is ours.”

The lady was startled, but politely insisted that it wasn’t going to happen. I repeated my order again. I ended up doing it four more times, each time more forcefully, every time she told me that it wasn’t possible. Finally – just to shut me up, I’m sure – she took my cell phone number and promised to call if the other woman called and decided not to take the dog. Obviously she didn’t believe it was going to happen.

The orphanage is exactly 4.4 miles from our house. We hadn’t even gotten home when my cell phone rang. It was the adoptions lady, her voice shaky and full of awe when she told me the woman had just called and she had decided not to take Mindy. I smiled and told her we’d pick our new baby up at 10 the next morning.

Oddly enough, from then until she left several years later, the adoptions lady made sure she was never alone with me again. I heard that the incident had freaked her out quite badly and she almost believed I was a witch. I’m not, but if I did do something to change the path of the cosmos I wish I knew how I had done it. It could be a useful skill!

Mindy has an unfortunately tragic history. Someone found her stumbling along a road, so starved she was almost too weak to walk, her claws overgrown so badly that they had punctured a couple of her pads. The worst thing was, she was judged to be only about eight months old – and she was lactating. The person who found her was a good person, for they searched for her puppies, but could never find them. He took her to East Lake, which has a wonderful medical system for their orphans. They saved Mindy medically, but she was so depressed that they wouldn’t even show her for possible adoption for almost four months for fear she wasn’t going to survive.

No trace of that pathetic creature remains. Mindy is active, bossy, loving, fun – a wonderful little dog. Her only failing – if you can call it such – is that she hates big dogs. When we go walking small and medium-sized dogs rate only a bark-bark, sniff-sniff, wag-wag and then all is cool. Big dogs – she goes into stealth mode. Not a sound, but suddenly she is latched onto their throats and growling for all she is worth. The big dogs in our neighborhood know to respect her – as do their owners – and steer clear. One of the funniest sights I’ve ever seen is an enormous Harlequin Great Dane – roughly the size of a small pony – literally dragging his owner to the other side of the street the moment he laid eyes on my tiny 12 pound darling. My personal opinion of such blatant animosity is that when she was out on her own (and Heaven only knows how she got there) she saw a big dog eat her puppies. I cannot imagine anything else that could cause such pure hatred of all big dogs.

Other than that, though, there is no hatred in Mindy. She wags, she plays, she sleeps at my feet while I work, she loves my husband and me devotedly, constantly warning us of sinister postmen and marauding moths. I may not write about her in my books, but I cannot imagine life without her.

PS – Why Monkey Dog? When we pick her up to hold her, she will wrap her forelegs around our arm. On seeing this, one of my friends said, “She looks like a monkey.” It seemed only fitting that she have a name as unique as she is.


Janis Susan May Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes cozy mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances, horror and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and non-fiction and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist. She is a founder of RWA and currently serves on a regional MWA Board.
Janis married for the first time when most of her contemporaries were becoming grandmothers. Her husband, also an Egyptophile, even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.
Find Janis on Twitter @JanisSusanMay and on Facebook at Janis Susan May.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Cooking Up Stories with Author Susan Kroupa

Like most dogs, Doodle, the canine narrator of the Doodlebugged Mysteries, not only loves food but has some strong opinions on the subject. He recently got a chance to share some of those in Cooking Up Stories: Favorite Recipes from the Oregon Writers Network

The brainchild of Louisa Swann and Dayle Dermatis, Cooking Up Stories is a compilation of recipes and brief story excerpts from an extended group of writers who have taken one of the highly regarded Oregon coast workshops taught by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Writers who attend the workshops stay in the Historic Anchor Inn, http://www.historicanchorinn.com/, a time-capsule sort of place, full of intriguing corridors packed with memorabilia from the last half century. And the owners, Kit Ward and Kandi Hansen treat the visiting writers like family, providing gourmet breakfasts and evening snacks for the often exhausted participants. 

Wondering what they could do to repay Kip and Kandi for going the extra mile for workshop guests, Louisa and Dayle came up with an idea: Writers need to eat. Dogs often need to be rescued. And there would be no better way to thank Kip and Kandi than to donate to one of the many animal rescue causes that the two support.

The result was Cooking Up Stories, a cookbook filled with (mostly) easy recipes—the kinds of foods writers might make while working head down on a book. Thanks to the donated efforts of Louisa and Dayle and Lucky Bat Books, all of the proceeds from book sales go to Bark Beach, an annual beach run that raises funds for emergency vet care.
For his part, Doodle was happy to contribute some of his musings on food and eating. Here they are:
From Bed-Bugged 

*I’ve never eaten much chocolate because the bosses insist it’s harmful to dogs. But the tiny bites I’ve had makes me wonder, once again, if they just say that so they can keep it all for themselves. Because it’s really, really tasty.
*Never have understood one word of Chinese which I gather is hard to learn, but it turns out I like the food. My second boss (the bad one) used to bring it home all the time, one of the few good things about living with him.

