Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Free Preview: Preface and Promo Price

Gracie as a pup - a pic included in book - yes there's pictures!

In order to help spread word about the book, we will be offering a promo price on the Kindle version for a few days: Kindle book promo.

Also a reminder, if you don't Kindle, there are free apps available to download Kindle onto any wifi enabled device, including your laptop, tablet, or phone for that matter. I personally wouldn't want to read a book on a phone but then, I'm old by modern technology standards. Funny, but I don't feel outdated....

Lil and Gracie

Also a bit more about the book. While part of it is about Gracie and the process she and I went through finding each other and adjusting to life together, this story is paralleled by a history of how Bondogges became Bull and Terriers, became Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, and Bulldogs; tips for choosing a dog that suits one's own lifestyle; traveling safely with a dog; choosing how to leave a dog when you have to travel without him/her; making arrangements for a dog in case one is ever ill etc.

To set the book up though, I thought I'd include an excerpt - the Preface.

Every Story has a Dog

It seems all the stories I find most compelling in life are dog stories.
         My own life with dogs starts with my earliest memory. I am under two years old, sitting in the backseat of the family car, in the dark. Outside I can see a bonfire: I am aware that it is night, that we are in the country, that I am up later than usual, and that it is cold enough that I have to wear my jacket. The car-door to my left opens and my father’s arm reaches in, placing a box on the floor of the car. I crouch on the spacious back seat  and peer over the edge into the box. My blue eyes meet a pair of dark eyes set in a fuzzy brown face with a lovely white blaze. I feel an immediate connection that I've never felt before. I have just locked eyes with my first kindred spirit. It would turn out this was Champ, a farm collie who would grow up to become iconic in my memory.
         My life has been filled with reading about and working with dogs. No matter what else has been happening, no matter where I've gone to school, worked, or struggled, dogs have always been a significant part of my life. I learned to train dogs and discovered I did well rehabilitating difficult dogs and have had some success with turning unwanted dogs into desirable companions. A few particularly challenging dogs became my permanent family members. We understood each other. Like so many people I found my life experiences were preparing me for new and greater challenges. To get to the point where I was ready for Gracie and being a companion suitable to living with an English Bull Terrier though, it is helpful to know something of my background with terriers.
         Wee Bonnie Lass. She was my first  German terrier, a Miniature Schnauzer of definite opinions. At the time Bonnie entered my life I was living with my grandparents, a young adult trying to provide at-home care for a grandmother who was slipping away into Alzheimer’s disease. Grandpa wasn't ready to see that Grandma needed care we couldn't provide. He wasn't ready to see she was sick. My grandparents’ adult children, including my mother, aunts and uncle were not ready to step in and declare that something had to be done. I was young but I understood that everyone needed more time to come to terms with what was happening.
A big part of what I did was just keeping Gram and Grandpa alive. I got up during the night and turned the stove off after Gram got up and turned it on, sometimes in vague memories of cooking – I would find pots with a mix of flour and other incongruous dry goods in a pot, on the stove and forgotten. I made sure the matches she lit and dropped on the carpet next to the fireplace didn't catch the rug on fire. I went after her when she tried to dart into traffic when we were shopping in town, or when she ran away from home because she’d again become convinced that she was the victim of kidnapping. While I managed all this I found it stressful, particularly since my immediate family was across the country and my nearest aunts and uncles were five hour’s drive away.
         I ended up doing what I always do when I get too distressed with life, I looked for a canine companion to help me manage. While my grandparents had a big, long haired, middle aged retriever-collie mix, she was allowed to run free in the area and spent much of her day outside, showing up with Grandpa in the evening for dinner and to join him in front of the fire for the evening. I wanted company during the long, lonely days when Gram would putter away, lost in her own world and disinterested in interacting. I found advertisements in the paper for two litters of puppies; one was Basset Hounds, the other Miniature Schnauzers. I seriously considered both but then realized, since I would eventually be flying back across the country to where my parents and younger siblings lived, I ought to get a dog that would be smallest and therefore least expensive to transport. I convinced my grandfather to take me to see the Schnauzer pups. It was Grandpa’s one big silent thanks to me that he bought me one of the pups, since he thought paying for dogs was absurd. That’s when Bonnie entered our lives.
Bonnie had gotten me through the time with my grandmother and then saw me into my first independent adult years. Within two months of her death due to heart failure, Wills, a black male Miniature Schnauzer, found his way into my life. Wills was with me as I headed to graduate school, moved between Canada and the U.S. and through my initial diagnosis with disabilities. There were many days that seemed just plain rotten back then – including the day the rescued Boxer we lived with was initially diagnosed with cancer – and Wills was my little rock. He and I did have disagreements but honestly, his temperament turned out to be much more biddable than Bonnie’s ever had been and he was considerably less bossy. He had the same attitude about his role in the world though, and remained convinced that he was always top dog in the house, even when we adopted a Rottweiler-Lab mix who was under-socialized, cage bound, and uncertain of people. I knew we could manage this new dog, Sam, when Wills rushed his face and Sam just raised his head and wagged his tail with a bit of hesitation, as if to say, “Sorry, did I give offense?”

