Monday, August 26, 2013

Fido and Friend in Five: Kathryn Erskine and Fletcher!

Kathy Erskine, author of National Book Award winner, Mockingbird, was one of the first authors to visit Fido and Friend back in March of 2011, with her dog Maxine.
 Since then, Kathy wrote another best-selling book, The Absolute Value of Mike, and, sadly, lost her precious Maxine.

But times moves on. All dog lovers must have a dog in their lives, while they hold their past dogs in their hearts. It's what our dogs would want from us to honor them: to open our hearts and our arms and our homes to another dog. And that's what Kathy has done. This past year, she and her family welcomed a new dog into their lives, a most handsome Labradoodle named Fletcher.

Kathy Erskine has also written a new book, Seeing Red, which will hit bookstore and library shelves in late September! Seeing Red is the story of twelve-year-old Red Porter, a kid growing up in the early 1970's in small town Virginia. Red recently lost his daddy and everything has changed. Before his daddy died, he was happy just to work in their family garage with him. Now he considers himself the man of the house, even if his mother and brother don't quite see it that way. His relationship with his friends becomes strained, and then there's some family secrets that come to light. As with all her books, Kathy has written another powerful book about family and friendship. This is one I can't wait to read!

Aren't you done yet?
1. How did you and Fletcher find each other?  For the first time ever, we went to a breeder. My daughter seems to have developed allergies so we wanted a Labradoodle, and it's very hard to find one at a shelter or rescue organization, although we tried.

Tired, happy dog!
2. What makes Fletcher's tail wag?  Going to the dog park, playing with neighborhood dogs, attention from anyone, playing fetch, treats of all kinds.

3.  If Fletcher could change just one thing about you, what would that be?  I think he would like me to sit at my computer less. He sometimes sits there and stares at me, and then starts rifling through my inbox. That's when I know it's time to play!

4. What's your all-time favorite dog book?  Well, since I've answered this before and there are so many great dog books out there, I picked your latest, The Dogs of Winter. Talk about a powerful story! And the fact that it's based on a true event--wow! Given how much I love dogs, it's surprising I haven't put one in a novel yet. I'm sure I will, but they may not be stars, like your dogs, Bobbie! (aw shucks)

5. In just five words, tell us what Fletcher means to you:  Activity, laughter, friendship, kisses, joy.
To smell you is bliss...

Thanks so much to the lovely Kathryn Erskine and her new BFF, Fletcher, for spending some time with us today on Fido and Friend in Five. To find out more about Kathy and to read her blog, visit her website!

Friday, August 23, 2013


A few weeks ago, while I was at the huge, annual SCBWI (Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Conference in Los Angeles, my sweet husband went to the Park City Arts Festival. One night while I was in L.A., he emailed me a picture of these windchime sort of things for sale at the festival and said he thought I'd like them. I saw one that said DREAM, and strongly hinted that I would sure love one of those! What better thing to hang in my office, I thought.

When I got home, he had not taken my hint (as husbands are sometimes prone to do), and had gotten me one that said BELIEVE. I will admit to you, I was a bit disappointed. After all, I was a writer, a creative person, a dreamer! "BELIEVE?"

But I will tell you, that one word has been more important to me every day, hanging there in the window at my desk where I work, than Dream ever could have been. Why? Believing is a concrete act that, in this profession, this act of faith, is often in short supply.

I can dream plenty. I can dream of all the many, many books I want to write. I can dream of my editor saying what I've written is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius that needs nary a revision. I can dream of many starred reviews, awards, and interviews on NPR and The Today Show. Dreams are never in short supply.

But very often, believing is. There are days when I look at that word and I try to believe I can actually be disciplined enough to get my butt in the chair, open my laptop (and not my email, and FaceBook, and Twitter) and do the work. There are many days it's all I can do to believe I have any talent at all, anything worthy of anyone's time to read. To BELIEVE I have a story to tell and I'm the one to tell it, to BELIEVE I have not only the skill to tell it but the grit and the heart and determination--that's what is often the hardest thing to do. On those all-too-often days when self-doubt whispers in my ear "who are you kidding?" I look up at that word, BELIEVE, illuminated by the light beyond the window, take a deep breath, try for that moment to believe, and write.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fido and Friend in Five: Joni Sensel and Jazz!

