Just checking in to prove I’m still around, although busy on my novel. This is just for fun. The requirement was to create a book cover for a fictional YA cover using word generators following these instructions:

1 – Go to Fake Name Generator. The name that appears is your author name.

2 – Go to Random Word Generator. The word listed under “Random Verb” is your title.

3 – Go to FlickrCC. Type your title into the search box. The first photo that contains a person is your cover.

4 – Use Photoshop, Picnik, or similar (I use Snagit Editor) to put it all together. Be sure to crop and/or zoom in, as desired.

5 – Post it to your site along with this text.

This is how mine turned out.

Keeping Teddy

TeddyAlthough it was my intention to update this blog on a regular basis, weekly at a minimum, it has been awhile since I last posted. I’ve started a new young adult novel and have also been trying to catch up on what has been published in the field in the past year or so. Consequently, I’ve fallen behind.

In my last post I wrote how a new puppy came into our lives, even though we had every intention of never owning, or being owned by, another dog. But a darling nine-week old Havanese stole our hearts and we found ourselves on the way home with him, even though we had intended to only become acquainted with the breed.

Fifteen minutes down the road, buyer’s remorse kicked in. What had I been thinking? I was just beginning to enjoy having time to myself, to take my time with errands and not even go home if I didn’t feel like it. Now I was committed to a schedule that was not of my choosing. I must have had a brain fart! I almost asked my husband to turn the car around. But the breeder had given us two weeks to make up our minds, after which we could return the little guy if we decided it wasn’t a good fit. Actually, if we had to give him up for any reason, we were to return him to her. I tried to stuff my second-guessing thoughts down deep and reassured myself with the breeder’s offer.

I was worried for more than one reason. The breeder was a raw food feeder and we had signed a contract that we would continue that diet. When our Bouvier developed health problems early on, I had prepared her food for the rest of her life—forty pounds of cooked ground turkey, brown rice, organ meat, veggies, etc. at a time—but I’d never tossed a dog a raw chicken wing. We were also not to have the puppy vaccinated or neutered until he was a year old, in order to allow his hormones and immune system to mature. I was more amenable to holding off on inoculations, although the lack of a rabies shot would make traveling out of the country difficult. I was, however, willing to suspend disbelief on all counts and give it a try.

We had not prepared the house for the unexpected arrival, so the first evening was disorganized, but we managed. We still had a travel kennel (so much for my intent to never get another dog), so the puppy slept in it. Feeding wasn’t much of a challenge: we tossed him a cut up chicken wing and he crunched it and munched it down. Fortunately, he was a very easy puppy, so except for going outside with him to keep him from falling down the steps or being snatched by a hawk, he demanded little. With my free time I researched raw food diets and immunizations, and brainstormed names.

The name was the biggest challenge. Since the breed is the national dog of Cuba, my husband wanted to name him Gitmo, or Cohiba, after the cigar. I nixed both, Gitmo as it has negative connotations for many people, and the cigar because it’s a cigar. I’d been thinking of names for the past year, and tried them out, one after another. Cash, Link, Finn, Flynn didn’t suit him. Bouncer? Too cutsie. Flash? Already taken by a member of his family. Rogue, his litter name? Okay, but he seemed too mellow. Every day I’d announce to the family the puppy’s name, only to change my mind the next day. In the meantime, I was still trying to decide if we were really going to keep him. A new commitment was the last thing I wanted. I was beginning to think my difficulty in choosing a name was a reflection of my ambivalence. I adored the puppy, but did I really want him?

In the meantime, the honeymoon period was over. As we neared the two week deadline, the puppy became less calm and cooperative. In short, he became a pain in the butt. One day, as I agonized over my to-keep-or-not-to-keep decision and lamented the name difficulty and his deteriorating behavior, I decided to use a treatment method, called the Emotional Freedom Technique to see if I could calm the pup down and improve his cooperation. In the middle of the treatment it suddenly seemed as though I became the puppy, as though I were feeling what he was feeling. “Why should I behave?” he seemed to be thinking, “if you might not want me and don’t even care enough to give me a name?”

