Sizzling Summertime

Summer is officially underway! With temps on the rise, I make sure Sasha and I finish our 2-mile walk before the sun gets too high above the treetops. Even so, days with high humidity tend to leave both of us guzzling water along the way and taking breaks in the shade.  The photo at left was taken at 8 a.m. on a day when the temp was in the low 70s but the humidity was over 90%, leaving Sasha to make a beeline for her favorite row of junipers at the local park. Down-stay appears to be her default comfort position no matter where we are, and the lure of dew-soaked grass usually proves irresistible on warm mornings.

Whether you live in an urban environment or the quiet countryside, there are some basic ways we can all keep our pets safe in the heat. I’ve included my personal “must know, must do” strategies in this post, and will likely add more as the summer wears on. Have ideas of your own to share? Add your own suggestions and resource links in the comments section!

Use the 7-second rule. Asphalt, concrete, and brick–all commonly found in sidewalks, streets, and patios–quickly absorb and retain heat, making it dangerous for your pet’s paws. Test the heat by pressing your palm (or bare foot) against the pavement. If you cannot hold it for more than 7 seconds without discomfort, it’s too hot for paws! You could invest in booties or special paw wax, or just walk in the coolest part of the day. Whenever possible, stay off pavement by walking on the grass.

Never leave your pet in the car. Even if your vehicle has an efficient air conditioning system, remember that it’s almost always warmer toward the back of the vehicle. I drive a small SUV and even with the rear seats down and sunshades on the tinted rear windows, Sasha could easily overheat. If we absolutely have to travel during the heat of the day, I use the travel crate with mesh on three sides and position it so Sasha can enjoy the cool air streaming from the vents. A full water dish and a battery-operated fan help keep her comfortable, too.

Watch out for health hazards. Ticks, fleas, bee stings, snake bites, poisons, heat stress–any and all of these can turn a carefree summer outing into a bad situation without warning. You can lower some of the risk by keeping your dog on regular flea and tick prevention, removing potentially poisonous materials from your yard, keeping fresh water readily available, providing cool shelter, and maintaining a basic first-aid kit for dogs. You can buy a pre-packaged kit or put one together yourself. The website Irresistible Pets has a great article complete with a list of all the essentials you should consider when compiling a kit for your own pets.

Heat may be the most significant of all summertime hazards. Whether your pet is at home, in the car, or vacationing with you, know the signs of heatstroke and have a plan in place to deal with heat-related stress. Here’s a terrific infographic from Murdoch University’s Pets in Summer Series that’s definitely worth bookmarking for future reference. Click to enlarge image.

 Have a favorite keep-cool strategy to share? Add a comment to this post. Happy Summer!

Living on in our Hearts

For many of us, pets are part of the family, and our lives are enriched by their love and companionship. And when they leave us, the loss creates a void that can stay with us for a long time. Some of us are fortunate to have many years with our pets, as I did with my beloved Alix. She gave me 17 years of love and laughter and loyalty. She’s been gone nearly that long, yet I think of her every day and talk about her often. She lives on in my heart and in my writing (she’s the inspiration for Sweet Pea in the Waterside Kennels series).

Since the first book in my series was published, I’ve offered readers and fans the opportunity to share photos of their own pets. You can see those dogs on the slideshow here on this site. I’ve been honored to hear stories from readers and fans about their own much-loved pets. I’ve learned there are many ways to honor the lives of our pets, from stories to eulogies to memorial statues to  photographs and more.  Over the next week or two I’ll share some of the stories and information that’s come my way, beginning with the story of Scooter which came my way via email from Johnny Compton and his wife–both dog lovers who “read all the dog related mysteries we can find.” He sent photos of their Beagles. Here’s his story:

Scooter 7/29/2007 - 8/9/2014

Scooter 7/29/2007 – 8/9/2014

Scooter passed away one year ago yesterday. As you may have guessed, we are Beagle people.  Living in rural area where we have a big fenced yard, dog door, where barking is not a problem (one of our neighbors raises German Shorthair Pointers), and plenty of wildlife plus domestic livestock to keep them busy, Beagles work out very well.

We got Scooter when he was ten weeks old, the runt of the litter but the little guy stole our hearts when we first laid eye on him.  We brought him home with us and we all bonded almost instantly.  He loved everyone and every other animal he met.  When he was about three months old, we got Skeeter (eight weeks).  He only took a short while to accept her and the two for them bonded.  Scooter turned out to be a 15″ Beagle and weighed just over 30 pounds as an adult (Skeeter is 13″).  He loved to ride and let me drive “his” pickup when we went on a drive together.  He was funny, loved to play but I could always see the wheels turning in that sharp mind of his.

