Thursday, December 22, 2011

My New Friends, Molly and Harley

This will probably be my last blog post of 2011. It's been an extraordinary year! A Dog's Way Home came out in March and has amassed a lot of fans. Abby and Tam's story has brought me many new friends from all over who've written to me to tell me how much they loved the book. That, more than foreign sales and film rights, is what makes all those lonely and sometimes difficult hours at the computer worth while.

I can think of no better way to end the year of blogging than by sharing my most recent friend I've made and her beloved sheltie. Molly read A Dog's Way Home and loved it so much, she did her school book report on it and created this gorgeous painting inspired by the book. Her proud papa, Tom, contacted me and sent me a picture of Molly, her art work, and her sheltie buddy, Harley. Needless to say, his note and photo moved me to tears and made me very proud too!

Tom wrote: "Here is a picture of my Daugter Molly and Harley. Molly did a 5th grade book report on A dogs way home. As part of the report each student had to do a picutre from the story. Molly painted in watercolors a picture of Tam the Sheltie and a Coyote watching the moon over the mountains. Molly got an A on her report she is a very talented artist and has been entered in many comptitons and won a few awards. I am very proud of her (and Harley too)!"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Life With a Sheltie Means..." Winners!

"My turn! No, my turn!"
I had ten wonderful essays and even poems celebrating life with shelties! They were all heartwarming, funny, and passionate about this wonderful breed we share our lives with.

As I read through the essays and poems, I realized there was no way I could choose the three best--they were all "best"! So I figured the fair thing to do was draw three names out of a hat. And who better to do that than my dogs! But the three didn't quite get the concept of lining up and each choosing a name one at a time. I made an executive decision (being their Girl and all) and designated Teddy as the chooser of names. After all, Teddy, at just weeks from being 13, is Senior Dog.

Teddy chooses....
And now to announce the three winners! These three will each receive a signed copy of my book, A Dog's Way Home:

  • Cynthia Anderson 
  • Tina Towers
  • Julie Griffin
I'll be contacting you to get your mailing address so I can send you your book. I would also like to post everyone's essays and poems individually on my blog during the next few months. I will not post your full name or contact information. Please let me know if you prefer not to have your entry posted.

Many thanks to everyone for entering! I'll be making a donation to Sheltie Rescue of Utah for $60.00 in all of your and your shelties' honor.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fido and Friend in Five: Donna McAleer and Col. Thayer!

Donna McAleer
In October, I was asked to be one of three featured authors at the annual fund raiser for the Utah chapter of the American Association of University Women. The three of us were to talk on the theme of finding our passion. The other two authors, both amazing women with recently published books, were Jennifer Jordan and Donna McAleer. As the three of us talked before the program started the subject inevitably came round to dogs. As it turned out, they both have much adored dogs. I knew there was I reason I connected with them both right away!

Now when you first meet Donna, she is rather quiet and just sort of taking in everything around her. So imagine my surprise when I learned straight away that she is a West Point graduate and served as an Army officer! Okay, and not only is she a West Point grad, she finished 4th in the women's bobsled trials for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games team! Donna is also a ski instructor, and inspirational/motivational speaker. In the past, she's also worked as a non-profit executive director, high school coach, and lots of other things.

Donna recently added author to that list of achievements. Inspired by her time at West Point and as a U.S. Army officer, she wrote Porcelain on Steel: Women of West Point's Long Gray Line. Her book is an insider's look at that male-dominated, storied institution that produces leaders for our military and nation. She also presents the long-overlooked history of women at West Point. Porcelain on Steel was the 2010 Gold Medal Winner for the Military Writers Society of America.

Donna, her husband, and daughter Carly, share their home and love of the outdoors in Park City with their faithful companion, Colonel Thayer. Donna took out time from her very busy schedule to talk with me a bit about her very sweet Colonel.