Yes, dear readers, Fido and Friend is back after a bit of a break whilst I was busy with the "Authors for Catherine's Dream Signed Book Auction." Thankfully, it's all pretty much wrapped up, and we raised over $4,000.00!

Joni Sensel is the author of numerous, highly popular middle grade novels Reality Leak (described in Fuse 8 as "Fun and funny"), the gorgeously written historical The Humming of Numbers, and her award-winning fantasy series The FarWalker's Quest, The Timekeeper's Moon, and the latest The Skeleton's Knife. This series follows the quest of forest girl, Ariel, to discover her own mysterious and startling calling.

Joni is also the proud mother of two picture books,
including Bears Barge In and The Garbage Monster.

Like her heroine, Ariel, Joni is a bit of a "FarWalker" too. She's explored the Sahara Desert, New Zealand, France, and the British Isles--places that have inspired her work. In 2008, she set off on her own walking adventure in England and France, where she ended up walking more than 650 miles!

Like me, Joni lives in the west in a house in the woods, and likes to hike with her dog, and has raccoons in her tree and elk in her yard (well, I tend to have moose). Unlike me, Joni also loves to scuba dive and ride her motorcycle, and has mice in her stove vent.

And she has a dog, a wonderful dog named Jazz. Let's meet these two intrepid adventurers in today's Fido and Friend in Five!

1. How did you and Jazz find each other?  I rescued Jazz from a shelter where I'd previously volunteered and where I'd found several other dogs in the past. (The rule is I can only go into the kennel of a dog I'm planning to take home, because otherwise it makes me cry). When we got together in the "get to know you" room, he was more interested in the ball the staff gave him than in me, but he agreed to come home with me anyway. After four years, he still has some issues from his formative
Take me home?
years, but we've come a long way understanding each other.

2. What makes Jazz's tail wag?  Chasing things! Elk preferred, but spawning salmon, squirrels, rabbits, pickup trucks, bicyclists, tennis balls, and sticks will do in a pinch. We try to stay near to the end of that list.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  Boy, I'm dating myself here, but Where the Red Fern Grows.

4. If Jazz could change just one thing about you, what would that be?  He'd give me a gender reassignment, I fear. He likes men more than women.

5. In five words, tell us what Jazz means to you:  Kooky pal who chases laughs.

Kooky friend!
Thanks so much to Joni and Jazz for getting Fido and Friend back
on track! Be sure to visit Joni's website to find out more about her books and her latest adventures!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fido and Friend in Five: Annemarie, Zola and Zar!

Annemarie O'Brien
Tim Jessel's gorgeous cover!
Annemarie O'Brien and I go way back on the long, and sometimes, arduous road to publication. We first met around 2006 at Nancy Sondel's amazing Pacific Coast Children's Workshop, one of the very few writer's conferences just for folks who write fiction for middle grader's and teens. Neither of us had published--yet. She was deep into Vermont College's
 Master's program in writing for children and young adults; I had just written my first novel, The Ring, and was impatient to get published. We met several times again at Nancy's PCCW. While I railed against the rules and difficulties of getting an agent, much less an editor, Annemarie patiently worked and refined her skills and manuscript.

And now here we are! Annemarie's debut novel, Lara's Gift, will hit the bookstores on August 6th, and my humble little blog is the first stop in her blog tour! As she said, it just seems fitting.

Lara's Gift is a beautifully crafted story set in Imperial Russia about the love and devotion between a young girl and her dog. And this is not just any dog: Zar is a borzoi, the hunting dogs of the Tsar himself. Lara is being groomed to do what her family has done for generations: run Count Vorontsov's kennel which provides these stately and noble dogs to the Tsar. The borzois and Lara have a special connection, one that both frightens her and makes her proud, a gift that her father views as an abomination. Will Lara be able to convince her father it is her destiny to run the kennel? Will she be able to convince him that even though Zar is the runt of the litter, he has the courage and heart worthy of a Tsar? The ever-stingy Kirkus reviews gave Lara's Gift a starred review, describing the book as "engrossing and powerful."

Annemarie is able to write so convincingly about Russia and borzois in Lara's Gift because she once lived and worked in the former Soviet Union, and she shares her life with two borzoi, Zola and Zar. Let's kick off Annemarie's blog tour with this very special Fido and Friend in Five!