Bonnie and Wills – they were such a large part of my life, not just by the years we marked together, but by the events we went through. A person has to realize this in order to realize why my life was open to Gracie.

Wills with Friend


NOTE: I'm still taking names from people who would be interested in winning a copy of the book - you know, the old fashioned kind of book that doesn't shatter when you throw it across the room to get someone's attention. Just mention your interest in the comment section. And Beth from the Daily Dog Tag - your copy is on the way!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dog or animal books you've enjoyed?

When I was growing up my earliest favorite books featured animals. My very favorites tended to be books I could read alone...exceptions being Winnie the Pooh and Charlotte's Web, which mom read to me.

Reading alone was a big deal for me because I'm dyslexic and early reading was always mom reading to me and me pretending I knew words. What complicated the process included the fact that this was before dyslexia was commonly known and the school people just thought I was slow.

I think my first favorite, I-read-alone book was, Farley Mowat's The Dog who Wouldn't be. If I'm not misremembering I ordered my copy through a Scholastic Book order. I ordered it and I paid for it, - I had my first job at age 10 and my money was usually spent on books like this.

I think I read this book just before my family moved to Canada - Mowat is a Canadian writer and Canadians have a different relationship with their writers then Americans do. Mowat, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Alice Monroe, Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence, W.O. Mitchell - they largely informed my sensibilities of what it was to be a writer and set my standards for what good writing is.

I also had a great deal of contact with books and writers from the UK growing up in Canada; writers from the UK were the next biggest impact on my reading and writing. Gerald Durrell's stories of both his youth and his adult activities establishing the first wildlife preserve captivated me.

 Durrell established the first real nature preserve, his idea from the beginning was to make his sanctuary a place that was built for the animals first, with human viewers being a secondary concern. It's been years since I read Durrell and I sometimes wonder what I would think of his books now - I do know he impacted my choice to be a conservationist, which was the first specialization I studied in university and the basis for my Bachelor's degree.

Of course, I loved James Herriot from the moment I read his first book. I read the early shorter books to begin with, then had to have the collected editions.

I continued to follow Herriot's writing career as he and I both aged,  and read everything I'm aware of that he wrote. It's possible I've missed a children's collection of stories somewhere but I do own Moses the Kitten and Only One Woof. I didn't mind that they were pulled from his books that I already owned and read - I enjoyed the illustration and slight editing.

I actually did not enjoy some of the classics, such as Black Beauty (I will no longer willingly read a book where an animal suffers throughout the story.) Good writing creates very vivid pictures in my mind and some pictures I just can't stand to see much of.

And I didn't just read animal stories. I read Edgar Allen Poe and Agatha Christie; I picked and chose among Charles Dickens works - very fond of A Christmas Carol, really couldn't get into Great Expectations, and found Oliver Twist a compelling read, in part I think because I was young when I read it (the capricious differences between adults in a child's world seemed pretty accurate to me.)

I think it remains the animal books though, that I remember most fondly of all the books I've read. I'm hoping at least a few people who stop by here will take the time to share some of the animal books and/or writers they've enjoyed reading over the years.

And to those of you who loved Black Beauty, I'm sorry, I don't mean to diss your book - it just wasn't to my taste. I do understand it is an important book though, because not everyone realized or thought about the abuse of animals. This was a socially significant book and props to Anna Sewell for opening people's eyes.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bull Terrier Video: The making of a book trailer

Book publicity is no easy thing :-)

So I'm trying my hand at a "book trailer" which is a YouTube video allowing people an idea of what they will find in the book.

This is our first YouTube endeavor so hopefully it does the job it is meant to do - which I think is mainly to give potential readers an idea of what the book will include.

Gracie's video - respelled :-)

And yes - the entire dog family is in the book, Labrador, Collie as well as another Bull Terrier (Gracie's 1/2 sister Katie) - Gracie is just the diva of the group.

{Okay - don't tell the Chihuahua but the book takes place before he joined the family, so he isn't actually in it...next time!}

The book is now available at Amazon
and is eligible for Prime members to borrow for free!

Remember, if you'd like to enter our drawing to win a copy of the book, please leave a comment letting us know that!

Note: Thanks to Cate who pointed out to the dyslexic writer her latest and greatest errors - which the new version of the video fixed (ending credits are - I think - finally spelled correctly.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

English Bull Terrier Book: Gracie's Memoir

We're so excited!