Donna, Carley, Thayer
1. How did you and Colonel Thayer find each other?  At a summer bar-b-que. In the spring of 2000, Ted, my husband and I began talking about getting a dog. Park City, Utah is a dog lover's paradise with lots of trails and open space. Invited to a bbq by my yoga instructor, we met our soon-to-be faithful four-legged companion. At some distance from the grill, several bales of hay made a large circle where two playful puppies wrestled and looked longingly for some human affection and belly scratches. They caught Ted's attention. He asked Natalie, the host, to whom the cute dogs belonged. Natalie explained that the neighbor had an unexpected litter (a mix of Vizula's and yellow labs) and was looking for good homes for the puppies. And then asked if he wanted one! Ted found me and said, "You have got to see these five-week-old puppies looking for a home." Ted turned to me and said emphatically, "We have to take one!" Astonished, I replied, "You are crazy! I'm leaving for a four-week training camp in Lake Placid (for bobsled) in less than a month." He responded, "You never do anything spontaneous. We have to take one. You drive and I'll hold the dog." Some people leave parties with full bellies, with new friends, with a little too much alcohol--we left with a puppy. Upon arriving at home, we realized we had nothing for a puppy. We made a bed out of a box and blanket. The puppy whimpered nearly all night. The next morning I called Natalie to double check that the dog's owner was truly looking for a family. Natalie assured me they were. Then she asked, "What did you name him?" Quickly I responded, "Thayer." After a long pause, she said, "As in Colonel Sylvanus Thayer?" "Exactly," I said. "How do you know about him?" "I'm a direct descendant of his," she said. "Thayer is my middle name" We were meant to be together!

As an aside, Colonel Sylvanus Thayer (June 9, 1785-Sept. 7, 1872) is known as "the Father of West Point." Both Ted and I are graduates of West Point. We wanted our canine companion to have a name of military historic significance. Eisenhower had too many syllables.

2. What makes Thayer's tail wag?  Trail running, hiking, snowshoeing, any flavor of ice cream and moose droppings.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  It's too difficult to pick just one! Call of the Wild, by Jack London, Stetson the Park City Dog, by Jeanne Heil, a wonderfully illustrated book about an abandoned dog who becomes a ski patrol dog in Park City. The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. Enzo, the dog narrator of the book is soul mates with Thayer.

4. If the Colonel could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  That I ran faster and didn't spend so much time in front of an illuminated screen, writing.

5. In five words, tell us what Thayer means to you:  Unconditional love, steadfast companionship, never-ending entertainment and absolute confidence. I tell Thayer everything! (am I permitted to be wordy?)  Yes :)

To find out more about Donna and her really inspiring book, visit her website. Truly, I just touched the tip of the iceberg! To read an in-depth review of her
book check out

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Life With A Sheltie Means..." Contest and Giveaway!

Okay all you sheltie lovers out there, this is your last week to enter! I've had eight entries so far in the essay contest and I want more! As an extra enticement, I'm upping the number of winners who will receive a signed copy of my book to three. I'm also going to donate $5.00 to Sheltie Rescue of Utah for every entry I receive, rather than two dollars.

Your entry can be as an essay, poem, or short story, but it needs to be 350 words or less. Please send a photo of your sheltie(s) along with your entry. I'll be posting these on my blog after the holidays.

Send your entry and photo to

All entries must be received by Dec. 17th! Let's celebrate life with shelties and help other shelties in need!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fido and Friend in Five: Chris Grabenstein and Fred!

Fred and Chris
I've had quite a few "firsts" on Fido and Friend in Five. Gareth and Jack were my first duo from another country. Jeff Crosby was the first author/illustrator I had in the spotlight. And Kate Morgan Jackson was the first editor. Today's spotlight brings yet another first for Fido and Friend in Five: a dog who was a Broadway star! And not only was Fred the dog a stage actor, but his person, Chris, was once an improvisational comedian!

