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Celebrating Old Dogs: What Is Old?

Celebrating Old Dogs: What Is Old?

Celebrating Old Dogs

FTC noticeEach November, we celebrate old dogs during their “official” month. But when is your dog considered old? Shadow-Pup at just over two year’s old, has a way to go. We love our senior citizen dogs for the special joy they bring every day. But once a year, we celebrate old dogs during November Adopt A Senior Pet Month. Here are 8 reasons to consider adopting a senior pet.

I’ve already posted about celebrating old cats. It’s time to give equal time to old dogs. I’ve written about how to care for an elderly dog before, but this post addresses how to know when your canine friends become old dogs.

I’ve updated some of the information from when it first published back when my Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty were still around. For instance, we’ve recently replaced our carpets with hardwood floors. So when our Shadow-Pup reaches senior status, we’ll help him out with some accommodations like these “toe grips” from Dr. Buzby that help reduce unsteady gaits.

old dogs

What Is Old for Dogs?

Magic was just over eleven years old when he passed away, and my first GSD lived to thirteen and a half. One is middle-aged and the other considered geriatric, and a lot of it has to do with the size of the pet. When our furry friends reach a “certain age” it becomes much more important to stay on top of changes, and just keep ’em comfy during their golden years.

My first GSD (below) launched my pet-writing career. He waited until we got home from work, and died with us beside him, on Halloween night. I still miss him.

old dogs

How Old are Old Dogs?

What is considered “old?” There are individual differences between pets, just as there are for people. While one person may act, look and feel “old” at fifty-five, another fifty-five-year-old remains active with a youthful attitude and appearance. Aging is influenced by a combination of genetics, environment, and health care over a lifetime. The oldest dog on record was an Australian Cattle Dog who lived for twenty-nine years and five months.

A good definition of old age for an animal is the last 25 percent of her life. However, we can’t accurately predict what an individual pet’s lifespan will be, so pinpointing when old age begins is tough. Ask the breeder about the lifespan of your pet’s parents and grandparents. That’s a good predictor of how long you could expect your cat or dog to live. Mixed-ancestry pets are more difficult to predict, but you can make a few generalities.

old dog

How to Predict Old Dogs Lifespan

In the past fifty years, the average lifespan of small dogs like the Maltese above, has tripled. They used to live to be only six or seven years old, but today it’s not unusual for your Chihuahua to live into late teens or early twenties. With an average potential lifespan of fifteen to seventeen years, the onset of old age—when a little dog becomes “senior”—would be about age eleven to thirteen.

Even large-breed dogs, which age more quickly, commonly reach ten to thirteen years of age—double the lifespan of the past few decades. They would, therefore, be considered old starting at about seven years.

Giant breed dogs (those weighing over eighty pounds or so) tend to age more quickly than smaller pets. Great Danes, for example, are considered “senior” at age five, and typically live only seven to nine years. There are exceptions, of course, with some very large dogs living healthy, happy lives well into their teens. Though he’s no longer a puppy, Bravo (below) weighs just over 100 pounds (he lost 20 pounds when he lost his leg to cancer). As a “giant” breed, we tried to keep him happy and healthy as long as possible. Although his chemo treatment slowed his disease we cherished every day as a win!

bullmastiff puppy

Old Dogs & Youthful Doggedness?

So you have an old fogey doggy–how do you keep him youthful? What happens when that go-go-go puppy attitude turns into a yen for snoozing the day away? Dogs can become frustrated when their youthful abilities fade away and they’re no longer able to leap tall buildings–or onto sofas–with a single bound, or chase the Frisbee and catch it without effort. They may suffer from brain aging, but you can reverse or slow senility with these tips.

old dogs

I have one word for you: ACCOMMODATION.

Enrich the Environment

Enrich the dog’s environment and make accommodations for his new skill set. Agility dogs can still perform all those tricks of fetch and vault, just lower the bar a bit. For blind dogs, put a bell inside the ball or scent with liverwurst so his nose knows where to find it. For deaf dogs, you can use hand signals and replace the clicker with a flashlight beam flicking on and off.

I have a boatload of more tips and advice in the book Complete Care for Your Aging Dog.

What about your old dogs–what games do they love? Have you made accommodations for their aging abilities? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Adopting “Other-Abled” and Less Adoptable Pets

Adopting “Other-Abled” and Less Adoptable Pets

Adopting “Other-Abled” and Less Adoptable Pets

September 19-25 is National Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week, founded by PetFinder.com. The organization encourages shelters and rescues to create special week-long events devoted to giving overlooked pets like those with disabilities a better chance at finding homes. There are many things to consider when adopting a pet.

This struck a chord with me, especially after living with a tri-pawd dog when Bravo lost his leg. He didn’t act disabled, though. Have you ever adopted an other-abled pet or less adoptable pet?

disabled cat

She doesn’t know she’s blind or think she’s disabled, and would make someone a loving, wonderful companion!

What Is A Less Adoptable Pet

Why less adoptable? They’re the wrong breed or have special needs. Overlooked pets include deaf dogs or deaf cats, blind pets, or those missing a limb. Many folks prefer the ‘perfect’ cute puppy or kitten and don’t want a crippled pet, or just don’t like the color of the dog or cat. Of course, we know black dogs and cats, and those with only one eye, or three legs, still love us with all their furry hearts!

Old Pets Rock!

Y’all know how I feel about golden oldie pets, after writing two award-winning books that help folks care with the needs of aging cats as well as aging dogs. Senior citizen pets have just as much love to give and often fit very well into families unable or unwilling to manage the hijinks of in-your-face puppies and kittens. Learn more about the old cat conditions here.

My Seren-Kitty nearly made it to her 22nd birthday. Magical-Dawg lived until age twelve. That means adopting an old dog or cat could still mean years of furry love. Here are some things common to aging dogs, and what you can do to help.

less adoptable pets

Old dogs make great friends.

Adult cats and dogs grown out of the “cute” phase also can have a hard time being chosen. But remember that healthy cats and small dogs can live well into their mid to late teens or longer, and you can expect to enjoy at least another half-dozen years by adopting a four-year-old pet. And usually you save costs because they’ve already been “fixed” and have their shots, as well as basic training.

disabled dog

Dogs adapt quickly to wheelchairs, and continue to enjoy life.

What Is Other-Abled Pets?

“Other-abled” pets don’t know what they’re missing. Despite loss of limbs, mobility, sight or hearing, they live and enjoy life regardless of the challenges they face. Often, the pet has less difficulty coming to terms with such changes than do owners. Cats and dogs accept conditions that devastate people. Learn about how to help deaf pets here.

other abled pets

A favorite picture of Bravo after he lost his leg. It never slowed him down! He taught Shadow-Pup all the important dog stuff.