1. How did you and your dogs find each other?  Both of my borzoi, Zola and Zar, are rescues through their respective breeders. They inspired the fictional characters in Lara's Gift. We found Zeus,
Zola & Zar
our silken windbound (best described as a miniature borzoi) from breeder Cynthia Dell. I fell in love with borzoi when I was gifted a puppy in Moscow where I worked after graduate school. Dasha was like no other dog I'd ever had. I grew up with spaniels and retrievers who wanted to be everyone's pal. Dasha was selective in the people she allowed to pat her on the head, so she made me feel special.

Let's run Mom!
2. What makes Zola and Zar's tails wag?  The leash, my running shoes, and of course, a meat bone!

3. If your dogs could change just one thing about you, what would that be?  That's an easy question. If they could, I'm sure they would snap their paws and make me an instant lottery winner so I wouldn't have to work so much and could take them for more runs!

4. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  This one is hard because there are so many. But I guess I'd have to go back to my kid days and say Lassie Come-Home, Lady and the Tramp, or 101 Dalmations. 
Breed of the Tsars

5. In just five words, tell us what Zola and Zar mean to you:  Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

Love. Love. Love
Okay, so I know after you read this, you're just chomping at the bit to read LARA'S GIFT! So here's your chance to win a free, signed copy! All you need to do to enter a drawing to win a signed copy is leave a comment below and share this post on your fav social media site! Could it be any easier? I'll draw the winning name on August 15th. 

For more opportunities to win a copy of LARA’S GIFT and/or a manuscript critique by Deborah Halverson from Dear Editor, check out these blogs on these dates: Fiction Notes (7/31); Kissing the Earth, Quirk and Quill, or Simple Saturday (8/1); Coffee with a Canine, Dog Reads, or World Reads (8/5); Dear Editor (8/6); Word Spelunking (8/7); Random Acts of Reading (8/8); The Hiding Spot (8/9); Beth Fish Reads (8/13); and Sarah Davies’s blog at Greenhouse Literary (TBD).

For more information about LARA’S GIFT, check out the web page:

Teacher Guide:

Book Trailer:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Big Ben! One Rescued Dog's Story

I have the great good fortune to live in a dog-loving community with its own amazing animal rescue organization, Friends of Animals Utah. I've worked as a volunteer with them for many years and have heard some truly inspiring rescue stories. This is one of them. Every year, FOA Utah has a fundraiser (the emphasis on Fun!) called Bark in the Park. At Bark in the Park, they honor one of their amazing rescues. This year it was Big Ben. My BFF, Charlene Brewster, is my guest blogger today, telling Ben's story. Get your hankies ready!

Every year we feature one of our rescued dogs on our race shirt.  This year, the dog is “Big Ben, the
Dr. Prior and Ben 
Miracle Dog” and the tag line is “Courage to Walk, Courage to Run.”  He has been an inspiration to many and we thought we would tell you his story.

November 25th, 2012 was a Sunday.  That was the day a young Great Pyrenees was hit by a car out on Route 248 near Stock Lumber.  He appeared out of nowhere and jumped in front of a car –  there was no way to avoid him.  The driver who hit him stopped as did several other people.  It was apparent he was badly injured.  He was in much pain and couldn't use his back legs.  There are many dogs used in the ranching community that are “free range” – guiding and guarding livestock with little or no human interaction or supervision.  This dog was one of them.
Healing Touch!
Many ranching dogs are not considered pets.  They are tools of the trade and treated as such.  Basically, if your shovel breaks and it costs more to fix it than buy a new one, then you throw out the broken one and get yourself a new shovel…  That was exactly what the rancher wanted to do with this broken dog: he wanted him shot by the sideof the road.

By this time, Animal Control, local veterinarian, Carl Prior and Friends of Animals were on the scene.  Dr. Prior and the folks gathered around wanted to give the dog a chance.  Worst case, he would be humanely euthanized in Dr. Prior’s office.  But maybe, just maybe…  there was a chance that he would make it.  He deserved that chance.  After more than a few tense moments, the rancher relinquished the dog to Animal Control and Friends of Animals Utah took responsibility from there. 
Ben's Wheels
The badly injured dog could not walk.  He did have a small fracture in his spine, but Dr. Prior was quite sure that given time for the injury to heal and the swelling to go down in his spine, he may very well walk again.  He was given the name Big Ben.