Neither of this duo graces the stage any longer, but that doesn't mean that don't appear in the spotlight (other than this one) from time to time. Chris spent nearly twenty years writing commercials for ad agencies. Some of his commercial spots include 7-Up, KFC, Dr. Pepper, Miller Lite, and others. It was while writing ads that Chris's writing talent was discovered by none other than James Patterson! At that time, Patterson was Chris's Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson Advertising.

Chris's writing career expanded to writing screenplays. He co-wrote the screenplay for the CBS-TV movie THE CHRISTMAS GIFT, starring John Denver. He also wrote scripts for "The Muppets." He has gone on to write award-winning mysteries for both adults and middle grade readers. The Black Heart  Crypt, his latest middle grade mystery, caught my eye and led me to Chris's website where I saw his picture with the most handsome Fred!

Broadway Star!
Fred's story is every bit as amazing as Chris's. Fred was an abandoned puppy trying to survive on the streets in the Bronx when he was taken to a "kill shelter." Fortunately for all of us, Fred was rescued by Hollywood dog trainer, Bill Berloni. Fred was trained to star in the Broadway production of "Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang." When the production closed, Fred moved up to Berloni's Connecticut home and lived with the trainer's other 15 dogs, all of whom have starred on stage and screen and were shelter rescues. We'll find out in our chat with Fred and Chris how Fred came to live in Manhattan with Chris, his wife and two cats. That doesn't mean, though, that Fred has avoided the spotlight. The New York Daily News ran an article about Fred in 2010, and he has his own book, Broadway Tails: Heartfelt Stories of Rescued Dogs Who Became Showbiz Superstars, by William Berloni and James Hanrahan.

Fred in his office
So let's meet this most interesting duo in today's Fido and Friend in Five:

1. How did you and Fred find each other? Thanks to a friend who works in animal rescue with my wife, we were put in touch with famed Broadway animal trainer, Bill Berloni, who volunteers at the New York Humane Society. Fred had just completed a run on stage in the Broadway musical, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" with six other dogs, and wanted his own forever home. We feel very lucky to have a star licking our faces.

Fred & Bernadette Peters
2. What makes Fred's tail wag?  People! Fred loves meeting folks. We call him the mayor of 81st Street.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  I love the story about the dog who waited for his human friend at the train station in Japan every night for years after the man had passed away. (Hachiko: A Dog Story)

4. If Fred could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  He would change my face into a rump roast.

Best Buds Forever
5. Tell us in five words what Fred means to you:  Joyful friend who's always happy.

Many thanks to these two amazing guys for visiting with us on
Fido and Friend in Five! Watch for Chris's new book, RILEY MACK

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lessons from an Old Dog

I live in a town that runs on adrenalin. Road biking, mountain biking, trail running, skate skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding--everybody is going fast, fast, and faster! Everyone in Park City is in training for something, whether it really is the next Olympics or some long-held dream they've had. The results of this is that people here are very fit, keep many orthopedic surgeons hopping, and don't have time to just stop and "visit."

Now as you may or may not know, I was born and raised in the part of the country that perfected the art of "visiting." Folks in the South love to just sit around on the porch or chat on the sidewalk and catch up. We'll talk about anything--the weather, the kids, the parents, the garden, the dogs, local politics--but never money or religion. Sure we may be in a hurry to get somewhere, but never too busy to stop and talk, even if for just a few minutes. So adjusting to this fast town has been a challenge for me.

There's a little walk I do every couple of days with my dogs along a beautiful stream near our house. The last couple of years, I've referred to this particular walk as our "Teddy walk." Teddy is my almost 13-year-old sheltie. He's too old now for long or fast hikes, let alone trail running. But this little amble along the stream suits him just fine. There are soooo many new smells each time we go out, so many things to pee on, and oh, the sun feels good on his back! The other two (younger) dogs chase each other up and down the trail or hunt mice over in the field. I amble along with Teddy, letting his nose do for him what his eyes and ears, and hips can no longer do. What he can do is enough.