Mobility Issues

Pets can suffer paralysis through accidents, degenerative back diseases or other health conditions. Nobody knows what happened to Willy the rescue Chihuahua, who lived with rear-limb paralysis. He wouldn’t stop dragging himself from place to place, determined to stay in the thick of things. Once owner Deborah Turner got him strapped into his K9-cart (wheelchair for dogs), he was literally off and running. Willy became the mascot for his local branch of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, had his own website, and two children’s books written about his exploits.

Our Bravo-Dawg never complained when his cancer diagnosis stole his leg. The day after his amputation surgery, Bravo walked out of the veterinary hospital, tail wagging. Oh, we felt devastated and wept many tears during his treatment, but Bravo lived every day with joy and taught us even a brief, condensed life makes a difference.

Blind Dogs and Deaf Cats

I interviewed Dr. Paul Gerding, a veterinary ophthalmologist, for one of my books. He never considered that his Labrador couldn’t still enjoy life when Katie began losing her sight. He wasn’t able to correct the progressive disease medically, but took steps to ensure the blind dog could still navigate her home and yard by memory. She continued to hunt—in safe clover fields with no ditches or holes—and at home Katie relied on the younger dog Grace to be her personal guide dog pal.

less adoptable pets other abled pets

The clinic cat for many years at our local veterinarian’s office had only one eye.

My colleague, Lynette George, shared about a special blind doggy she adopted. “Her name is CeeCee and she’s a miniature, long-hair, double-dapple dachshund.” She went from the breeder to three different owners, and then ultimately they surrendered CeeCee to the Oklahoma Spay Network because nobody really wanted to handle a blind dog. “Four months old and thinks she owns the world. She has absolutely no clue that she’s supposed to be “handicapped.” Anyway, she’s absolutely adorable. Everybody who sees her falls in love immediately. She took over Petco when she went in – kind of like she does everywhere she goes. She’s just a hoot every day. We LOVE her!”

One of my local vet offices adopted a one-eyed clinic cat (in the picture). And another local vet clinic has Captain Dan, the three-legged tuxedo kitty. What better ambassadors for adopting disabled–or other-abled–pets?

Furry Inspiration

Pets inspire us with their stoic attitudes. They don’t know how to feel sorry for themselves, and may not recognize they’re any “different” than other cats and dogs. Fluffy and Prince simply want to get on with the important business of eating, playing, and loving their family. As readers know, furry love comes in all shapes, sizes, and packages.

Do you share your home with a “less adoptable” pet? How did you find each other? Has living with an “other-abled” pet affected your life in positive ways? Please share! I’d love to hear your stories and see pictures of your special fur-kids.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Furry Fountain of Youth & Dog Senility: Reversing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Furry Fountain of Youth & Dog Senility: Reversing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

I’ve been blessed to share my life with two senior dogs, but only Magical-Dawg showed signs of dog senility, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction. Yes, both dogs and cats can suffer from a form of dementia, that some might described as a type of canine Alzheimer’s disease. Dogs aged 11 to 16 are most likely to develop Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), sort of the doggy version of Alzheimer’s Disease. CCD is a medical condition in which a starch-like waxy protein called beta amyloid collects in the brain and causes behavior changes. Here’s what you need to know and ways to slow down potential dog senility.

senility

Magic’s canine senility signs reversed for a time with the right diet.

Signs of Dog Senility

Dogs cared for throughout their early years live longer than ever before. It’s not unusual for Toy-breed dogs to live into their mid-to-late teens and even big dogs today enjoy a decade or more of happy life with a loving owner. A longer life, though, can leave your dog befuddled when canine brains turn to mush.

Affected dogs become disoriented, wander, cry and pace, and can become lost in the house when out of your sight. Their behavior can change from confident to frightened, and the awake/sleep cycles may turn upside down. Dogs can forget house training, how to find the door or be unable to tell you when they need to “go.” And most heartbreaking of all, senile dogs lose interest in petting, ignore their beloved owners or furry friends, and might not recognize you.

Treating Dog Senility

While there’s no cure for CCD, the drug Anipryl (selegiline hydrochloride) is FDA-approved to treat cognitive dysfunction in dogs. According to veterinary researchers, about 1/3rd of treated dogs return to normal, another 1/3rd improve, and the final 1/3rd aren’t helped at all. There also are special diets designed to help turn back the clock on canine senility. Bright Mind dog food helped Magic a lot! Sadly, even improved dogs eventually revert and again develop senility signs.

A longer life is not necessarily a better life, especially if your dog no longer recognizes you. But there are ways to help your dog stay connected with the world and ward off signs of CCD, simply by exercising his brain.

Brain function studies in dogs proved that problem-solving activities kept them sharp, connected to the world around them, and even extended their lifespan. Just as with people, canine mental and physical stimulation drastically improves your dog’s cognitive function.

dog senility7 Tips To Keep Canine Brains Youthful

“Use it or lose it” applies to dogs just as it does to humans. Don’t delay. Keep dogs both mentally and physically spry from puppyhood on. That helps prevent or at least slow brain aging changes. Here are tips to keep King mentally spry into his old age.

  1. Make Play A Daily Treat. Interactive games keep your dog engaged with you and reward him for responding. Toys don’t need to be expensive, either. Old socks become tug toys and used tennis balls work great for fetch. They’re even more attractive if old and they smell like the owner. Read more about how pets play.
  2. Slim Pudgy Pooches. Overweight dogs have trouble exercising and avoid moving which can allow joints—and brains—to rust. Ask your vet for a slimming program that’s safe for your overweight canine. Fortunately, our current dog, Shadow-Pup hasn’t had a weight problem and continues to have a waist. I just wish that I had the same metabolism! Learn more tips for slimming pudgy pets here.
  3. Adopt Another Pet. Proper introductions of a playful younger cat or dog can serve as a furry fountain of youth to an old-fogey dog. Even if he’s irked at the young whippersnapper, keeping Junior-Pet in line can keep your dog sharp. When we brought home Magical-Dawg, he helped keep Seren-kitty active. Yes—cats can also suffer from senility, and by the time Seren reached 21 years, she displayed signs of kitty dementia.
  4. Practice Commands. Just because he’s old doesn’t mean he can’t perform. Practice the pleasures that make King’s heart leap for joy—for obedience champions, put him through his paces. If he has trouble, adjust the Frisbee toss or vault heights. Make necessary accommodations so he can still succeed and feel like the champion he is.
  5. Treats for Tricks. Teach the old dog new tricks using healthy treat rewards. Make treats smelly so he won’t have to strain old eyes to see.
  6. Give A Challenge. Puzzle toys that dispense treats turn meals into fun games. For food fanatics, puzzle toys encourage activity and brain-teasing challenges that exercise problem-solving abilities.

Planning For What-If…

We can’t predict any dog’s lifespan. Our beloved Bravo-Dawg succumbed to bone cancer before the age of three and never had the chance to reach senior status.