From Out-Sniffed 

*Piece of cake, as the boss often says. A curious expression, since, although cake is great — love it! —for a dog, at least, getting a piece is not always easy.
*Never understood the human fascination with ice. Cold drinks aren’t my thing, unless it’s water, of course, and then not as cold as ice makes it. And hot drinks — don’t get me started. Room temperature’s the way to go as far as I’m concerned, especially when the cold drinks are things like beer and diet ginger ale.
*I don’t understand why humans like to take forever to eat. Well, actually I do. It’s because they eat a bite, talk, talk some more, eat another bite, talk and talk some more. Really, if they’d just keep quiet and focus they could get through a meal in a reasonable amount of time. Look at us dogs. We don’t take a bite, bark, bark some more, then take another bite. We get the job done. Humans could learn from our example.
From Dog-Nabbed 

*Salsa is always a little tricky. It can be good, but sometimes it can really burn your mouth, so you need to smell it carefully before eating it. Chips are always good, of course.
*As Miguel used to say when he’d give us treats, “hunger makes the best sauce,” which I think means food tastes better if you’ve had to miss breakfast.
Cooking Up Stories can be found in paper and ebook formats on Amazon.com  as well as from most online book retailers.

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. 
Susan 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

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sophie Shapes my World

by Judy Alter

Every night when I’m ready to go to bed, I ask Sophie if she’s ready for bed. She trots to the dog bed next to my bed. We visit and she gets tummy rubs; sometimes I talk over the day with her, sometimes I just tell her what a sweet girl she is. When I say, “Okay, time to go to sleep,” she jumps up and goes to her crate (she’s housebroken but occasionally unreliable). In the morning the first thing I do is let her out of the crate, and we have another little love session, which me scratching her ears. I begin and end my day with my dog.
Sophie is a deliberate, kennel-bred cross of a border collie and a miniature poodle. I badly wanted a Labradoodle but my physician-brother convinced me that a woman of my age with mobility problems does not need a dog that would be eighty lbs. at a minimum. So I opted for a mini-labradoodle and, along with three children and three grandchildren, went to the kennel. The Labradoodle puppies were sweet but sleepy and passive—still only six weeks old. The breeder mentioned she had one Bordoodle and brought out Sophie. She was lively, mischievous, playful and irresistible. We all fell in love.
Sophie is not a perfect dog. In addition to occasional housebreaking mishaps, her unbounded enthusiasm and independent spirit gets us both in trouble. If anybody leaves a door a crack open, she is gone—headed for Canada. The only way to catch her is to drive by and open the car door—she loves cars. Even at thirty-two lbs., she is too strong for me to walk, although a younger neighbor occasionally walks her. She gets her exercise in the yard chasing squirrels. She is stubborn beyond belief—sometimes when I call her to come inside, she looks at me with an expression that says, “Really?” And doesn’t move. But she can be bribed with a treat.
She loves people and dogs but is sometimes wild in her greetings, bad about jumping on guests, until she calms down—which, now four, she eventually does. She has her favorites—my daughter and my grandson, a neighbor, the neighbor who tends my yard, almost anyone who gives her attention. Her fans, besides me, are legion.
Because I work at home, Sophie and I spend a lot of time alone together. She’s fierce about protecting me from unseen enemies—about half the time I can’t figure out what sets her off. In her crate, she is silent—off duty, as one neighbor says. If nothing alarms her, she’ll sleep in the easy chair in my office while I work. If I go to the kitchen, she follows, watching from a respectful distance in the dining room. If I nap, she goes to the dog bed. She is my shadow, giving me a much-needed sense of companionship by following me, staying wherever I am. Sometimes I talk over my problems with her—she’s an attentive listener.
She’s also the most vocal dog I’ve ever known. Many intonations and tones, from deep growls to almost a howling, that make us all wish we could speak “dog.” She so earnest about what she says to us. I answer conversationally and that sometimes satisfies her.

I cannot imagine life without a dog. Through a lifetime filled with dogs, I’ve loved them all—but Sophie is special. 