For the last several years, I've seen a couple running on this trail along the creek almost every time I've been out on it. No matter what the weather (and we get some pretty horrible weather here at 7,000 feet) they were out running what I suspected was about a 5-mile loop. A quick flip of one hand or a gasping "hello" was about all they slowed down for when they'd see me and the dogs. Although once, the woman said to me as she ran past, "You need to run with those dogs!" Of course, she didn't stop so that I could explain about Teddy. About a week ago, I saw someone walking towards us on the trail. When the person got closer, I realized it was the woman from the running couple--and she was not running! She actually stopped to say hello. She told me she'd had knee surgery six weeks before and was unable to run. She whined and whined about how awful life is without running, and how she just hates getting old.

At one point, she reached down to pet Teddy who was nuzzling her knee. "Why he's really a nice dog, isn't he?" she said. "He is indeed," said I. "He's almost thirteen and can't hear a thing. He can't run and chase the other dogs anymore but he doesn't care. He just loves to be out smelling everything and being with me." We all strolled along the stream for quite a while--the two younger dogs chasing and hunting, Teddy, the woman and I talking and taking in small things. When we got to my house, I said to the woman, "I'm sad for you that you can't run, but I've really enjoyed getting to know you!" She agreed. She reached down again and petted Teddy. "I need to learn from this old boy," she said. "I need to learn to not look back at what I used to be able to do, and just enjoy what I can do."

Amazing how an old dog can teach us new tricks!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanks and Giving

Madison, Brian, Shay
There are so many, many blessings in my life--things I am forever thankful for. I am so lucky to have a wonderful husband and his children who have added a richness to my life I could never have imagined. I am so thankful for my dogs. They have inspired me in so many ways, and have gotten me through many a dark night of the soul. They have also brought people into my life who would otherwise not have crossed my path.

Kate Morgan & Dixie
Cynthia Lord & Milo
I am so very thankful to all the authors and their dogs over the past six months who have taken time out of their busy lives to visit my funny little blog and share their stories. Each and every spotlight has made me laugh, made me nod my head in understanding, and deepened my understanding of what dogs give to us. I hope, in return, answering The Five Fido and Friends questions has given these authors a moment to think of what their dogs mean to them.

Patty MacLachlan & BFFs
Ann Cannon & Zoe
I wish everyone--two footed and four footed--a peaceful holiday filled with thanks and giving.
Me and The Pack

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fido and Friend in Five: Cat Urbigkit and Rena!

Cat Urbigkit
In a book I read and loved this year, A Dog's Purpose, a young dog goes through several life times wondering just what his purpose is in life. Now, I personally believe every dog's purpose is to show us what unconditional love is. But there are dogs who are born knowing exactly what their purpose in life is. Cat Urbigkit's dog, Rena, is one of those. She is an Akbash--one of several breeds of dog who's purpose in life is to protect livestock. Cat's latest children's book, The Guardian Team: On the Job with Rena and Roo, follows two very different creatures--a dog and a burro. Roo is an orphaned wild burro taken in by Cat and her husband; Rena is the runt of the recent litter. Through Cat's heartwarming text and gorgeous photographs, we witness the two overcome their differences through their mutual passion to protect Urbigkit's  sheep out on the vast Wyoming plains.

Cat has written six award-winning children's books about life out on the plains. These books are beautifully illustrated by her photos and clear, engaging text. Some of her previous books include Path of the Pronghorn, Brave Dogs, Gentle Dogs, and The Shepherd's Trail. Cat lives what she writes about on her ranch in Wyoming. Cat is also the author of a Wolf Watch news blog, and is a contributing writer to Stephen Bodio's Querencia nature blog. You can also view a gallery of her photos on her website.