But when a special dog reaches senior citizenship, we treasure our time together even more. My first GSD lived just over 13 years, and Magical-Dawg barely made it to eleven before we lost him. Keeping your dog mentally active helps keep dogs connected with life—and us. And that ensures their golden years sparkle.

How do you keep your older dog’s brain nimble? Are there special games or activities that you enjoy doing together? In one of my thrillers, a tracking dog still has the “nose” despite his age—and I based that on an interview with a tracking dog Bloodhound (profiled in the Aging Dog book) who continued to track even though he’d gone blind! Of course, you can find all the must-knows about old dog care in the book. But many tips are common sense–please share!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers?  Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Scaredy Cat? Teaching Shrinking Violet Shy Cats

Scaredy Cat? Teaching Shrinking Violet Shy Cats

scared cat

Is your kitty shy? How do you bring her out of her Shrinking Violet shell? (Image copr. Missi Hostrup via Flickr, a picture of Tiger Lily)

Do you have a scaredy cat? Working with fearful and scared cats can be a challenge. Does Sheba hiss at strangers? Does Tom dive under the bed when the doorbell rings? Do your kitties attack other pets (or humans)? What can you do to stop bad behavior if even a mild correction sends the cat into fearful meltdown? Alexa posted her Ask Amy question to my Facebook page, and the answer is in today’s video.

Helping Shy & Scaredy Cats

We often feel that our fur-kids must have been abused and feel bad to make THEM feel bad. But they still need to know limits. One of my favorite ways to train is using positive rewards. Instead of waiting for kitty to scratch the wrong object and then interrupting the behavior–why not REWARD her when she scratches the RIGHT object?

Using kitty clicker training can also build confidence in shy cats by teaching them what happens is in their paws. Here are more tips for dealing with scared cats.

Stranger Danger & Fearful Felines

While a normal dose of caution keeps cats from becoming coyote kibble, extreme fear makes cats miserable and disrupts your happy home. A hiding cat may not bother you, constant anxiety increases stress that can make cats sick. For instance, stress can aggravate bladder inflammation (cystitis), which prompts hit-or-miss bathroom behaviors from feeling pain. Even when the bladder doesn’t hurt, anxious cats use potty deposits or will increase scratching behavior to calm themselves—sort of the way nervous humans bite their fingernails. Noises can scare cats, and this post about dog noise fear may help kitties, too.

scared catMore Tips for Helping Shy Cats or Stressed Out Kitties

Do you have a shy cat? How does s/he react to strangers or new situations? What tips have you used to bolster confidence? You can use scent enrichment to help reduce your cats’ stress. Are you concerned (like Alexa, below) about damaging your pet relationship during training? How do you avoid that?

Of course you can find lots more fur-kid care tips in the pet books. Many of the tips in MY CAT HATES MY VET! will also help. But I hope anyone with a burning furry question (or heck, ANY question! *s*) will share in the comments and perhaps it’ll be a future Ask Amy feature!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Heart-to-Heart About Dog Heartworms & Mosquitoes

Heart-to-Heart About Dog Heartworms & Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes swarm these days when I work in the garden. I worry about dog heartworms with the increase of these buggy pests. Are your dogs protected? Do you know how dogs get heartworm? Read on!heartworms and mosquitoes

I hate mosquitos not only because they’re itchy aggravation, but these nasty vampires spread deadly dog heartworms. That can make your dog sick or worse—it could kill her. Dogs are the natural host–but they also can affect cats–and heartworms have been a problem at least since 1922 when they were first discovered. Today heartworms are found all over the world.

The heartworm Dirofilaria immitis belongs to a group of parasites called filarids, and is a type of roundworm. They live in the right heart chambers and pulmonary arteries—the lungs—of infected dogs. As you can imagine, lungs and heart filled with worms can damage and interfere with normal organ function. You won’t be able to tell if your puppy has heartworms. You can’t see them the way you can fleas or ticks. And your dog won’t even act sick until she’s been infected for quite a while.

cute funny dog running on the grass with stick

Hunting dogs that spend lots of time outdoors are at highest risk.

DOG HEARTWORMS

Despite the availability of effective and easy to use heartworm preventive options, the disease appears to be on the rise. In just two years, from 2013-2015, there was a 166 percent increase in reported positive heartworm cases, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC). Additionally, the American Heartworm Society (AHS) has tracked the geographic spread of heartworm disease to all 50 states and its increased prevalence in several regions of the country.

So what’s a pet parent to do?

UPDATE ABOUT DOG HEARTWORMS & MOSQUITOES

A groundbreaking study by John McCall, MS, PhD addresses this concern. He investigated the effectiveness of stopping heartworm disease at the buggy transmission source. His research shows that a multi-modal approach (adding mosquito repellents and insecticides alongside standard heartworm preventive protocols), offers even better protection for our dogs.

I first reported on this study back in Fall 2016. The study, sponsored by CEVA, explored the efficacy of a new “Double Defense” protocol. John McCall is a professor emeritus in the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. After fighting heartworm the same way for decades, McCall says it’s time for a new approach that includes fighting the mosquito as well as the heartworm.

PREVENTING VS TREATING HEARTWORMS

Preventives that address heartworms are one important part of canine health care. But until recently, preventing the vector (mosquito) hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, according to Byron Blagburn, MS, PhD, DAVCM, a professor of parasitology,, researcher, and author of the mosquito control guidelines.

The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) included more information on how to control mosquitoes, adding science-based evidence to these guidelines on mosquito control. New recommendations include choosing heartworm and parasite prevention products that also address the mosquito menace. Several canine products are available, and you should consult with your veterinarian for the best choices for your individual dogs and circumstances.

According to the Heartworm Incidence Survey from the American Heartworm Society, the average number of dogs diagnosed per clinic in 2016 rose by 21.7 percent over 2013 numbers (date of the last survey). AHS president and veterinarian Dr. Christopher Rehm says that the distribution of cases hasn’t dramatically changed, 24% of respondents said the average number of positive dogs has increased since 2013.

2021 Heartworm Predictions–Keep Dogs Safe!

Heartworm map

LEARN MORE ABOUT DOG HEARTWORMS

Please ask YOUR veterinarian about how you can best protect your dogs from mosquitoes and dog heartworms. Learn more about Dr. McCall’s CEVA-funded study in this short video.

Several years ago, I interviewed Dr. Wallace Graham about prevention, treatment and more in my Pet Peeves radio show. Much of this information is still valid, so find out more about how to keep cats and dogs safe from heartworm disease in PET PEEVES, HEART-TO-HEART ABOUT HEARTWORMS.

For more about parasite prevention, refer to this post.


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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cover Reveal (again!) and NAME THAT PET Results!

Nope, you’re not high on puppy Prozac. The cover of the book has changed! In fact, this is version number seven, and it’s by far the most striking and mysterious, while offering a taste of what to expect. Like it? I love it! While many folks (me included) thought the first cover worked extremely well, the powers-that-be decided to go another direction.