Now keep in mind, this dog had not spent much time with people and had probably never been inside a building or house for any amount of time ever in his life.  In a tremendous amount of pain and surrounded by strangers, you might think he would lash out in fear or mistrust.  That never happened. 
He spent more than a month at Park City Animal Clinic. For the first few weeks, he could not walk.  He had to be helped outside and to be moved into new positions.  He learned to use a doggie wheelchair and continued to heal.  Slowly but surely he began to use his back legs and eventually take some steps.  He grew stronger.

 Word got out in the dog community about this amazing dog.  People who heard about Ben would stop by the clinic and visit him.  People donated funds to pay for his medical care. 
There were several people who were truly his guardian angels.  One of the people who stopped to help the day of the accident was Billie Harsch.  She visited Ben every day at the clinic during his recovery and rallied the community around his story with her facebook reports on his progress and fundraising to pay for his care.  Fox 13 TV station did a story about him and Ben soon became a local celebrity – everyone wanted to know how Ben was doing.

Wow, A Bed & Toys!
When he was able to walk pretty well on his own, Ben went to the first of several foster homes.  The Bednars with Active K9 took him home for Christmas.  He then spent several months with Kim Brown and George Forbes at their house.  Utah Pet Rehab donated rehab services to help him get stronger and learn to walk properly.  In late February, Ben went to a new foster home.  Colleen Keblish and her family opened up their homes and heart to him.  He is still there today, not as a foster but as a permanent part of their family.  They have a small ranch in Silver Creek and he gets to run, swim and have fun every day.

So many great people came together to give this dog a chance.  In his honor, a fund has been started at Friends of Animals Utah called Ben’s Bank.  It's money that can be used to help badly injured or sick animals who need special care.  Who need a chance.  If you would like to contribute to Ben’s Bank,
Oh Yeah, Shopping!
please click here.   

Is that an amazing and inspiring story or what?! Please share with your friends and consider donating to Ben's Bank. Any donation will be tax deductible.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Authors for Catherine's Dream Wrap Up!

I wanted to just update everyone on how the "Authors for Catherine's Dream" signed book auction turned out. Over thirty authors generously donated signed copies of their books to be auctioned off; many of the authors donated more than one title or more than one copy. As a result, over forty books were auctioned!
Wishes DO come true!

From the end of May until June 22nd, 115 people bid on books. Isn't that amazing?! And these were folks from all over the United States--Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Colorado, Mississippi, Virginia, Connecticut, Utah and many other places. There were some hot and heavy bidding wars going on, particularly for Leslea Newman's Hachiko Waits, Patricia MacLachlan's Sarah, Plain and Tall, and (not surprisingly) this year's Newbery winner, The One and Only Ivan. 

"But Bobbie, how much money did you raise?" you may be asking. I'm so happy and thrilled to tell you that we raised a little over $4,000.00, and donations are still coming in! Every penny of that goes to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary fund. All the authors and myself are paying the postage to mail the books to the winners.

I want to thank all the authors who were kind enough to donated signed copies of their books and some of whom also bid on books and donated to the fund. My crazy idea of raising money to honor this sweet little girl could never have happened without them.

And many, many thanks to all of you who bid on books during the auction. Whether you won a book or not, you were the ones who made it successful beyond my wildest dreams!

If you didn't have a chance to bid on a book and would still like to help make Catherine's dream of an animal sanctuary in Newtown a reality, you can donate here. Your donation will not only be tax deductible, but will be so very appreciated!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Authors for Catherine's Dream!

Catherine Hubbard
I have a confession to make: I am a dedicated People Magazine reader. Yes, it's my guilty pleasure.
One day a couple of months ago, I was indulging in my guilty pleasure when I came across an article spotlighting nine families who had lost children in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and how they are coping with this unimaginable loss.

One of those children was a beautiful little red haired girl named Catherine Violet Hubbard. Although she was only six years old, Catherine was a passionate animal lover. Her parents said, "She loved all animals. She would chase down strangers just to pet their dogs, squeal with delight as  butterflies landed on her arm, and sit for hours watching baby birds in a nest."

It was Catherine's dream to one day have her own animal sanctuary in Newtown where homeless animals could feel loved and safe. She even had a little business card she'd hand out that read Catherine's Animal Shelter and included her self-appointed title of Care Taker. Tragically, her life was cut short.