I felt as though I’d been given a blow to the gut. What a rotten guardian I was! It would be better to return the puppy than force him to live in a home that was ambivalent toward him. Bursting into tears,I snatched up the puppy and looked into his tiny, trusting face with its black button nose and tawny eyes. “I’m so sorry,” I told him. “I really do love you. You’re staying and your name is Teddy.”

Thief of Hearts

Thief of Hearts

Thief of Hearts

Our miniature pinscher and our golden retriever had been dead about six years. Our plan to have a truly empty nest was underway. The intent was for the kids to move out on their own around the same time as the dogs “departed,” leaving us free to do what we wished when we wished. We would be free of dogs, free of kids, free of commitments and responsibilities. Free to live as we chose.

Why do we bother planning? The kids lingered, thanks to extended education plans, the poor economy, or whatever. Eventually I found myself stopping by the humane society to visit the dogs and remind myself why we didn’t want one. My head said no, but my heart kept saying yes. I returned week after week, thinking that if a dog was meant to be mine, he would let me know. None did. So I began reading the pet classified ads. Then I went to the internet, looking, of course, for the perfect dog. I know the perfect dog doesn’t exist, but after all the challenges we’d had with our former pets, I at least hoped to get closer to the ideal. I wanted something smaller than our golden, something easier to take on trips than our Bouvier, healthier and more trainable than our min pin—although a short coat like the min pin’s would be perfect—and less predatory than our out-of-character Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever. Mostly, I wanted the right temperament: loving, intelligent, trainable, obedient.

I thought I was quite educated as to the different breeds of dogs in the world, but the internet introduced me to some new ones. Mostly they were “designer” dogs. I am ambivalent about designer dogs. It’s an interesting idea to take two wonderful breeds and combine them to get a dog that’s even more wonderful. But demanding thousands of dollars for what we once called mutts or mongrels seems entirely inappropriate unless the new breed has been in existence for years and has been recognized by the AKA and allowed to be shown.

One rare dog that caught my eye was the Mi-Ki, a tiny ball of fluff that seemed to have all the characteristics I was looking for. Although it has been around for a while, eventually, the rarity of the breed made me hesitate. Now that any puppy mill in the world can put itself on the web and lead you to believe a loving family is hand raising the perfect specimen, I believed it would be more difficult than usual to find a reputable breeder. And since the breed can be as small as three pounds, another thought stopped me: more fodder for a great horned owl. (See Little Luke, April 15)

I found myself returning to websites featuring the Havanese, the national dog of Cuba. Small, silky, intelligent, adorable, non-shedding, they seemed to have all the traits we were seeking, although they required more coat care than I wanted. After that, it was a foregone conclusion that eventually we would own a Havanese.

The search began for a breeder. Never having actually seen a Havanese, we hoped to find a breeder close to home so we could visit and make certain this was the breed we wanted. Finally I contacted a breeder who would be attending a dog show a few hours away. A couple of puppies from her last litter would be with her. One, a male, might be a possibility for us. I had learned in my research that the last puppy in the litter isn’t the one no one wants because it’s flawed physically or temperamentally. Often the last to go is the best of the litter because the breeder is thinking of hanging on to it herself. That was the case with this puppy. The breeder was considering keeping him to show, but thought having another male on the premises might be more trouble than she needed right now, so was willing to part with him.

When we found the breeder’s site on the show grounds, we were greeted by numerous bundles of leaping, tumbling, fluffy silk. A tiny ball of dark gray, cream, and sable landed in my arms. The puppy snuggled in, then nestled his head on my shoulder. Our intention was to take a look at the breed, then go home and think about it. But I was a goner. So were my husband and daughter. A few hours later we were on our way home with our new three-pound baby.

Quinn was our golden retriever with attitude, Luke our miniature pinscher with spunk. Together they led us a merry chase and brought joy and not a small amount of frustration into our lives. In an earlier post I stated that having a dog guarantees heartbreak along with the joy. You know it’s coming, but you do your best to postpone it as long as possible. For both Quinn and Luke, the inevitable came too soon.

As Quinn got older, he became slightly less wild, but remained mischievous. Mostly, he was loving. If you were feeling down, Quinn appeared and rested his head on your lap, looking up at you with his beautiful brown eyes. I shed countless tears onto his golden coat, grieving over our son, who lives with the chaos created by borderline personality disorder (see posts for March 17 to March 23).