He met his early demise as the result of an encounter with a deer.  The doe had jumped our yard fence with a fawn outside the fence.  Scooter was at the back of the house and probably surprised her.  All we know is he came flying in the house with a small cut right between his eyes and after a month of treatments and pain medication, he went down due to severe pain and we had to have him put down.  He probably wanted to befriend the deer as he had tried many times in the past.

He is missed and we now have Bree to help fill the void.

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Have a story of your own? I invite you to share in the comments!

Straight to the Heart

Maya Angelou Quote

Following up on my last post: the dogs of Bequia and the people who love them have gone straight to my heart, courtesy of the gifted author Susan Toy in her novel One Woman’s Island. 

“I must return to my boat,” she said, pointing out towards the water. “But why not come with me? I can make some tea and you could meet all my other little doggies.” She flashed me that same kind smile she had given the dog earlier, her eyes crinkling around the sides.

“Oh, no. I don’t want to put you out at all. We can make it another time.”

But Solfrid assured me she would enjoy having human company onboard her boat for a change.

She repacked her bag then said, “Come!” in a rather forceful command, almost as though I was one of her “little doggies.” So I heeled, following Solfrid to the jetty where she’d tied her dinghy.

We owe special thanks to artist Anna Landry for allowing us to see the dogs of Bequia. You can see several of her paintings and photos here. This is one of my favorites:

© Anna Landry

© Anna Landry

Read here: Excerpt ONE WOMAN’S ISLAND by Susan Toy

Want to know more about Susan and Anna and the people who inspired them? More at this post.

Follow Susan on Twitter, browse her website,  catch up with her on Goodreads, and check out her Amazon author page.  For more information about Susan’s books and where to find them, visit islandeditions.wordpress.com. Happy reading!

For the Love of Island Dogs

Last year, I was honored to be recognized by Susan Toy and included in her Reading Recommendations. As a result, I met some wonderful authors and found fabulous books for my own “must read” stack.

Susan Toy photo

Susan M. Toy, Author & Publisher

I include Susan as one of those wonderful authors, and anyone who enjoys a good story set in an exotic locale will love her work, too. Here’s a mini-version of Susan’s bio:

Susan M. Toy is a Canadian author and publisher who shares her time between Canada and her Caribbean home on the island of Bequia. She has previously published Island in the Clouds, a mystery novel set on the island. One Woman’s Island is second in the Bequia Perspectives series and will be ePublished in 2015. Susan’s life has always been filled with cats, but she numbers many dog-lovers among her friends. (Read more about Susan and her literary journey here.)

I love this teaser for Island in the Clouds: “Part travelogue, part mystery, Island in the Clouds takes a long, hard look at the reality of living in a place that seems perfect — from the outside, anyway.” Who can resist that sort of book? Even better, it’s the start of a series that will offer an up-close view of island living, with characters (both two- and four-legged) we’ll want to spend time with. (You can read the first chapter here.)

The second in the Bequia Perspectives series is One Woman’s Island, and Susan has generously sent along an excerpt for us to enjoy. (Find that at the end of this post.) As a reader, I love fiction that gives me the opportunity to learn about different places, customs, and traditions (even the not-so-happy ones). As a writer, I appreciate the authors willing to tackle those issues when they fit the story, as Susan has done so well in her work. I felt as though I’d been transported to that island, that boat, and wanted to bring those dogs home with me.

In addition to sharing this excerpt, Susan also sent along some fabulous work by the artist Anna Landry. She has this to say about Anna:

Anna Landry, Artist

Anna Landry, Artist

Inspired by her parents’ interest in art and stimulated by a lifetime of travel, Canadian-born artist Anna Landry was painting and drawing from a very young age. In the mid-90’s, a two-week painting holiday in the sun resulted in nine years spent living, working and continuing to paint on the island of Bequia in the West Indies. Anna has most recently been busy sailing…discovering, photographing, collecting inspiration from the Windward and the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. Most of her paintings are created in her Bequia studio she has shared with many dogs over the years.

One of the truly great things about talking with artists (and I include writers, poets, painters, sculptors, and the like in that category) is the opportunity to hear the inspiration for their work. For both Susan and Anna, one source of inspiration was a Norwegian sailor named Mariann Palmborg. Susan tells me Mariann called Bequia home for several decades where she was a friend to many, “but especially to the numerous dogs and cats on the island. She was the inspiration for the character Solfrid (Mariann even named the character!) and the subject of one of Anna’s paintings. Mariann sadly passed away in 2009 and is still sorely missed by all her many two-and-four-footed friends.” Here’s Mariann, as painted by Anna:

Mariann WhyKnot by Anna Landry

Mariann WhyKnot © Anna Landry

In addition to sharing the image above, Susan scanned other paintings and photos by Anna, with an invitation to include as I wished. I couldn’t choose between them and so included them all in a slideshow. I hope you enjoy both the excerpt and the images as much as I did, and add Susan Toy to your own “must read” list!