But not her dream. The Animal Center in Newtown, in partnership with Catherine's parents, have set up a fund for the Catherine Violet Hubbard Sanctuary, becoming the "Care Taker" of her dream. Although they've raised quite a bit of money, they have a ways to go before they can realize Catherine's dream.

I don't know about you, but I have felt so helpless and frustrated since the Sandy Hook shooting. I want so much to see things change, to feel that something positive could come out of this. When I read about little Catherine, I thought here's something I can do. 

Thus the idea for "Authors for Catherine's Dream" was born. Now, it would have been easy just to write a check and make a donation to the sanctuary fund, but no, I wanted to give as many people as possible to be a part of this. So here's what's happening:

 June 3rd through June 16th, I will be auctioning off hardback books signed by over 30 AMAZING authors! Thanks to the contacts I've made over the last two years from Fido and Friend in Five, people were eager to get on board and help Catherine's dream. Did I mention these are amazing authors? You tell me: Patricia MacLachlan, Sharon Creech, Kathi Appelt, Cynthia Lord, W. Bruce Cameron, Joan Bauer, Sarah Zarr, Clare Vanderpool, Katherine Erskine, Arthur A. Levine, Lin Oliver, Anita Silvey and many others! I have three in particular that are going to knock your socks off! Every day during that period, I'll post a pack of books you can bid on, and I'll also be posting what the top bids
are for each book. You'll be able to bid on ALL the books until midnight on the 16th. You can read more about how this works on my website link. ALL MONEY RAISED WILL GO DIRECTLY TO THE CATHERINE VIOLET HUBBARD SANCTUARY FUND!

Even if you're not a collector of books signed by the author like I am, these books would make great gift to the book lover in your life or to your local public or school library. Imagine having a signed copy of Sarah, Plain and Tall! And more importantly, imagine being a part of making one child's dream

come true...

So mark your calendar, watch for daily postings on Facebook, Twitter and the website, and bid! And if you really don't need or want a signed book but still want to help, you can donate to the Catherine Violet Hubbard Sanctuary here. Your donation will be tax deductible. We can all be "Care Takers" of Catherine's dream.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Fido and Friend in Five: Sam Angus and Sundae!

Sam Angus
One day several years ago, Sam Angus was stuck in traffic, heavily pregnant, on a blisteringly hot day in London. Trying to distract herself from her misery, she turned on the radio and stumbled upon a program that would change her life. The report was about the animals--mostly dogs and horses--who'd sacrificed their lives during World War I. The program was airing around the time that a memorial to these valiant beings was erected on Park Lane. As it happened, the road Sam was stuck in traffic on was Park Lane. She could see the memorial through her car window!

As she sat in her car, spellbound, Sam learned that dogs in WWI served as sentinels, scouts, sentries, ambulance and messenger dogs. She also learned there had been at least 7,000 dogs killed in action during WWI. She heard numerous stories that hot afternoon of the almost miraculous deeds performed by these four-footed heroes, but it was the story of Jack, a mixed-breed messenger dog, that inspired her to write her debut, middle-grade novel, Soldier Dog. 
WWI Messenger Dogs

Soldier Dog is the story of 14-year-old Stanley and his bond with a messenger dog named Bones. Trapped in a troubled home, Stanley runs away and enlists in the British army to try and find his older brother Tom. There, because of his experience with dogs, he's assigned to a unit using messenger dogs. That's when he's assigned to Bones, and later, to Pistol, in France. It is here that Stanley's dog must cross no-man's land alone, under heavy fire, to return to his side. Only complete loyalty and love will pull the dog through a firestorm of battle, back to Stanley's side. Reviewers have called  Soldier Dog War Horse meets Lassie Come-Home. Quite a compliment! Soldier Dog is also on many award lists across The Pond: the Carnegie Prize, the Redbridge Award and the Branford Boase Award, the Hawick Children's Book Award, the North East Children's Book Award, and the Warwickshire Teen Book Award. Just this April, it was released in this country.

Sundae's pack
Sam Angus was born in Italy, grew up in France and Spain and now divides her time between Exmoor and London. She has a a lively life with her husband, five children, horses, rabbits and Sundae the dog. Let's meet them in today's Fido and Friend in Five!

Chillin' on double-d. bus!
1. How did you and Sundae find each other?  My husband and daughter found Sundae as a tiny puppy and brought him home to me, so small that he stepped onto the saucer when I lifted up my coffee cup and fell asleep there. He was as white, fluffy, ridiculous, irresistible and sweet as an ice cream sundae.