I caught up with Cat and Rena during rare break in their sheep-tending, ranch duties to talk about their relationship on this week's Fido and Friend in Five:

Rena on the job
1. How did you and Rena find each other?  We raise livestock protection dogs here on our western Wyoming sheep ranch, so I usually have a litter of puppies every year. A few years ago, with the success of my first children's book, Brave Dogs, Gentle Dogs: How They Guard Sheep, I decided I wanted a dog I could take to schools and libraries--and ambassador dog, so people could actually meet a livestock protection dog. I had a litter of seven puppies that year, and there was the sweetest little female pup that I knew people would love. But no, my husband talked me into picking the runt of the litter, Rena, who was always in fights with her siblings. She's sweet with her sheep, but the rest of her family members must face her wrath if she's not happy. For example, if I've done something she doesn't like, Rena will come up behind me and gently bite me on the butt, reminding me that she needed to get even!

A little lamb love
2.  What makes Rena's tail wag?  Rena loves babies of all kinds, but especially baby lambs. Livestock protection dogs have been bred for thousands of years to guard livestock from predators. Rena is no exception when it comes to her adoration and loyal protectiveness for those in need of a guardian. She'll lay down with a ewe that's going into labor, or watch over an orphan lamb I've brought into the house to warm up.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  Is it horrible that my favorites make me cry, every single time I read them? For novels it's Wilson Rawl's Where the Red Fern Grows. For stories, it's Corey Ford's 1964 The Road to Tinkhamtown. Ford's piece can be read on line at

4. If Rena could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  Rena would like me to not screech so loudly and run away when she tries to share her treasures with me. She would like my reaction to be a bit more enthusiastic when she brings me things like dead prairie dogs, or when she tries to rub against me to share the dead-skunk smell she's worked so hard to perfect.

5. In five words, tell us what Rena means to you:  Working partner, mischievous family member.

Thanks so much to Cat and Rena for visiting Fido and Friend in Five! Be sure to visit Cat's website to see more of her photos, find out about her other books, and learn more about the wolves of Yellowstone.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Life With A Sheltie Means..." Contest and Giveaway!

Skylos writing his essay
Okay all you sheltie lovers out there, this is your chance to tell us what makes life with a sheltie so special, and to enter a chance to win a signed copy of A Dog's Way Home, and to help homeless shelties! Tell us in 300 words or less what life with a sheltie means, along with a photo of your sheltie. Three winners will receive a signed copy of my book! And because I adopted two shelties from Sheltie Rescue of Utah, I'll donate two dollars to them for every entry I receive! Make me regret this decision, folks!

To enter, email me your story and photo at  I'll also be randomly posting essays and photos on my blog, so if you'd rather I not post your story, please let me know. The winning essays will be posted. Contest closes midnight December 10th!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fido and Friend in Five: Leda Schubert and Pippa!

Leda Schubert
Every now and then, I toy with the idea of quitting my day job as a librarian and write full time. There are several reasons I haven't done this--one being I really appreciate a regular pay check! Another being if I didn't have a regular job to go to, I have a feeling I'd not only be the Crazy Dog Lady but also a hermit. But a really good reason I haven't quit my day job is I get to see all the wonderful new books (and even order them for our library) that come in. It's like Christmas every day! Leda Schubert's latest picture book, Reading to Peanut, is a perfect example of why I love my job. To see that fun cover and read her wonderful story of a preschooler discovering the joys of reading and writing with (and for) her dog, Peanut, is priceless.

Ballet of the Elephants
Leda Schubert  has written eight picture books for kids, both fiction and nonfiction. More than one has been inspired by her love of animals, particularly dogs. Although she now writes full time and teaches writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, like me, she once had a day job as a librarian. She's probably the first author I've had on my blog who attended Harvard! Leda lives in Vermont with her husband and two dogs, Pippa and Pogo. Let's find out a little bit more about them in this week's Fido and Friend in Five:

Leda and Pippa
1. How did you and Pippa find each other?  She called me on the phone. Okay, no. I saw an ad in the local paper. I believe in mutts, and Pippa is one, though she's supposedly a "designer" dog. You can't fool me though. She's half golden retriever and half poodle, as is her big brother, Pogo. But here's the thing: my dog of a lifetime, Winnie, had died eight months earlier, and I had decided I could never get another dog because losing them is the hardest thing. So, like many others, we went "just to look" at puppies because Pogo was lonely. It turns out when you are a dog person, as you and I are, you need a dog, and then you fall in love all over again.