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And now as promised: Excerpt ONE WOMAN’S ISLAND by Susan Toy 

You can follow Susan on Twitter, browse her website,  catch up with her on Goodreads, and check out her Amazon author page.  For more information about Susan’s books and where to find them, visit islandeditions.wordpress.com. Happy reading!

Advice From Hiker-Dog’s Trail Partner

In addition to featuring dog-related fiction and information, I also showcase writers, photographers, and bloggers who live and work in the Ozarks. I find it’s a great way to introduce readers to the beauty of this place I call home, and readers tell me they enjoy learning more about the Ozarks region.

Hiker-dog says, “The less you carry, the better you move.”

Hiker-dog says, “The less you carry, the better you move.”

As I’m working on Dangerous Deeds, the second book in the Waterside Kennels mystery series, I’ve been researching hiking trails across the Ozarks. Many are on private lands, accessible with permission to individuals and groups for hiking and camping, often in exchange for trail maintenance. Other trails, including the famous Ozark Highlands Trail, are almost completely on public lands, with private landowners granting OHT easement for the rest. Much of that trail is maintained by volunteers. One of those is Jim Warnock of the ozarkmountainhiker.com blog. Longtime followers of this blog might remember I shared Jim’s story of how Hiker-dog came into his life last year with an update here. Since then, Jim has generously shared his expertise and experience on the trails, making my research much easier. (Thanks, Jim!) With his permission, I’m reblogging his advice to novice hikers. Even if you’re a veteran of the trails or live beyond the Ozarks, you’ll find some good information here.

“Hike anywhere your feet will take you.”

What do I wear? What do I take with me? Where should I go?

When should I go? What are the dangers? Will a bear get me?

Many questions come to mind when you consider taking a hike for the first time. We’re going to consider these questions and be sure we have some simple answers before heading out. A few good questions can keep us out of trouble and ensure that we want to continue hiking after our early experiences.

Disclaimer: This is not an all-encompassing day hiking guide. These are just my thoughts based on personal experience and a few mistakes along the way.

What do I wear?

You can wear almost anything and get away with it on the trail. Don’t worry about fashion, but function. We’ll look at this from the ground up since feet are very important to hikers.

Oboz hiking shoes

Oboz hiking shoes

  1. Socks are among a hiker’s most important pieces of clothing. I use SmartWool socks, but there are other options. Don’t wear cotton socks unless you like blisters and soggy, smelly feet. Any tennis shoes of reasonable strength are fine for day hiking. Don’t go purchase a heavy pair of hiking boots unless you just want to. I don’t even wear heavy boots when backpacking. I use low-top hiking shoes. I like Oboz right now, but whatever feels good on your feet should guide your decision.
  2. Pants – If the weather is nice, any pants will do. If it’s cold, I prefer anything but cotton pants. Cotton gets wet (making you colder) and then will not dry out in the humid Ozarks until a few days later. When hiking in the Ozarks I almost always wear long pants because of undergrowth, briars, and ticks.
  3. Underwear – For a short day hike, you can use cotton, but as you work up to longer hikes, you’ll want a pair of undies made from a fabric other than cotton.
  4. Shirt – A cotton shirt in summer is alright but if there is a chance of colder temperatures, something like an UnderArmor t-shirt will keep you warmer than cotton.
  5. Hat – A hat is good for sun protection and heat retention, depending on the weather. I accidentally left my hat in my car at the Grand Canyon once and was thankful I had a bandana to tie into a makeshift hat. In some conditions, a hat is a necessity!
  6. Rain protection (especially in cooler temperatures) – A light rain jacket can be wadded up in the bottom of your daypack and forgotten about until needed.
  7. Gloves – Anything but cotton and only if needed. I wear some cheap army surplus wool glove liners when I hike, and they’re fine. I also have some nicer gloves for colder weather but am nervous about losing them. They hook together which is nice for storage in my pack. Finding one glove is more irritating than finding one sock in the drawer.

What do I take with me?

As little as possible is my short answer, but there are some essentials you’ll want to have depending on the conditions.  This list is drawn from the ten essentials that are published in many forms. Below is my list roughly by personal priority.