Isn’t that a great cover quote from D.P. Lyle? I just received another terrific advance quote from the awesome Dr. Marty Becker. Read about ’em on the LOST AND FOUND page.

NAME THAT PET CONTEST RESULTS

Thank you to everyone for your participation in the “Name That Dog” and “Name That Cat” contests to help me find the perfect choices for some of the furry characters in the book LOST AND FOUND.

More than 85 terrific cat and dog names were suggested. I narrowed the choices to about a dozen each, set up polls for you to vote, and we had over 800 votes result.

I’d say pet people are passionate about pet names! Without further delay, here are the results.

DOG HEROES NAMED

Caren Gittleman suggested the winning dog name Dakota because it means “trusted friend” and is also the name of her lovely Sheltie (who helps her co-write Dakota’s Den Blog).

In the book LOST AND FOUND, the main character September mourns the loss of her heart-dog (we’ve all been there right?) who died trying to save her husband. Therefore, her long lost canine partner DAKOTA is mentioned throughout the book.

Raelyn Barclay offered several dog name suggestions including Bruno, which won the second hero dog spot. Congratulations!

When September’s nephew becomes lost in the blizzard, she enlists the aid of a still active senior citizen tracking dog to find the boy. BRUNO is the star in that chapter, and demonstrates that old dogs still have the stuff of heroes.

CAT HEROES NAMED

Patricia suggested the winning cat name Macy. This name garnered more than a hundred individual votes from readers, wow! Macy is the name of Patricia’s seven-year-old yellow tabby, and named after a character in the Bold and the Beautiful television show.

September’s sable and white Maine coon cat is mentioned throughout the book, including cat-training scenes that demonstrate just how smart cats truly are! Macy literally “nails” the villain at just the right moment to help save the day.

Karyl Cunningham has been one of my most faithful blog followers (~waving at Karyl) so I’m delighted readers chose one of her name selections as the second cat hero character–Simba is the second cat name winner. Simba is the name of Karyl’s slightly chubby, arthritic senior citizen kitty.

As in all good thrillers, tragic victims often kick off the story. The first is a lovely woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, and she leaves behind a beloved rescue kitty–Simba, slightly chubby aging kitty with a bit of arthritis who finds a forever home with the victim’s daughter.

In addition to having their pets’ names spotlighted in the book, and their own contribution noted in the acknowledgements, these four winners  will receive an advance copy of the book.

SPECIAL THANKS

Thank you again to everyone who suggested names and voted. The response demonstrates to me why I love pets–and writing about them so much–because never mind the age or breed or attitude. In our heart of hearts, true pet lovers know that EVERY dog and cat has a hero inside them.

LOST AND FOUND is scheduled for release September 20 in Amazon Kindle (and other Ebook formats), with print versions available about a week later. I will of course post to my blog (here) as well as Facebook, but will also send out an email newsletter notification–if I have your email.

In fact, what the hey. Send me an email to amy @ shojai.com with LOST AND FOUND in the subject line between now and the release date, and I’ll add you to the drawing for a free copy of the book. Don’t be shy, you can share this with other thriller/pet lovers.

Now go pet your hero dogs and cats for me. Oh, and stay tuned–the regular WOOF WEDNESDAY blog will go out later today with more puppy-licious info. 🙂

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!

Woof Wednesday: VOTE for NAME THAT DOG!

Yes, the day has come. I am delighted at the outpouring of interest in naming dogs who appear in my forthcoming thriller LOST AND FOUND. There were 29 total suggestions for canine character names. Some were wonderful names but the same as one of my human characters (now THAT would be confusing!), and others seemed too similar to other suggestions. I ended up choosing four or five of my favorites from your suggestions and then drawing the remainder out of a fish bowl. Two canine characters, both “hero dogs,”  will be named based on your votes. (Watch for Feline Friday for the kitty poll picks!).

The winner’s names and why they chose their selection will also be included in the book, and winners will receive an advance copy of the book.

Just who ARE these canine heroes?

  • A dark sable German shepherd dog, trained for search and rescue, and protection (Schutzhund) was devoted to the main character, September. He died protecting her husband, and she still deeply mourns his loss. He is the “ideal” dog she compares all other canines to.
  • A senior citizen German shepherd comes out of retirement to track down the September’s missing nephew Steven. He ends up defending his trainer as well as giving September a chance to escape.

Does your dog’s name embody the essence of these doggy characters? Love, devotion, fearlessness, great heart? Looks don’t matter, neither does breed or age or even sex–everyone knows that all dogs have the heart and soul and devotion of heroes, so make your choice and follow your heart!

The poll below allows you to choose THREE (3) of your favorites. You can come back and vote again as many times as you’d like–and I hope you’ll encourage family and friends to champion your cause and also vote.

DEADLINE MONDAY AUGUST 30TH!

[polldaddy poll=6379780

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Don’t forget to vote for your NAME THAT DOG/CAT character choice in the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!

Woof Wednesday: Name That Dog!

Uschi with toy
Some of y’all know that my debut thriller LOST AND FOUND will be published this fall. Last night I sent back edits to my publisher and now we’re working on cover design. It’s a challenge because–well–it has to be right!

Why do I talk about thriller fiction in a Woof Wednesday blog? Because a main character in the book is Shadow, a nine-month-old German shepherd being trained as a service dog for a young boy. Like most authors, I truly KNOW what my characters look like, how they talk and act, and what they feel.

Even Shadow, the dog. Especially Shadow. He is, in fact, one of my viewpoint characters. At a recent writer’s seminar on pitching (a shorthand way of describing the book) I described the book like this:

“In LOST AND FOUND an animal behaviorist and service dog must find an autistic child lost in a blizzard in this adult thriller with the medical tension of Robin Cook and the heart of The Art of Racing In the Rain.”

Hey, I can dream that readers will agree!

Meanwhile, tomorrow I have a photo shoot with a potential cover-dog model for the book. You see, many of the stock photos available of German shepherds either aren’t the right color (black) or the wrong age. And nope, Magical-Dawg is too big/mature for the right look (shhhh, don’t say that out loud or you’ll hurt his doggy feelings!) but one of his relatives might have the right look. Get a load of this gorgeous GSD, already with a tracking dog title at 6 months old, wow!
Chew toy

My blog followers, Facebook friends, nonfiction book readers and pet writing colleagues have been so much a part of this fiction journey, I want to include YOU in the book, too. Shadow is already a main character in the story. But there is a second tracking dog featured, as well several other “relatives” of that canine that are mentioned.

I’d like to give y’all the opportunity to name those dog characters–name them after YOUR furry wonder, for instance, or a beloved pet that has passed on, or a friend’s dog or even a human relative–your choice. Many of y’all already subscribe to my Pet Peeves newsletter, which hasn’t gone out in a while due to other deadlines 🙂 . I’ll post a reminder in the next several blogs about this to subscribe to the newsletter for your chance to NAME THAT DOG in the forthcoming Lost And Found thriller.