Too Cold for Frogs?
2. What makes Pippa's tail wag?  Other dogs. Not me. She's extremely independent--almost feral. Her tail wags hardest when she's doing pond maintenance, as we call it. We have a small, muddy, leech-ridden pond, and she spends hours every day, from the time the ice starts to go out in spring (and the water must be about 33 degrees), until it freezes again. Her job seems to be keeping frogs busy jumping and making sure she herself smells foul and is constantly moist. It's actually difficult to tell what she thinks her job is. She's a quiet dog. Other tail wagging? She's not crazy about food. She does have this little piece of fluff she carries around, which we call Little Yellow.  She wags her tail whenever she digs it up from under some cushion somewhere. She thinks she's Little Yellow's mother.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  Oh that's tough. I can no longer read books where the dog dies, which eliminates all the classics, but I did read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle recently (even though the dog does die) and it made me appreciate even more deeply the wonder of dogs. They are the best. I like them more than most people, to be honest. Because I write picture books, here are some favorites: The Stray Dog (Simont), Henry and Mudge (Rylant), Boodil, My Dog (Lindenbaum), Martha Speaks (Meddaugh), Bark George (Feiffer), and of course my own book about Winnie, Winnie All Day Long.

Chillin' with Pogo
4. If Pippa could change just one thing about you, what would it be?  She would change me in to a dog. Really, she would. Or maybe a nine-year-old boy who would run with her and investigate frogs with her all day long.

5. In five words, tell us what Pippa means to you:  Almost more than life itself.

I couldn't agree more, Leda! Thank you and Pippa for visiting my little blog. Be sure to check out the latest on Leda's website and blog. She has another new picture book due out this month! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Museum of the Dog

Original of sheltie at museum
Okay, I just had to share this: I just found out there is a very special place for all us dog people in St. Louis, Missouri called The Museum of the Dog. And here's the really, really cool part--dogs are allowed in the museum. Seriously! Here's a little bit about it from their website:

The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog, located at 1721 S. Mason Rd., in beautiful Queeny Park, West St. Louis County, Missouri, is home to the world's finest collection of art devoted to the dog. The 14,000 sq. ft. facility, which includes historic Jarville House (1853), displays over 700 original paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints, sculptures, bronzes, and porcelain figurines, and a variety of decorative arts objects depicting man's best friend throughout the ages.

Is that not cool?! And it even has a gift shop (oh, I would spend so much money there), a library (oh, I'd spend so much time there), and dog classes there. I must admit, I've never been to St. Louis, but I think I've found a very good reason to go! So if you and your four-legged pal are in need of some culture, check it out. I plan to!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Visiting the South Jordan Library Book Club!

Chloe and Fans
Chloe & Tam
In October, I got to visit with South Jordan Library's Great Reads for Girls book club. They'd just read A Dog's Way Home and were eager to meet the author. And I was eager to meet them! As with the other book clubs I am visiting, my good friend Susan Hamada and her therapy sheltie, Chloe, joined in on the fun. As you can see from the photos, Chloe was (as always) quite a hit!

The girls and their moms asked great questions: Why did you set the book in North Carolina when you live in Utah? Who is your favorite character in the book? Have you ever lost a dog? Are any of the characters based on me? And at the end, we took lots of pictures together and the girls and their families donated treats and toys to Sheltie Rescue of Utah .

Many thanks to South Jordan Library's Paula Burgon for arranging such a splendid visit, and to the Salt Lake County Library System for supporting A Dog's Way Home. And of course, paws up to Susan and Chloe for being such an inspiring team.