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.