A Safe Haven

If you’re a fan of the Superman comics, you’ve probably heard stories about his Fortress of Solitude. Depending on which fan group you follow, some believe the fortress to be a stronghold, while others argue it’s a secret weapons cache, and still others see it as a safe haven free of destructive forces. Personally, I like the idea of a safe haven, and not just for superheroes.

Since late summer, I’ve come to think of my home office as my own fortress–a safe haven from the unpredictable and the scary. One scare in particular has me spending even more time sequestered with my beautiful Sheltie by my side. In addition to gall bladder problems (common, I’ve learned, for many of her breed), Sasha developed a large mass on her side which grew so rapidly our veterinarian recommended removal. The surgery and subsequent use of a Penrose drain at the surgical site meant Sasha stayed in my office so I can watch her closely. I set up her portable crate next to my desk, and Buddy The Wonder Cat promptly claimed the top. (Have I mentioned he considers Sasha “his dog”?) She’s ignored the crate for the most part, preferring instead to stretch out on the floor on her Thomas the Train blanket.

Overall, she’s been a real trooper, accepting the entire process with grace and, recently, a resurgence of her good humor, although she’s no fan of the T-shirts I’m using to cover her torso, and has managed–twice– to wiggle out of a securely-pinned shirt. (She demonstrates her disdain for the shirt by pushing it into a far corner of the room.) Fortunately, she hasn’t bothered the incision (and it’s a big one) even when it’s not covered. As for me, I’ve started a countdown calendar and am longing for the day when my girl can resume squirrel patrol in the yard and long walks in the park.

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You’d think with all this time in the office I would have made progress on Dangerous Deeds, wouldn’t you? I’d like to say I did, but I confess I’ve channeled most of my energy into helping Sasha. Along the way, though, I did spend some time on Book #3 in the series. Watch this site for a forthcoming sneak peek at what’s ahead for the gang at Waterside Kennels.

Celebrating Birthdays and Books

Sasha is officially four years old today! When we applied to the AKC via their Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program, we opted to rely on the veterinarian’s estimate of Sasha’s age because we don’t know much about her life before she came to us. We chose July 4th for her “official” birthday in celebration of her new life. She’s now formally recognized as Ozark Summer Highlands Sasha.

For those new to the blog, here’s a quick recap of the story behind her name:

We chose Ozark for our locale and Highlands for her heritage; we’re actually in the Ozark Highlands, so it’s a bit of a double play on that last word. We included Summer because she has a warm sunny spirit. And I wanted her call name included because she came to us with that, so including Sasha gave us a bridge between her past and present.

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We have bestselling author Susan Conant to thank for guiding us through the PAL application process. Susan has a Sheltie of her own, and I’m grateful for her generosity in sharing her expertise. Many of you will recognize her as the author of the Dog Lover’s Mystery Series. (Want to catch up? I’ve previously featured Susan here on this site with a follow-up post here.)

Susan, who is a seven-time winner of the Dog Writers Association of America’s prestigious Maxwell Medallion for excellence, is also the co-author of The Gourmet Girl Mysteries which has earned high praise. Here’s a sampling:

“The authors serve up another delectable dish of detection.” —Publishers Weekly

“Packed with delicious recipes . . . the Gourmet Girl Mysteries have quickly become one of my favorite culinary mystery series.”  —Roundtable Reviews

“Famous writer of mysteries involving cats and dogs, Susan Conant teams up with her daughter to write a refreshingly charming chick-lit mystery. . . . There’s no doubt about it—this is the start of a great new series.” —Midwest Book Review

 

This new-to-me series is a perfect fit for today, as Sasha loves to snooze after a good meal while I’m reading. We’ll round out the day’s celebration with backyard frolics and be safely indoors long before fireworks boom across the county again.

Happy birthday, sweet dog!

 

A Day To Remember

Monday morning walks can be a challenge, and today was no exception. Sasha was on high alert right from the start, with barks aplenty at anything and everything that moved. The incessant wind gusts didn’t help, either; this is one dog who does not appreciate leaves and dust swirling around her face.  She was already worked up and fussy when we turned a corner and saw a group of young boys playing ball far down the street and several men visiting on the opposite sidewalk.  Males of all ages, unfortunately, seem to be a trigger for Sasha, and she’s quick to voice her disapproval.  The usual “leave it” and “let’s go” and “walk on” didn’t work at all, and she looked set to bark her way down the block–and it’s a long block. That’s when inspiration struck.