Luke was more catlike in his temperament. Coming to you had to be his idea. But if you sat down for more than a few minutes, he’d leap onto your lap and settle down for a snooze. He spent his nights curled under our covers, a living heating pad, offering comfort in his own small way.

Unlike Luke, Quinn had always been a healthy dog, necessitating few visits to the vet. But one day, when he was seven, he seemed weak and lacked energy. When he wasn’t back to normal the next day, I took him for a checkup. The vet could find nothing out of the ordinary and decided Quinn had pulled a muscle in a rear leg, logical considering the wild games of chase he and Luke enjoyed. The next day, however, when I returned from shopping, my son met me at the door, his face stricken. “Quinn’s dead!” he told me. “In your bedroom.” In shock, I raced to the bedroom. There Quinn lay beside the bed, as though he had decided to take a nap, then never awakened. Seven isn’t that old for a dog. Quinn should have had another five or more years.

We didn’t order an autopsy. Our other golden, Quinn’s brother Bailey, had died during surgery while still a puppy (see “The Goldens,” April 3), and the doctor had been certain he had had an undetected heart defect. He said Quinn’s heart likely had failed him, too. Perhaps both had had a genetic flaw. Perhaps Quinn had lived a longer life than he might have had he not had such good care and loving attention through the years. Perhaps because he loved so well, he had used his heart all up. Whatever the reason, a definitive answer wouldn’t bring him back. We had Quinn cremated and buried his ashes in our yard.

Luke carried on. Being left with Quinn that day, he had had plenty of opportunity to spend time with Quinn after he died, so by the time we discovered the body, Luke seemed to have accepted his status as only dog. He continued to require the services of the chiropractor, though less frequently than when he and Quinn used to tumble about. But he still kept me hopping. He never had learned to obey. Even though we had researched the min pin’s temperament before adopting Luke, only recently did I read that on a scale of one to seven, with seven being the most challenging, the min pin rated a seven with regard to ease of training. Luke definitely epitomized that statistic! He was lucky he was cute and we loved him.

Then, when Luke turned seven years old, heartbreak paid us another visit. One night Luke asked to go out. He always wore a bell on his collar so he would be easy to find and wouldn’t get stepped on. After he had been out for a while, I went into the yard to check on him. I called, but he didn’t come and I didn’t hear the bell. After a frantic search I found him lying on his side not far from the house. I assumed he was having one of his passing-out spells that necessitated a visit to the chiropractor, so didn’t panic. But this time I noticed a small tear on his side, and when I picked him up, he didn’t respond. He was breathing, but appeared glassy-eyed. Realizing this wasn’t his usual problem, we rushed him to the nearest emergency hospital. After a half hour we got the sad news. Luke had died. The cause of death—crushed ribs.

Crushed ribs? Crushed ribs!? Astounded, we tried to assimilate the information. The doctor studied us, no doubt wondering if we should be reported to animal control for abuse. Our dumbfounded reactions must have reassured him. We could not imagine what had happened. We knew no coyote could have gotten to Luke. If one had managed to come into the yard, Luke would have raised a ruckus, the way he did with his first coyote encounter (See “Little Luke”, April 15).Finally we recalled the tear in his side. After Quinn had died, a great horned owl had moved into the neighborhood, perching on rooftops and hooting softly during the nighttime hours. He was magnificent and a thrill to see, but I had worried about Luke’s safety, even though the dog was fast and fearless. But it was the only answer. The owl must have underestimated Luke’s weight and feistiness and tried to carry him away, crushing his ribs and tearing the skin in his attempt, and then dropping him. Poor little Luke. What a sad ending. Brokenhearted, we took him home and buried him next to his brother, Quinn.

No more dogs, I vowed, and my husband agreed. Our kids weren’t completely in favor, but they would be on their own in a few years and could get a pet when their lifestyles permitted. I gathered all the dog paraphernalia we had collected over the years and donated it to our local humane society. No more dogs! We’d be free to travel, free to stay away from the house as long as we chose to during the day, free of dog hair and poop scooping, vets, and extra expenses. Dog free!