2. What makes Sundae's tail wag?  A walk. Dinner. Other dogs. a football. Snow.

3.  What's your all-time favorite dog story?  Soldier Dog and
Lassie Come-Home.

Sundae and friends
4. If Sundae could change just one thing about you, what would that be?  He would like me never to sit down at my desk or do any work, so I would spend all day in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens with him. Then at night, he would turn me into someone who likes dogs on their beds.

Best friends
5. In five words, tell us what Sundae means to you:  Love. Loyalty. Company. Protection. Playfulness.

Many thanks to Sam and Sundae for visiting with us today on Fido and Friend in Five! Be sure to check out Sam's website to find out a lot more about the hero dogs of WWI. You'll be amazed, and maybe even inspired!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fido and Friend in Five: Steve Wolf, Piper and Teasy!

Steve Wolf
In the library system where I (until recently) worked, we have a program called "Reader's Choice." A committee of librarians read a ton of books and then pull out the best thirty or so for our patrons to read and vote on. Most of the books are fiction, but they usually include at least a couple of non-fiction books, often an animal book. For four months, patrons read and then vote on these books.

That's how I came across Steve Wolf's inspiring book, Comet's Tale: How the Dog I Rescued Saved My Life. Comet and Steve's story will be one of the Reader's Choice books for patrons to read from June through October. And I have no doubt it will have the same impact on lots of readers that it had on me: I felt inspired and humbled and richer on so many different levels after I finished the book.

Steve Wolf was a Type-A attorney and athlete until a degenerative spine disease completely and utterly changed his life--almost over night--when in his forties. He had to retire from his job, go from actively
The amazing Comet!
competing in athletics to walking with canes, and spend winter apart from his family in Nebraska in the warmer climes of Arizona. It was there that he met Comet, an abandoned former racing greyhound. As Steve's
Comet, Service Dog
conditions worsens, he comes to rely increasingly on his profound bond with Comet to keep him alive. Literally. Although everyone said it couldn't be done, Comet was successfully trained to be Steve's service dog. She could open doors for him, bring him his cell phone, pull down his bed covers, help him get up when he fell, and hold him up to keep him from falling, and pulled his wheelchair. It is truly, truly an amazing story. As Steve writes, "She seemed to exude a dignified wisdom that whispered,  I understand. When she laid her head on my chest during a particularly bad day, it wasn't out of distress. When she watched over me during unbearably long periods of time between bathroom breaks, it wasn't because she felt sorry for me. Comet really did know what I was going through. Her actions ...were empathy, compassion, responsiveness, and identification...we shared a mutual respect that went far deeper than the word rescue could convey."

Sadly, Comet passed away two years ago, although she lived to the ripe old age of fourteen! Steve has since adopted another "retired" racer (what these dogs go through is horrific), Piper, and trained her to be his service dog as well. He reports she's almost as great at her job as Comet. He also is what we call in the rescue business a "failed foster." He fostered a gorgeous white greyhound named Teasy after her owner passed away. Needless to say, he's made her a permanent part of his family. Steve has also become a tireless advocate for the plight of racing greyhounds.

Let's meet Steve and his amazing Piper on today's Fido and Friend in Five!

1. How did you and your dogs find each other?  Comet had become a bit of a celebrity in Omaha by the Nebraska Humane Society as Service Dog of the Year in 2010. After Comet passed in 2011
Greyhound love
Joanne, who runs the greyhound adoption for the NHS, immediately started looking for another greyhound for me (and without telling me!). Late July 2012 I received a phone text--"I found a dog for you!"--along with a picture of a red-brindle female. I called Joanne and told her, "I'm not ready yet." Her reply? "Get your butt over here. I've had a thousand greyhounds come through here and this dog is in the top two." When I visited and discovered that Piper was in the shelter because she had figured out how to open all her compatriots' cages at the racing kennel where she'd been, releasing them all in the process. The adoption was a no-brainer.

Joanne also sent Teasy our way in February. This cuddly white female was 7 years old and was at the shelter because her owner had passed away. She was super stressed and Joanne thought Piper might be a comfort until Teasy could find a new home. Needless to say, my fostering role changed to loving, permanent custodian within two hours after Teasy arrived.