Okay, I'm so excited - Gracie is considerably less so. Maybe if she understood that this could mean an increase in her treat supply she might be more enthusiastic.

After a considerable amount of work we are able to make available Gracie's Memoir. Or more accurately, my memoir of how Gracie came into my life, some of the lessons she's taught me, what life was like when we temporarily fostered her 1/2 sister Katie, and how Lil came into our world after Katie moved to her forever home.

As fascinating as I find Gracie specifically, and English Bull Terriers in general, I also recognize that they are decidedly not a breed for everyone. One of the things that always concerns me when a book comes out featuring a dog of an identifiable breed is that some readers will, based on the book, think that they ought to run out and acquire a member of that breed. In order to better serve Gracie's public, the chapters about her life are inter-mixed with chapters about finding a dog that is suitable to the reader's lifestyle; history and development of the breed - (because where a breed comes from can be telling about what they are suited for); how to do some basic temperament testing when adopting a dog - and other tidbits that can be helpful to anyone considering adding a dog to their family or wanting some more tips about successfully living with dogs.

And as I always do, I try to reflect on our lives with some humor and the warning, "Don't necessarily do what I do - learn from my mistakes!" So hopefully even if you already have an encyclopedic knowledge of dogs, and never want to live with a Bull Terrier, you might still find this a fun read that simultaneously allows you to be thankful you live with the dog(s) you do, rather than with us.

My goal in writing this wasn't just to share our life-lessons; this book is also a reflection on how "dog people" have lives that are richer and more interesting because we are blessed with canine companions. Face it, it's just hard to be bored when you live with a dog. Or to feel completely unloved when you have at least one being in the world who thinks you ROCK because you can put food in a bowl and take walks.

I would like to give some copies of the book away to people who would be interested in reading it and leaving feedback on our Amazon page, as well as to at least one person who blogs and would be willing to review the book.
Please leave a comment in the discussion section letting me know you are interested in winning a copy.

I will give one copy to someone who is a reader willing to comment; one copy to a fellow blogger who is willing to consider writing a review on their blog. I think I'll attach the names of interested parties to individual dog biscuits and let Gracie do the selecting. I promise - all biscuits will be of equal quality, size, shape. Let's allow two weeks for people to enter - so the contest will close on March 5 at 1:00 p.m. EST.

Since the book is available through Amazon, if you live in a country that Amazon delivers to, you can enter - you just have to be willing to give me your address if you win.

The book can be ordered now through Createspace:  Book order
and will be available between February 23 - 25 on Amazon.
We're also making it available as a free download for those who belong to Amazon Prime's lending library program.(Remember non-Kindle owners, you can now view Kindle books on any computer etc. by downloading the free Cloud Reader app.)

Thanks in advance to all who express interest!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dachshund: The Badger Dog Needs more Homes


Dachshund Rescue of North America reminds us that not only are doxies waiting in rescue, there are senior doxies, who at this very moment are waiting for their special someone to discover them and take them home. One doesn't have to be in North America however, to adopt a Dachshund. This sturdy, strong dog can be found throughout the world. We all know, where there are dogs, there are dogs waiting to be adopted into safe and loving homes.

 The Dachshund is a rugged, solid dog and I think people sometimes forget that these feisty, loyal dogs are hounds - hard working, brave hounds who were bred to fight a badger to the death if necessary.

Actually, two sizes of Dachshund were developed; the larger dogs hunted not just badgers but sometimes even boars, while the smaller variety would hunt rabbits and sometimes fox. Eventually three coat types developed: Wired, Short, and Long. The coat types and large range of colors can be found in both the standard and miniature variety.

Fortunately, most of us no longer live in a way that requires us to root badgers off our farms or hunt hares for our dinner. And equally fortunate, this is a breed that is well suited to being a family companion. Very devoted to their people, this is a loyal and trainable breed. Given the strong personality this is a breed that also should be given positive socialization and training from a young age.

They may not be tall but the doxie is a willing watch dog and can be suspicious of strangers, particularly if they are not given adequate socialization from a young age. Like most hounds though, this is a breed with eyes that showcase sensitive souls; they long for regular human companionship and will pine if left alone too frequently. Doxies need quality time with their people.

Originally the breed had a longer leg. As their height has decreased, while their back has if anything increased in length, there has developed a tendency for medical problems with their spine. This breed is a poster-dog for providing a set of steps to allow safer access on/off furniture, including human beds.

They should be discouraged from jumping on and off tall objects - although with their often athletic instincts they are more than willing to jump. This is also a breed that still loves to run and they should be provided with opportunities for safe exercise.

Loyal. Loving. Brave. Don't these sound like ideal characteristics for a family companion? The Dachshund - a mighty dog in a short but solid package.