Filtering water from Spirits Creek with a Sawyer Filter

Filtering water from Spirits Creek with a Sawyer Filter

  1. Water and access to water – Put your water in a bottle or a bladder in your pack. One expert hiker friend, Grey Owl, swears by prune juice bottles. He gave me a couple, and I use them all the time. I carry a small Sawyer water filter in my daypack in case I run low. It doesn’t add much weight and has made me a few friends on the trail when others needed water.
  2. Food – Snacks that you’re used to eating are what you should take on the trail. This is no time to try something new in the food department.
  3. Extra clothing – Think protection from the elements. If it looks like rain, carry rain protection. If it looks like cold, carry an extra layer. My all-time favorite is an insulated vest. Stuff it in the bottom of your pack and it’s like a little insurance policy against a cold snap.
  4. Navigation – Don’t assume that you can’t get lost on a well used trail. Like Jeremiah Johnson, “I’ve never been lost, just confused for a month or two.” Fortunately, I’ve only been confused an hour or so, but it can be a little scary if you’re not prepared. A trail map of the area you’re hiking can make or break your trip. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Sometimes I just copy the appropriate pages from a trail guide and put them in a zip-lock bag. A compass is important. Even a general idea about directions can save you some grief. Don’t count on the compass app on your phone or GPS. Batteries don’t last. I have a small compass/thermometer that ties to a belt loop or my day pack. It’s always there.
  5. Illumination – A small headlamp or flashlight in your pack can be a big help if a hike takes longer than anticipated and you’re walking the last part of your trail in the dark. I carry a small LED light in my day pack at all times.
  6. Sun and bug protection – A little sunscreen can make you a happy and healthy hiker. Bug spray around the cuffs of your pants can discourage ticks. A little spray around your hat area can discourage deer flies and mosquitoes if you’re hiking in summer. Check for ticks often. If they get attached and stay awhile, your chances of getting one of several tick-borne diseases increase. I can usually feel the little guys climbing up my legs and pick them off before they attach.
  7. First Aid supplies – I like a zip-lock with some bandaids and any medicines I might need if stranded for a while. Keep it simple and light and then forget about it until you need it. Avoid purchasing a first aid kit because it will not be customized for your needs and you’ll be carrying unnecessary stuff.
  8. Fire – I carry a lighter. Don’t smoke, but I always have a lighter with me just in case I need a fire.
  9. Emergency shelter – This is simple to do. Cut a 8-10-inch hole close to the bottom of a large trash bag. I stuff it in the bottom of my pack and forget about it. I can put the bag over me and sit inside for shelter. The small opening allows me to see and breath but protects me from the elements. I’ve never used this but it’s like that cheap insurance policy I mentioned earlier.
  10. Most ten essentials lists include repair kit, but for day hiking I don’t carry any tools other than a small pocket knife. One of my hiking poles has some duct tape wrapped around it for emergencies. I’ve used this twice to reattach a shoe sole for other hikers.

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novice hiker guide photo 4

Link to the rest at ozarkmountainhiker.com, to include an important reminder to always tell somebody where you’re going. Sign in at the trailhead, leave a note, and tell a friend. And as Arkansas Parks & Tourism likes to say: “Go Outside & Play!

It’s Giveaway Time!

Enter to Win iconI had so much fun with the first giveaway that I’ve decided to run another one! Here’s your chance to win a copy of the audio edition of Deadly Ties, narrated by the exceptionally talented Robin Rowan. You can keep it for yourself or give it as a gift to somebody who enjoys mysteries as much as you do. The rules are simple–all you have to do is post a comment and complete this sentence: “I love mysteries because …” Just click on the title of this post and scroll down to leave your comment. How easy is that?

To increase your chances to win, share this post through Twitter, Facebook, or your own blog; each verified “share” is worth another entry in the giveaway. Include your own links in the comments section of this post. The contest runs through Sunday, November 2nd, and one winner will be drawn at random on Monday, November 3rd.

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Prefer reading your books in print? Get your copy at Indiebound, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. If you’d like an autographed copy, send me an email and I’ll get one out to you right away.

If you’re an ebook fan, there’s an edition for you, too! Read Deadly Ties today on your favorite device. And if you’re a fan of both ebooks and audiobooks, be sure to check out Amazon’s special “Whispersync for Voice” offer.

If you’re in the UK, follow this link to find current prices and ordering options. Canadian? There’s a link for you, too!

Now, let the giveaway begin! Remember, to be eligible to win the audiobook you MUST post a comment and tell us why you’re a fan of mystery fiction. Finish this sentence: “I love mysteries because …”