Those who win the naming opportunity will also receive a free copy of the book, and a mention in the acknowledgements. Oh, and let me know in the comments–have you ever won a similar “naming” contest? How’d that work out? I know that the Thrillerfest folks auction off naming characters as ways to raise funds for charity but this time around, I want it to be free–and fun for you, too. How should I pick the winner? Please weigh in with your thoughts.

UPDATE

Here’s how I’ve decided to choose the winner(s). Depending on the response, I will select (random drawing) 10-15 dog names and 10-15 cat names, and YOU WILL VOTE (get your friends to campaign for you!) to select the final names to appear in the book.

Those who win the naming will not only get furry bragging rights, and an ADVANCE FREE COPY of the book, but also an acknowledgement in the book itself with a tidbit about your pet who shares that name. Sound good? Be sure to post your suggested name asap–I’ll need to send final edits to my editor probably by the end of July!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter for your chance to NAME THAT DOG character in the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Westminster & More Than Looks

”Malachy

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show crowned the latest winner last night–a dust-mop-size grinning lap dog with an attitude! I have to say, he stole the show for me, too, despite an outstanding field of doggy divas.

But oh my goodness, that HAIR! So much of it he resembled “scrubbing bubbles” from the wrong angle and the cameras had to search to find his face. Don’t get me wrong, Malachy is the absolute perfect example of the Peke–even though the breed has become somewhat of an extreme. Take what you like in a doggy type and exaggerate it to get the show dog, and it absolutely works in some and not so much in others.

Would you know how to care for all that coat? Magical-Dawg sheds bucketloads of fur each fall and spring, and the how to give pets as gifts helps keep the doggy drifts under control. For a number of the show dogs, when they’re not being campaigned they may be trimmed in more easy-going trims or be covered up with bibs and ear snoods to keep from gumming up those fancy tresses with food or other debris.

I really love David Frei’s and the other announcer’s method of describing the show dogs’ temperament and care/work needs. That Peke is more than a pretty face, and the grooming alone requires hours that some owners may not have. Grooming, of course, involves more than just coat care. Even the mutt-off-the-street needs basic grooming in terms of brush or comb, and a regular bath when they get grubby, as well as toenail trims, ear care, and in the case of the Peke, some special eye care may be needed.

How do you keep your dog spiffy? Do you have a show-stopper? What tips help with the rough-and-tumble dirty dogs like my Magic to help keep grime to a minimum? Please share!

By the way, the winning Peke weighs in at 11 pounds. That’s how much Magical-Dawg weighed when he came home to live with us at 8 weeks.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: National Dog Show & Ask Amy Grooming

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and everyone knows what that means–NATIONAL DOG SHOW! The Kennel Club of Philadelphia for the past several years have held this show the weekend before Thanksgiving, and then NBC televised the production after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s become an annual favorite of dog people. And because I’m at the Cat Writers Association Annual Conference during the actual event, I’m pleased to see the show up-close-and-personal courtesy of Purina sponsorship.

My colleague David Frei is a longtime breeder, exhibitor and dog expert/author who co-hosts the show with dog lover, author and actor John O’Hurley. Interestingly, the inspiration for televising the show can from a tongue-in-furry-cheek movie fave of dog people everywhere titled ‘Best In Show.’ The two-hour special offers over 160-plus breeds and crowns a Best in Show champion before football takes over the day.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has sanctioned six new breeds for 2011 and they will be introduced to America in their national television debuts on Thanksgiving Day during the show. Thanks to the National Dog Show, you’ll get a sneak peak, below.

And don’t miss the ASK AMY video at the bottom of the blog with some comments about dog show grooming.

AMERICAN ENGLISH COONHOUND

The American English Coonhound evolved from Virginia Hounds, descendants of English Foxhounds. Originally these hounds were used to hunt fox by day and raccoons by night and were named the English Fox and Coonhound. Today’s American English Coonhound is a wide-ranging hunter that possesses tremendous speed and endurance, and excellent voice. A strong and graceful athlete, he needs regular exercise to stay in peak shape. The breed’s hard, protective coat is of medium length and can be red and white ticked, blue and white ticked, tri-colored with ticking, red and white, and white and black. The breed is pleasant, alert, confident and sociable with both humans and dogs.

Search on Facebook:  American English Coonhound Association

[caption id=”attachment_2845″ align=”aligncenter” width=”300″ caption=”Cesky Terrier”

”American

CESKY TERRIER

The Cesky Terrier was developed to be a well-muscled, short legged and well-pigmented hunting terrier that could be worked in packs. The Cesky Terrier has natural drop ears and a natural tail. The Cesky is longer than it is tall and has a topline that rises slightly higher over the loin and rump. It sports a soft, long, silky coat in shades of gray from Charcoal to Platinum. The correct coat is clipped to emphasize a slim impression. The hallmarks of the breed should be unique unto itself with a lean body and graceful movement. They are reserved towards strangers, loyal to their owners, but ever keen and alert during the hunt.

ENTLEBUCHER MOUNTAIN DOG 

The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is a native of Switzerland, and the smallest of the four Swiss breeds.  A medium-sized drover, he has a short, tri-colored coat with symmetrical markings. Purpose and heritage have resulted in an unusually intense bonding between the Entlebucher and his master.  Prized for his work ethic and ease of training, he can transform from a high-spirited playmate to a serious, self-assured dog of commanding presence. The Entlebucher should not be considered a breed for the casual owner. The guardian traits of this breed require thorough socialization, and he will remain an active, energetic dog for his entire lifetime.

[caption id=”attachment_2847″ align=”aligncenter” width=”253″ caption=”Finnish Lapphund”

”Entlebucher

FINNISH LAPPHUND

The Finnish Lapphund is a reindeer herding dog from the northern parts of Scandinavia.  The breed is thought to have existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, as the helper dog of the native tribes.  In modern day, Lapphunds are popular as family pets in their native Finland.  They are devoted to their family, friendly with all people, highly intelligent and eager to learn.  The dogs have a thick, dense coat that comes in a variety of colors and beautiful, soft, expressive faces.  They are strong but very agile.

NORWEGIAN LUNDEHUND

The Norwegian Lundehund – or Puffin Dog — spent centuries on the rocky cliffs and high fields of arctic Norway hunting and retrieving puffin birds, an important meat and feather crop to local farmers. Uniquely equipped for their task, this little Spitz-type dog has at least six toes on each foot for stability in the near vertical environs where puffins nest. A flexible skeletal structure enables the dog to squirm out of tight spots or spread-eagle to prevent slips and falls. Lundehunds have a protective double coat, reddish-brown, often with white collar and feet and a white tip on the tail. Today puffin birds are protected and the puffin dog has taken up its new role as an alert, cheerful and somewhat mischievous companion.