But, as the James Bond title goes, “Never say never again.” It took about six years, but one day I found myself stopping by the humane society to see what was there. I was just getting my “fix,” I told myself, reminding myself that dogs smell, make messes, bark, and shed, reinforcing our “no dogs” decision. Two years later, I was still wandering the shelter and still telling myself that.

If we were going to get another dog (a big “if,” but getting smaller) I really did want a shelter dog, preferably a small, short-haired one that was trained and mature and calm, available through no fault of his own or because of his former owner’s irresponsibility. I also told myself that if God wanted us to have another dog, we didn’t have to go looking for one, because that dog would find and choose us. I constantly repeated one of my great-aunt’s favorite quotes: “What is mine will know my face.” Any dog meant to be ours would show up on our doorstep or come racing to the front of the kennel at the shelter, fix me with his eyes and haunt my sleep.

So how did we get a puppy who needs a retained baby tooth pulled, needs housetraining, obedience, grooming, neutering, and is intimidated by strangers and other dogs? That’s the topic of my next post.

Luke, a miniature pinscher, came into our lives to replace Bailey, our golden retriever puppy, who died during surgery, and to be a companion for Bailey’s brother, Quinn. Together, Quinn and Luke formed an oddly-matched, but formidable, team: Quinn, large and loving; Luke tiny and independent, more like a cat in his willingness to bestow affection. Alone, each was a handful. Together, they led us a merry chase.

Neither dog was amenable to obeying commands, despite repeated obedience classes and even a lengthy boot camp. Apparently no one in the family was an alpha figure. Told to come, Quinn would throw his head into the air and race away, grinning back over his shoulder. Direct the same command to Luke and he’d lower his head and act as though he were following a fascinating trail in the other direction. Impossible as it seems, Luke was an expert at unhooking his leash from his collar until I managed to make it Luke-proof. One time he got loose on a walk and my husband and I made idiots of ourselves charging back and forth on the street trying to catch him. Finally, thinking I had him, I flung myself onto him, only to miss and plant my face on the pavement. My ego as bruised as my face, I watched Luke skitter away.

One day the kids left a gate open and both dogs escaped from the yard. The temperature was around 80 degrees as I raced up our street after them. Since we lived on the side of a hill, I do mean up. I hadn’t stopped to grab a leash or change into decent shoes, since I knew how fast Luke could travel and time was of the essence. “SIT! STAY! COME!” I screamed, only to watch them race in and out of yards and along the sidewalk, Luke diving into the street to charge the occasional vehicle. None of the drivers noticed him or slowed down. The encounter with the coyote hadn’t gotten him.This time, I was certain he would be killed. My temperature and my temper were both rising, and I was certain I was going to have a heart attack right there on the street. Finally, blocks from our house, I managed to grab Quinn. A rope was hanging from a tree in a yard. Screaming and red in the face with frustration, I whipped it around Quinn’s collar. “You’re lucky I don’t strangle you!” I yelled at him, then left him tied and chased after Luke, relieved the little scamp was finally heading downhill. When Luke stopped to sniff an interesting pooh pile on the sidewalk, I nabbed him, and uncharacteristically blessed the people who hadn’t cleaned up after their dog.

Except for the cars, the street had been mostly deserted during our escapade, so as I lugged Luke home and returned for Quinn, I was grateful that my hysterics had escaped unnoticed. Or so I thought. Later, the occupant of the house where I had tied Quinn mentioned that she had gotten a phone call from her terrified son that a crazy woman was in the yard screaming her head off. Then she had tied up a dog and left him there. Since she knew we had a golden retriever, could it possibly have been me? I sheepishly confessed and we had a good laugh.

Quinn was also adept at stealing. He especially enjoyed anything on the kitchen counter. One day he nabbed a pound of butter. A few minutes later, he threw it up in the back yard, which likely kept him from becoming very ill. But before I could clean it up, Luke raced out and ate the regurgitated pile. A few minutes later, he threw it up too–in the house.

Luke’s favorite place to sleep was in a bed under the covers–with or without a human present–worming his way under until he had a cozy nest. One time a visiting guest went off to bed. Suddenly a bellow echoed down the hall. Our guest scooted out of the bedroom. “That damn Luke!” he sputtered. He had turned out the light and slipped into bed, only to have his feet unexpectedly land on a warm, furry body deep under the covers, nearly causing him heart failure. Another time Quinn ate this same friend’s eyeglasses. Even so, he remained a friend.