Training Time! I’ve no idea why it never occurred to me to run a mini-training session in the neighborhood, but today was the day. It was wonderful to see her snap to attention when she realized what we were doing. We worked through the different positions to include both the right-side sit from front center and the left heel from front center and the “circle round me” heel to end in a sit on my left. There’s a limit to what I can do without dropping the leash, but I got creative with a few rounds of sit-stay, down-stay, and having her in a down while I walked around her and stepped over her to re-position myself.  Sasha loved it. The generous dispensing of treats helped, of course, but this girl loves to be mentally challenged.

After that little session, Sasha walked on, clearly pleased with her performance. She didn’t bark or even alert on the people as we went by, which is something of a minor miracle. (Hey, she’s a Sheltie. She talks. To everybody.)  The people, however, certainly noticed her! One of the adults gave us a thumbs-up and a big grin as we went by.

 

Training Time is typically on the 30-foot long line at the park, when we work on the long down-stay, recall, and down on command. Smart Sheltie that she is, she knows the long line means play time and training, and she’s always ready for fun! And then there’s indoor Training Time, which goes back to our first days together when we realized that loud noises scared her and the sound of the coffee bean grinder sent her scrambling to hide. It took a long time, but now the sound of the coffee supplies coming out has her quivering with joyous anticipation, because she knows that it’s time to go through the paces and earn a treat. We’ve progressed to practice off-leash heeling in the house as part of Coffee Time Treats, with Buddy The Wonder Cat perched on a tall stool watching the action. Today’s session, though, is the first outside in the neighborhood while walking with the standard 6-foot leather leash.  Now that I’ve seen how excited she became at the idea of a walk-time work session, we’ll be doing this again, and often.

 

The BEST news, though, came thirty minutes later. We’d walked around the neighborhood and were approaching the local park when I saw an (always) off-leash dog and owner headed our way. I told Sasha “Cross” (I’ve taught her to pause on the sidewalk until she hears that command) and off we went, angling away from the unleashed dog.  Sasha stayed focused on me and (of course) the treat in my hand. We actually passed within 20 feet of the dog without so much as a mumble, grumble, or growl. Now, it’s possible Sasha never saw the dog, although that’s highly unlikely, as she’s prone to alert on movement two blocks away. Whatever the reason, she stayed focused on me and walked calmly forward until I gave her a well-deserved reward in the form of a bigger-than-usual treat.

We may never reach the point when Sasha is able to calmly walk past any dog without reacting, but today was a shining example of what’s possible. For that, I’m grateful.

Books for Dog Lovers

Exciting news: a group of authors have come together to share fiction and non-fiction books that dog lovers are sure to enjoy–and you can find them all in one place! This is the brain-child of veterinarian and author Rachele Baker, and she’s generously given us a dedicated page on her own website called “Books For Dog Lovers” that will display the books featured each month. As you’ll see below, some titles are free or on sale for a limited time.

The books featured on our page will change each month to keep it exciting for our readers. so be sure to bookmark the page. You can meet all the authors here.  In addition to my own Kindle edition (on sale through the end of December),  here are books with special pricing in November:

7 Simple Ways To Keep Your Dog Healthy Sneak Preview FREE
Turkeys, Tuxes, and Tabbies (Zoe Donovan Mystery Book 10) ON SALE for 99 cents November 15-21
Christmas Crazy (Zoe Donovan Mystery Book 3) ON SALE for 99 cents November 22-28
A Promise of Home (Hometown Harbor Series Book 3)ON SALE for 99 cents November 24-30, 2017
Pre-Meditated Murder (A Downward Dog Mystery) AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER with a publication date of January 8, 2018

Here’s an illustration of the books included in our November promotion. Go here for details and clickable links: 

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With end-of-year celebrations soon upon us, I’d like to thank all of you for your continuing support and interest in my own writing. And most importantly, thanks for letting me share the adventures of Sasha and Buddy The Wonder Cat with you! The cat lovers among you will be pleased to know Buddy makes his appearance in Dangerous Deeds and Sasha seems destined to join the cast a bit later in the series. Stay tuned, and happy reading!