[caption id=”attachment_2849″ align=”aligncenter” width=”300″ caption=”Xoloitzcuintli”

”Norwegian

XOLOITZCUINTLI (show-low-itz-quint-lee)

The Xoloitzcuintli – “show-low” as it is commonly called – is the national dog of Mexico.  Previously known as the Mexican Hairless, it comes in three sizes as well as a coated version – seen in the show ring only in the US and Canada.  These dogs descend from hairless dogs prized by the Aztecs and revered as guardians of the dead.  Over 400 years later, these dogs were still to be found in the Mexican jungles.  Shaped by the environment rather than by man, their keen intelligence, trainability and natural cleanliness have made them a unique and valued pet today.

BIG HAIRY DEAL & MOVING TOPIARY?

So what’s up with all the special grooming that show dogs endure–or do they like it? What do YOU think? Do you share your life with a show dog, or maybe a hunting companion? How do you handle their coat care? Does your Cock-a-dach-a-poo get a Poodle cut? Or does the Lab prefer a regular hosing off?

Do you have a show dog? Have you ever attended a dog show–you gotta do it! The best dog of all, of course, paws down–whether they have ribbons or not–is the canine companion who shares your heart.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aEOK1UBW_M

SPECIAL THANKS

This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ll give away a paw-tographed copy of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. To get in the running, simply post a comment in the blog about your special pet (old fogey or not) and I’ll draw two names at the end of the month. You can use these award-winning updated books as a resource for yourself or wrap up for a pet-friendly holiday gift to a fur-loving friend. And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–the two winners get to name one purr-son who gives them wags of support and deserves a book, too!

#AskAmy Sweet Tweets

Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting. We’ve become a great community including those in the #MyWANA social network twibe hosted by the awesome @KristenLambTX.  So I’m stealing borrowing Kristen’s methods and creating my own hashtag. Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Do-Over…Would You?

It’s the back-to-school time of year, and that conjures up a mixed bag of memories. I loved being a student–yeah, I was a school nerd, and classes were pretty easy for me maybe cuz I took the “artsy” classes like writing, singing, and suchlike. I had mixed feelings about my parents being teachers, though. And lots of angst when for a short time I actually became a high school teacher. On Facebook my relationship with school would be “it’s complicated.”

Part of that is disappointment, I think. After study of music and acting I had every intention to take Broadway by storm. Ha! Then life happened. I met someone special, we fell in love, got married, and my “dream life” was no longer practical. That empty spot inside begged to be filled up with some kind of creativity. So I “made do” with writing. *snort*

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”448″ caption=”My in-house editor, Seren, never holds back her opinion.” Seren "Editing"

”Magic

Yep, I’m an accidental writer who actually made a career out of making do. I wonder how many of us end up with accidental careers?

The dreams we have early in life evolve as we grow and have obstacles and hard choices thrown in the path. Have you ever regretted a choice you made? Would you go back in time for a “do-over” if you had the chance? Are you satisfied with your life today? All those choices along the way–the doors opened or slammed shut, the “mistakes” that lead to other opportunities–for good or ill, they get us to this spot–HERE, NOW, where we are at this moment. A different choice 10 years ago, or even last week surely could lead to a different reality but who’s to say it would be better?

Today I head back over to the Denison High School–where I taught for that brief wonderful-awful-glorious-crazy period of time–for a rehearsal. I’ve been invited to perform in a fund-raiser “talent show” for the theater department this Saturday night. So what better choice than an original song from the new musical dramedy KURVES written with my co-author Frank Steele. Oh, it’s cast and will be presented in full in early February, stay tuned…

Wait a minute, what happened there? Yes, after all these years that drama-dream resurrected with a detour into accidental script/music writing. That’s some scary crappiocca, I gotta say! And guess what? The 8 characters angst over missed opportunities and whether to risk what they have for a do-over new chance at happiness.

Sort of gotz me a theme going, ya think?

A couple of decades ago I could have turned down that marriage proposal, headed to Noo Yawk and who knows what would have happened? I do know what would NOT have happened: 23 books, pet writing and behavior consults, teaching music, Seren-Kitty and Magical-Dawg, moving to Texas, meeting y’all–none of that would have happened.

So what about you? What do-over would you wish for? If you had a chance for a “do-over” would you take it?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Hummers, Writers & Antsy-R-Us

”How

Ants invaded the hummingbird feeders. This isn’t two or three , but a thundering horde. They squiggle into the birdy faucets, clog up output, and commit ant suicide in the sugar water. This doesn’t seem to bother the hummers–more protein, yum!–until the floating ant DOAs exceed a half inch depth.

Setting the pole in a pan of water works for half a day until the 110-degree weather steams it away. The little bit left provides the bugs with water ski opportunity. The little buggers cry, ‘WHEEEEE!’ as they slalom a pathway to reach a drink.

Smeared Vicks on the holder won’t keep them at bay. It just clears tiny ant sinuses so they appreciate the sweet taste all the more.

These days, fiction writing time gets clogged up with ant-icity just like the hummer juice. Some of these “bugs” offer necessary protein. They suck away a modest amount and bring in $$. And hell, these days the economy–like Texas temperatures–creates a climate that demands everyone bow to the forces of nature. House payments come due, AC goes out, fur-kids need kibble in the bowl–life’s funny that way. But when lots of the ant-icity bring nothing to the table other than a giant sucking noise, something’s gotta give.

The fiction am a-calling. So’s the play. Two more nonfiction books are on the to-do list. All those projects feed a writer’s soul the way hummer juice switches on birdy delight.

You’re a writer. You know what I’m talkin’ about. Yet ant-distractions demand more and more time.

When the ant-load gets too deep for sparkly tennis shoes to navigate, the hose comes out. The hummers–and writers–deserve a bit of uninterrupted beverage, after all.

How much ant-icity clogs up your soul? What are your limits–2 or 3 bugs in the juice, a dozen, a half-inch of floaters? When do you cry UNCLE and get out the hose? How do you flush away the the sucky parts so you can enjoy the nectar?

Cuz I don’t want the hummers to get chased off by #$%^&*!@#$%T^&! ants.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Do “Breastfeeding Baby Dolls” Suck?

”Snuggle

Now from time to time my writing certainly scores pretty dang high on the suck-icity meter, but today’s blog may just send you into the screaming into the OH-MY-GOLLY-WOMPERS heebie jeebies. We’ve had “nursing” baby dolls for kids for years, of course. I’m old enough to remember the “Betsy Wetsie” doll Grandma wrapped up for me one Christmas.

Aside: After having two sons, Grandma was delighted to have me to dress up in frills and spoil with dolls. Sad for her, I hated playing with dolls and even as a youngster, preferred stuffed animals when the real thing wasn’t around. That said, I inherited Grandma’s taste in bling!