Teasy & Piper and beds
2. What makes Piper and Teasy's tails wag?  Piper, like Comet before her, loves to ride in the back of the SUV. The words, "Do you want to go for a ride?" are all it takes to get her tail going. Teasy? All she needs is to see me put on any form of foot attire--slippers, sandals, shoes--then she's wagging for a trip outside.

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  I still have my 1955 edition of the novel, Beautiful Joe, by Margaret Mashall Saunders, my very first "dog book." This beautifully written story is not only based upon the life of a real dog, it was written in the early 1890s for submission to, and winner of, a writing contest sponsored by the American Humane Education Society.

4. If Piper and Teasy could change just one thing about you, what would that be?  They would
Piper and Comet
change me from Boring Writer to Emperor of Dog Bed Manufacturing.

5. In five words, tell us what your dogs mean to you:  They ALWAYS make me smile!

Many thanks to Steve, Piper, and Teasy for visiting with us on Fido and Friend in Five! And extra thanks to Steve for sharing his and Comet's extraordinary story. You really must read it! And to find out more about what Steve and "the hounds" are up to (and see some great photos), follow them on their FaceBook page and, of course, Steve's website.   

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fido and Friend in Five: Dianne Ochiltree and Sally!

Reading prolific picture book author, Dianne Ochiltree's, biography on her website is like reading the ideal childhood--especially to someone who had a much less-than-ideal childhood. She grew up in small town Warren, Ohio, with three siblings, a stay-at-home mom, and grandparents who lived right next door. As she says, "I grew up around dozens of cousins, bunches of uncles, and
oodles of aunts." Every Sunday, this large extended family gathered  at her grandparent's house for dinner, with the grownups telling jokes and stories, and the kids making up musical plays. Not only did she grow up with a house filled with family, but also animals! "My family shared our house with an ever-changing, ever-growing "zoo". The pet parade included at times: ducklings, bunnies, baby chicks, stray cats and their kittens, guinea pigs, hamsters, painted turtles, guppies, white mice, gold fish, and a dog or two." Raise your hand if you want Dianne's childhood!

Luckily for her many readers out there, this stimulating childhood and raising her two sons led to a career writing picture books that make learning fun. From learning to count, to subtraction and addition, to finding out about the first female firefighter, to books that are just plain fun, Dianne has covered it all. Her latest book (coming out May of 2013), A Firefly Night, is already garnering lots of praise; her 2012 Molly, By Golly! The Legend of Molly Williams, American's First Female Firefighter won the Bronze Medal in the Children's Literature Category of the Florida Book Awards

Simon the Office Asst.
Dianne lives and writes in Florida with her husband, Sally the lab, and Simon the kitty office assistant.

Let's meet Dianne and Sally in today's Fido and Friend in Five!

1. How did you and Sally find each other?  Like most modern couples, we met on the internet! My
Love at first sight!
husband and I had lost our yellow Labrador retriever, Stella, and were so eager to have another lab in our lives that I immediately started a search for a puppy. Not wanting to "replace" Stella, we decided to adopt a chocolate Labrador retriever this time around. I searched every breeder website in Florida, or so it seemed! Luckily, there was one chocolate lab puppy still looking for a new home and ready to travel in a few days. That was how I found myself on Valentine's Day not at a romantic candlelit table with my husband, but in the car together as we made the three-hour trip to Ocala to fetch our little bit of chocolate, immediately dubbed "Sally Valentine." Trust me, it was love at first sight!
Sally's Halloween

2. What makes Sally's tail wag?  A few of Sally's favorite tail-wagging things: leaping into the deep end of the pool just seconds behind a tennis ball headed in the same direction; senior citizens and first graders making a fuss over her on one of our therapy dog visits; and luxuriating in a belly rub anytime, anywhere--it's her hands-down favorite!

3. What's your all-time favorite dog story?  Easy choice: The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. So beautifully written, illuminating key life truths as subtly as morning light touches a leaf.

4. If Sally could change just one thing about you, what would that be?  It would be my memory. She would wish a very selective amnesia on her owner. I would never remember how many treats I'd given her...or indeed that I had given her one. I would become a living, breathing dog-cookie vending machine at her disposal 24/7.

Sally's Chrismas
5. In five words, tell us what Sally means to you:  Furry fun on the run!

Many thanks to Dianne and Sally for visiting with us today on Fido and Friend in Five! Be sure to check out Dianne's website to find out more about her and her books.