Despite the trouble Quinn and Luke caused, we continued to love them until the day they died. Neither lived the long and happy life he should have. That’s the topic of my next posting.

Little Luke

Luke came into our lives after our golden retriever puppy Bailey died in surgery, leaving his brother, Quinn, our only dog. When it comes to dogs, we never repeat ourselves, so we didn’t go looking for another golden. Smaller somehow seemed wiser. Luke was a red miniature pinscher, who never knew he weighed only seven pounds dripping wet. He had the heart of a Rottweiler. He was supposedly our daughter’s dog, since Bailey had been hers, but he and I both knew he was really mine.

Luke and Quinn snoozing

Luke and Quinn snoozing

When we brought Luke home, all two pounds of him, he had already had his tail docked, but his ears were intact. No fans of ear cropping, and confused as to why people think a butchered, unnaturally tiny, erect ear improves the look of a dog with an already perfect appearance, we left Luke’s ears, which made him more adorable than he would have with them chopped. Despite the difference in size, he and Quinn immediately bonded, chasing each other around the yard and house, and sleeping with Luke curled into Quinn’s tummy.

Problems appeared when Luke was only a few months old. He started to lose weight and had episodes when he staggered and stumbled, then keeled over in a faint. Frequent visits to the vet found no cause. I became adept at performing puppy CPR to revive him. Then he grew a patch of long, coarse hair on his side, became skeletally thin, and looked dreadful. This time the vet wanted to perform a liver scan by injecting him with radioactive material. None of his symptoms seemed to indicate a liver problem, especially since his episodes usually occurred after play sessions with Quinn. I didn’t want to subject him to the procedure. Instead, I phoned the animal communicator I had consulted about Amy, our Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. In about two minutes she had diagnosed a misalignment of Luke’s spine, which was causing pressure on his spinal cord and making him pass out. That made sense. She recommended taking him to a chiropractor.

We were fortunate to find a chiropractor within a few miles of our home who treated animals. Adjusting a small, active min pin was a challenge. I held Luke wrapped in a towel while he struggled and yelped and the doctor did his thing. It worked. His coat smoothed out, he gained weight, and looked healthy. For the next six years, whenever Luke began to stagger, off we’d go to the doctor for a treatment. He survived the spinal problem. He almost didn’t survive the coyote.

Little Luke

Little Luke

We had moved to a new home. Fortunately, the yard was fenced, as there were plenty of coyotes in the area. We knew they couldn’t climb the vertical fence pickets, but we had seen evidence that they had tried to dig under the fence from the outside. We never thought of Luke digging out, but one day he dug under and escaped into the natural area behind the house. I didn’t notice he was gone until I heard distant barking and recognized it as Luke’s. Peering over the fence I saw him at the bottom of the hill barking at a bush. Then, out from the bush came a coyote. He’s dead, I thought. Luke was no match for a coyote, especially since they usually run in packs.

The coyote appeared to be trying to lure Luke toward the bush, where the rest of the pack likely waited. It would disappear for a second, then reappear, as though coaxing Luke to follow. Since our yard backed onto a protected area, we had no gate in the back yard. The fence was too high for me to climb. I couldn’t get out to help. I yelled and screamed like a maniac, but neither the coyote nor Luke paid me any mind. Typical min pin. Then Luke turned to race up the hill toward home. The coyote charged after him. My heart stopped. It seemed hopeless. Suddenly Luke turned to face the coyote. He stood his ground. He snarled and barked. All seven pounds of min pin challenged the coyote, at least 25 pounds heavier than he. And he won! The coyote backed off. Two more times Luke raced for home, only to turn and face down the threatening predator. Then up the hill rode a woman on horseback. She had been riding in a ring farther down the hill, had heard my frantic yelling, and ridden to the rescue. The coyote fled at the sight of the horse. Luke had never seen a horse. He reacted the same way with the horse he had with the coyote, snarling and yapping. But the rider carefully herded Luke the rest of the way up the hill. I got a ladder and climbed over the fence, thanked the stranger profusely, and got Luke back in our yard.