Back to the subject at hand–I was delighted some year’s ago to discover the Snuggle Pets when I lectured at Tufts Animal Expo and I still have the Snuggle Kittie. There’s still a Snuggle Puppy available, but at the time the company even offered Snuggle Ferrets and bunnies and parrots. These plush toys include a battery powered heartbeat, heat element, and pocket for a nurser and serve as surrogate mom-objects to very young kittens and puppies. The idea isn’t new. Orphaned critters often “adopt” stuffed toys. Heck, the Magical-Dawg still uses his “bears” as doggy pacifiers (yuck! soggy misshapen heads on the things…)

As someone who adored playing make-believe with stuffed animals as a kid–hey, I had a flying cat named Snowball and a talking dog named Fluff–I can understand the appeal for children to use their imagination. And I suppose this first video might be a nice alternative to parents wanting kids to experience the fun of newborn puppies without the mess or hassle of poopy pick up or (horrors!) death. After all, a dead puppy just ain’t a fun gift. But what do you think about having a toy dog that actually NURSES the toy puppies? Check out that first video.

It sorta kinda made me go “ewww” but then I thought–people in my field constantly preach to the choir (and wish the rest would listen!) to spay/neuter, don’t breed, too many pups and kittens are born . . . so heck. Would this be a good alternative? Or should they also create a toy doggy that gives birth or a toy kitty that brings headless mice to your pillow? Hmnn.

So what sparked this deep thinking? Well, the Twitter-verse is a wondrous place, filled with amazing flotsam and jetsam and Wednesday I happened upon a Sweet Tweet with a link from CNN about a new doll for little girls. WordPress would let me embed that video so I searched YouTube and found another covering the subject. The doll comes with a little vest that allows children to mimic breast feeding.

Does that go off the scale in the OOOOK factor? Or is it a natural thing for little girls to mimic their moms and want to play-pretend this normal function? Heck, we encourage them to diaper babydolls or fill ’em full of water until they turn into leaky faucets. Is this so different? I’m asking y’all, because I only have the 4-legged kind of kids.

Great fiction writers have the ability to put in just enough reality to tell the story and create worlds of entertainment. Too much detail gets in the way. Is that what’s happening with these kinds of kid toys? Or is a six-year-old play-nursing her dolly more healthy than the kids killing zombies with transformers (or whatever the hell it takes to nullify the undead). What do you think?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Feeding The Muse

”Does

Due to the magic of WordPress, I get to write this EARLY and have it posted tomorrow morning while I’m flying to New York. Can you see my arms a-flappin’ (insert “twack-thwackity-thwack” sound effects)?

I don’t have a lot to say today other than–I’m excited, exhausted, anxious, and thrilled all rolled up in one. Excited because Thrillerfest is the absolutely BESTEST-FUNNEST-INSPIRING-EST conference I attend. Exhausted because I’ve managed to cram a week’s worth of work into two days so I wouldn’t be distracted with (ack) work while there. Anxious because flying ain’t near the adventure it used to be and crappiocca always–ALWAYS–happens (wonder if I”ll be profiled this time?).

And thrilled because I get to see my favorite authors, reconnect with friends and make new acquaintances.

For writers, nothing gives us a goose in the ass-terick like a writer’s conference. We get to schmooze and express our jealousy admiration for all those successful folks; steal all learn the secrets of their success; hang out with cool people in the bar during seminars  and find out–

They’re people, too. And they have some of the same angst-icity and writerly challenges that face the rest of us. Oh, and some of ’em worked for DAYS and WEEKS and sometimes MONTHS before they had an overnight success (I kid…more like years or decades in many cases).

So what’s the most inspiring part of being among people who really understand us–why we bang our heads on the virtual door of publication forever. It’s not that we’re born masochists. Okay, well, some folks are. And it’s not that we’re totally clueless about our lack of talent. Wait–maybe that fellow waa-a-aay over there might be a wee bit . . . never mind. For sure it’s not because we enjoy rejection.

Creative types do it because–it’s who we are, not just what we do. And gathering at a writer conference like Thrillerfest, or at a music festival or Harley Davidson convention, dog or cat show, quilt exhibition, or ComicCon or whatever floats your creative boat FUELS THE MUSE.

I’m already feeling all inspired-like.

What feeds your muse? How do you energize your creative side? When do you feel most in need of a pick-me-up, and where do you find the necessary go-get-’em juice to press on?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Furry Friday: Lulu’s Furry Miracle

”Lulu

I couldn’t do foster work, I don’t think. When I traveled for Purina as a spokesperson and visited countless shelters, the hardest part was walking away from all those needy bewhiskered faces. Bringing a fur-kid into the house, only to later give him/her away into the loving homes of another, would be rewarding but –I know this about myself — it would flat kill me.

Thank God there are rescue organizations and individuals who can do this!

While it sounds romantic to raise up cute babies and unwanted dogs or cats and give them a much needed second chance, reality ain’t the same. Dogs and cats are dumped, relinquished, lose homes for no fault of their own but challenging behavior problems and/or health issues make foster care even more daunting.

Did I mention God has a hand in such things? And the human angels on earth sometimes are granted miracles–my colleague and friend Carol Duncan gave me permission to share the latest. It seems particularly timely because of the BOOM-BOOM noise phobias mentioned in the Woof Wednesday blog that caused Lulu–that gorgeous Border Collie–in the picture–such angst. You see, Lulu panicked during a thunderstorm and tried to escape her crate, resulting in severe injuries that required hip surgery. Yes, they can do amazing things these days with cutting edge medicine for pets–and the video puts a furry face on some of these techniques.

I’ve seen other video of Carol’s foster BCs, one called Possum that was so fearful–and the progress made until she actually PLAYED with Carol’s other dogs. Makes me weepy again just to think of how far some of these fosters can come with the right care. Now, it’s Lulu’s chance.

Carol writes,

“I’m almost afraid to say anything lest I jinx myself, but Lulu, a BC is being adopted on Monday.  Lulu is reactive to other dogs and needs to go to a home with no other dogs.  Plus, she has hip dysplasia and is recovering from an FHO right now.  And she has mild urinary incontinence.  She barks a lot, too!  And she is sound sensitive, terrified of thunder and fireworks.  She is currently on Fluoxetine and Clonazepam.  She’s probably around 6 or 7 years old — has a lot of years left, we hope, but not a young dog, by any means.

Who would want such a dog?

Well, a couple in El Paso contacted me.  Their BC passed away in February at age 15.  The wife is a high school teacher and is home for the summer.  They chose to wait until the summer to get a new dog.  The wife really liked the way Lulu looks and wrote to me.  They have a pool and will be able to continue her rehab there.  They specifically wanted an older dog. And the last time they had a thunderstorm there was 2006. They had a fabulous vet reference and their home check was conducted yesterday by a woman who is a herding trial judge who lives in El Paso.”

WOW! Who can dare argue that God didn’t work a miracle? Well, the Almighty and human angels, that is–the rescue organization, veterinarians, and of course Carol and her furry crew of doggy helpers.