An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, Danger Comes Home, Deception in Strange Places, and Desperate for Death. She also writes the Blue Plate Café Mysteries—Murder at the Blue Plate Café, Murder at the Tremont House and the current Murder at Peacock Mansion. Finally, with the 2014 The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries.
Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame.
Judy is retired as director of TCU Press, the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of seven. She and her dog, Sophie, live in Fort Worth, Texas.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Interview with DOGLAND Author Jacki Skole

Tell us about your latest book.
DOGLAND: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Dog Problem intertwines two stories. The first details my search to find the person who surrendered my dog to a North Carolina shelter when she was only six weeks old; the second examines our country’s dog problem and seeks solutions to fix it.
For many people, the notion that America has a dog problem is hard to fathom when nearly forty percent of U.S. households include at least one dog. And when those of us who live with dogs spend several billion dollars on them each year, fulfilling their needs (food and veterinary care) and our wants (canine massages, monogrammed sweaters, and diamond—yes diamond!—dog collars). It’s not an overstatement to say that many pets live lives we, humans, can only dream of living. Yet animal welfare groups say shelter euthanasia remains the leading cause of death for America’s canines. And ninety-percent of those killed, they say, are healthy, adoptable, and would make great pets. 

What was it about the subject that inspired you to write?
I didn’t set out to write a book so much as I set out to discover why the puppy I adopted from a small rescue organization seemed unusually submissive and fearful of men, and why she—a dog from North Carolina—was up for adoption in a New Jersey garden-supply store.
At the time I began to dig for answers, I was in the midst of a career crisis: Should I pursue a doctoral degree in education? Could I be content as a stay-at-home mom and adjunct instructor, teaching just a few communications classes each semester? What was my purpose?
As I uncovered little bits about Galen’s past and learned about the scope of the dog problem in the United States, I realized there was a story that needed telling—not just about all the healthy and adoptable dogs being killed in shelters (that story’s been told), but about what’s being done—and what more can be done—to save lives and stop the killing.
I now had my purpose.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and how did you overcome it?
I think it’s hard to choose the “biggest” challenge as there are so many hurdles a writer encounters. In my case, being a journalist, the initial challenge I faced was simply getting people to talk to me. I had to persuade animal shelter directors who’d seen their shelters skewered in the media—sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly—to allow me in. I had to persuade an animal rescuer-turned-hoarder to share her story because hoarding by people who start out in rescue is a growing problem. I had to persuade rescue groups and animal welfare organizations that are often distrustful of outsiders that they could trust me.
How did I get over these hurdles? By being upfront about my intention to tell the story honestly and above all, that I was motivated to seek solutions, not to place blame.
Of course, once I’d done my reporting and knew I had a story to tell, I had to figure out how best to tell it.
And then there’s finding an agent—I was unsuccessful at that. And a publisher—I succeeded there, thanks to an article in Writer’s Digest urging writers—especially debut authors—not to overlook small, independent presses. It was that article that led me to Ashland Creek Press. The press’s commitment to environmental and animal themes makes it an ideal home for DOGLAND.

Tell us about your pets, or other animals that inspire you.
I have no doubt that had my family not adopted Galen, I would not have written DOGLAND.
From Galen’s earliest days with us, I found myself comparing everything about her—her submissive personality, her physical features, her actions—to our previous dog, Gryffin. I even started a blog called she’s a dork where I posted vignettes about her quirkiness.
Like Galen, Gryffin had been a rescue. And he, too, had personality quirks that I wondered about, but I’d never thought to investigate his past. There was simply something about Galen that compelled me forward.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask?
I know that not everyone who reads interviews about DOGLAND will go on to read the book, so an important question to be asked—and to be answered—is this: How can someone not involved with animal welfare get involved and help save lives? 
There are numerous ways; it’s simply a matter of finding one that works for you. Here are some suggestions:
·         I am donating all the proceeds from sales of DOGLAND to the extraordinary non-profit programs profiled in the book. These programs survive—and thrive—on donations. Any amount of money you can donate to an animal welfare organization—be it one in the book, your local animal shelter, a rescue group, a low-cost spay/neuter clinic—will be used to save lives.
·         You can foster a shelter dog. Fostering socializes a homeless pet, readying him to be adopted into his forever home. Not only that, fostering opens up shelter space for another dog. Unfortunately, some shelters are so crowded, they euthanize healthy, adoptable dogs to make space for incoming ones.
·         You can volunteer at your local shelter. Volunteering can include taking dogs for walks. This means you get your exercise while doing the important work of walking and socializing a homeless Fido.
·         Adopt your next dog from an animal shelter or rescue, and encourage want-to-be-dog owners you know to do the same.
·         Join Facebook and follow your local shelter and local animal rescues. When they post photos of dogs who need homes, share those dogs with your own social network.

Jacki Skole is an award-winning journalist and adjunct professor of communication. She launched her journalism career at CNN, first as a news writer, then as a producer in the network’s documentary unit; she’s also produced programs for Animal Planet and HGTV.
Jacki lives in New Jersey with her husband and three daughters—two human, one canine. It is Galen, Jacki’s canine daughter, who inspired the journey that resulted in DOGLAND.

Helpful Links:
DOGLAND on Amazon
Twitter @JackiSkole
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