My husband spent the next month installing a “snake fence” at the base of the regular fence and pounding six inch spikes into the ground every three inches all the way around the back yard to prevent Luke from digging out or coyotes from digging in. As he worked, he muttered that there was a much simpler and cheaper way to solve our problem—a single bullet. He was only joking. He loved Luke as much as the rest of the family.

I wish I could say we all lived calmly and happily ever after, but Luke was a handful. And paired with his wild-hair brother, we were led a merry chase in the years to follow. My next posting will describe some of our Luke/Quinn (mis)adventures, as well as Quinn and Luke’s sad ends.

The Goldens

In this series about dogs who have shared our lives, I’ve written about Sabrina and Amy. Today, the focus turns to Quinn and Bailey, the puppies we adopted after we sadly had to find a new home for Amy.

BEst Buds

Best Buds, 6 months

Having tried a couple of rare breeds, this time we decided to go with one of America’s favorite dogs—a golden retriever. So far we were thinking clearly. Then our thinking got a bit distorted. Why, we wondered, don’t we get two puppies? After all, we have two children. Doesn’t each one need a dog to call his and her own? Goldens are such wonderful family dogs, it must be a wonderful idea!

So brothers Quinn and Bailey came into our lives. We were able to stick closer to home for these puppies, no airline flights with their mucked up schedules, merely a drive up the road. Both pups were honey yellow. Bailey, quiet and mellow, suited our daughter. Quinn, more outgoing, suited our son’s personality. Home we went with our new babies.

WHAT WERE WE THINKING? Sure, we had twice the cuteness and twice the love. But there was also twice the housetraining, twice the food and vet bills, twice the bathing and grooming, twice the obedience classes, twice the equipment, and twice the poop! But gee, they were so cute, and typical of the breed, so loving, wanting to be near us every minute they weren’t tumbling around with each other. They fit right in, and despite the extra work, became a joy to live with. Then, when he was seven months old, Bailey’s tail developed a serious bend. Two bones seemed to be misaligned, one sliding over the top of the other. The vet recommended we have the tail removed at the kink. So off Bailey went for what should have been a simple procedure. The two brothers had never been separated. Quinn didn’t get frantic, but it was clear he was wondering and worrying where his brother had gone.

That afternoon the vet phoned. Bailey, he said, never woke up from the anesthetic. The doctor said his heart had simply stopped, which was a good indication that he must have had some inherent or genetic weakness. The vet, as upset as we were, was in tears when we went to get Bailey. We brought our pup home and laid him on the grass beside Quinn. Curious, Quinn spent time sniffing and nosing Bailey. Getting no reaction, and seemingly satisfied, he took one final sniff and wandered away.

I often wondered what would have happened had we simply sent Bailey off to be cremated and Quinn had never seen him again. Would he have grieved until he eventually gave up expecting his brother to come through the door? We’d never know. What we did know was that Quinn had accepted his brother’s death. He seemed to understand the body was no longer his brother. Life was for living and off he went to live it, leaving us to dig a grave and cry.

Quinn without Bailey

Quinn without Bailey

Life did go on. Quinn grew older, but not calmer. True to his younger temperament, he lived with complete abandon. He never met a stranger he didn’t love and try to lick. Faithfully, we took him to obedience school, where he did quite well—as long as he was in class. Outside school he remained a toned down version of Marley, obeying no command unless he decided it was in his best interest. Try as we might, we could never seem to convince him every command was in his best interest. Ah ha! we thought. What he needs is another obedience class, this time the Canine Good Citizen class. We’ll have him shaped up yet. Quinn actually did quite well in CGC. Then came the final class when the instructor conducted tests to see who had earned their certificate and who had flunked. One by one Quinn passed each challenge. There was only one left, the test where the dog and handler had to pass among at least three other people without showing too much exuberance, shyness, or resentment. Unfortunately, Quinn was Mr. Exuberance in the flesh, the dog who couldn’t greet and lick enough people even if his certificate depended on it. He flunked.

Perhaps Quinn would calm down if he had a companion, we decided. Besides, our daughter missed her dog. It wasn’t fair her brother had one and she didn’t. And that’s how Luke came to join the family.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.