Are you involved in rescue work? What challenges do you individually and your rescue organization face? What about dogs (or cats) with hip dysplasia–have you ever included water therapy for your pets?

The cool video, below, shows Lulu receiving underwater treadmill therapy (WAY COOL!) from the Dallas Veterinary Surgical Center, so that Lulu’s new family has a demonstration how to continue Lulu’s rehab. Carol works with Border Collie Rescue Texas which paid for a good portion of Lulu’s treatment–but Carol funded quite a bit herself.

Love doesn’t come cheap! Think about supporting a rescue group in your area. Have you had similar miracle matches–please share!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ED3SmI0PsU

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Feeding Your Soul

”"Stop

I’m a bore.

No, really–don’t let the sparkle-icity fool you. This lady am-stuck-in-a-rut. I can’t remember the last time my husband and I took a vacation together, other than to visit family. We have responsibilities. Two fur-kids that don’t do well left alone. Property that needs attention. And work deadlines that refuse to recognize the term “vacation.” The whole concept of R&R gives me an eye twitch when I think of all the work not yet done.

Am I beyond redemption?

Each year for the past dozen, my writers group makes a trek to the mountains of Colorado sometime during the heat of Texas summer. This year we’ve postponed that week-long outing until September. Because our various WORK schedules simply won’t allow us that leeway until later, if then.

The Colorado trek used to be a respite from work, a place to indulge in aspirational endeavors–that novel idea burning a hole in my brain, copper-foiling stained glass pieces, shopping for sparkles, drinking beverage, fine conversation until late in the night, wildlife visitation–deer, birds, squirrels, bear, raccoons, turkeys, hummers and more–and LAUGHTER. Lots of laughter, a few tears, and support without bounds. This was a place of few phone calls. That rare and MIRACULOUS call from editors or agents with neato-torpedo news was cause for more beverage and celebration.

This same core group of talented wannabe writers and authors transformed each other into established professionals. We are family, community, friends and sisters who champion each others success. Our local face-to-face meetings have become few and far between with some members moving away but staying connected via Internet and phone. Our annual Colorado trek renews us emotionally, physically and spiritually and has become that “golden carrot” that sustains us through the angst of day-to-day crappiocca.

It’s changed a bit since laptops and WIFI arrived. Leaving work behind takes extra effort. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to be able to check email and stay connected to put out emergencies. But there’s only so much one can do from the mountaintop. That feeling of soul-soothing renewal comes so rarely and must last another 12 months, it hurts my heart and almost feels like blasphemy to interrupt with such things as . . .

Work.

Maybe this year I’ll turn off the WIFI.

Do you have a “golden carrot” place, real or virtual? How do you reward your hard work and diffuse the normal crappiocca? Here at home in hotter-than-hell Texas, I spend one-on-one time with the fur-kids, read my Kindle, play my cello, write music. What are your leisure joys? How do you feed your soul?

Colorado Soul Renewal

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Procrastination, Backups & Thpbpbpbpb

I missed posting Tuesday Tips, the next in the Kindle-ization series, and I’m HISSED OFF! You see, I have most all of that series done, and ready to go. They’re all on my laptop.

The laptop that DIED this week. Thpbpbpbpbpbpb! (that’s a virtual raspberry)

Actually, we suspect the battery ran dry–and it won’t run on just the plug. I’ve ordered a new battery, and hope for the best–but prepare for the worst.  I guess the old laptop served well–letters on the keyboard had worn off and a couple of books were written on it including all the updates to the newly Kindle-ized titles. Come to think of it, that’s where I kept the final versions of the updated manuscripts.

THPBPBPBPBPB!!!

I’m the person who always arrives early for meetings and circles the block until it’s not embarrassing to show up. With few exceptions, I meet or beat deadlines. And I angst and grow gray hairs and sprout crow’s feet lines when I can’t cross off each item as finished.  These days, though, with 5-10 blogs a week plus two weekly columns and the puppies.About.com stuff–oh, and a co-written musical play to produce, fiction WIP, acting gigs– keeping all the eggs in the air without scrambling them on impact takes a toll.

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”237″ caption=”Scratch THIS!” seren scratching 1

”Some

So my blog schedule and backing up files fell to the bottom of the to-do list. Often I can get a few done early on weekends, but–well, over Memorial Day I actually shut off work and played with the Magical-Dawg and Seren-kitty! So I planned to post Tuesday’s blog on Tuesday morning (instead of days or at least the night before). Fortunately I had edited and uploaded the Ask Amy youtube videos for this week so yesterday’s Woof Wednesday and tomorrow’s Feline Friday are ready.

Just a week or so ago, one of my colleagues lamented the crash of her entire computer and loss of files. That was a wake-up call. I nearly subscribed to an online backup service but was instead convinced by my tech-guy husband to use thumb drives. So nearly all of the work on the !@#$%^&! laptop had been saved just a few days ago–but not the Ebooks and not the blog notes and content.

”Strawberries

I can re-created it but at the moment the pity-party-whine-fest is much more satisfying. Oh, I quick-like-a-bunny bought a new laptop with higher speed, larger storage, and updated software.  And I’ll get a few more of those thumb-drives and put it on my schedule for backups with more religious fervor.

How do you procrastinate? Has it ever bitten you in the ass-ets? What are your top reasons to THPBPBPB? Don’t be shy–vent away. And bookmark this blog to remind you what crappiocca can happen to derail even A-type go-go-go plan-ahead people like you and me!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Cat Writers Awards for Radio, TV, Article & More

The month of November had me running , and I’m still playing catch-up. First, the BIG NEWS–

I’ve a new book contract! This is a breed book on the American Pit Bull Terrier, and is due January 1st, so I’m typing like the wind to meet  my deadline.

I spent the weekend before Thanksgiving in White Plains, New York overseeing the Cat Writers’ Association’s 16th Annual Writers Conference (www.catwriters.org) , to great success. We had several editors and agents, a host of great speakers, and an exciting awards banquet. I’m please to have won the association’s highest honor, the CWA Muse Medallion, for my Pet Peeves radio show at www.PetLifeRadio.com, my CBS-TV Pet Talk segment, and an online article on cat claw training at www.shojai.com.  

In other news, I was flown to St. Louis by the Purina CatChow group earlier in the month for an all-day photo shoot (with cats!), to update the CatChow.com website and mentor pages. You see, I’ve written an “emotional health” online column as a Cat Chow mentor for many years, along with other veterinarians, and Purina plans to promote our advice columns more widely in 2010. This probably will be in conjunction with the Animal Planet “HousecatHousecall” show.

That same week, I traveled to Austin, Texas for the annual meeting of the CATalyst effort. This group seeks to improve/promote the profile of cats, in order to put them on equal footing (paws?) with dogs that receive more funding for health  and other pet issues. I’ll write, radio, and tv  on the subject in the future.

best,

amy