An Unexpected Gift

Seventeen years have passed since I lost my beloved spaniel Alix, who lives on in my heart and in my series as the inspiration for Sweet Pea. For seventeen years I didn’t believe I had enough heart left to offer another dog.  Until now.

First came this photo, taken at the time she was surrendered to a rural county sheriff’s office:

Sasha Shelty

I looked at that sweet face and felt a little tingle. And I wondered…

I put everything on hold to make the trek over the hills and across the prairie plains region, where I took one look into those eyes and lost my heart all over again.  I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Sasha here at dogmysteries.com:

She’s a young Sheltie, likely less than two years old. She charmed everyone at the vet clinic and didn’t fuss at all about the exam, the blood tests, or even the inevitable medications needed to combat various minor maladies. She was a bit less sanguine about PetSmart, where I quickly realized she doesn’t like noise, probably hasn’t been socialized to men, and apparently didn’t want the bed I chose—although that might be revenge since I won’t allow her on my own bed, which is the domain of Buddy the Cat. Her coat is too thin in places and she’s in serious need of a groomer far more professional than I could ever be, but overall she’s in reasonably good health.

So far I’ve figured out that she knows sit, shake hands, speak, and has a passing familiarity with down, although that tends to have her springing straight up a few seconds later.  She can manage stay for almost a minute. Plus, she can sneeze on command.  (Really.)

She’s vocal (and then some!) when she sees another dog, which makes neighborhood walks a noisy adventure. She’s also clueless about walking on a leash,  but in our two days together she’s already realized that heel is not an invitation to gallop! This gives me hope she’ll make quick progress in obedience class, which is a “must have” for us before we can even think about the Canine Good Citizen test.

Never having had a Sheltie before, and being the total research geek that I am, I’ve ordered the breed guide and training book Shetland Sheepdog by award-winning author Sheila Webster Boneham and have turned to Sheltie owners, dog experts, and fellow dog writers for advice. I already owe special thanks to Susan Conant and Susan J. Kroupa (both award-winner authors and dog lovers) for their wonderful support and guidance.

After 17 years I feel like a novice again, and am grateful for all comments, suggestions, and recommendations.  (To share in the comments, you can either click on the word “comments” at the bottom of this post, or click on the post title and scroll down.) You’ll be seeing more of Sasha in future posts as I document our merry adventures in training. And count on seeing a Sheltie in a Waterside Kennels mystery sometime soon!

Snickers: It’s All in the Name

This is the first of a new feature in which writers and fans share stories about their pets. Today’s guest is Barbara Alexander, a retired librarian who now celebrates the written word as a professor, reader, and blogger.

 

Snickers:  It’s All in the Name

When I was 66 years old, I decided it was time to have a pet, a dog, so she could snuggle next to me, I could spend hours petting her, and we could go on walks. That’s how I came to adopt Snickers Molly Price Tchotchke Houdini Alexander.

Snickers & me (Apr 2, 2011

Snickers & me (Apr 2, 2011)

My search for a rescue dog began with visits to the animal shelter several times over a few weeks, looking for adoption options. One Saturday, my daughter and I made the rounds of three pet adoption sites.  When we walked into the third one, I saw Snickers, then known as Molly, and I immediately reached down and picked her up as if I knew what I was doing. The poor little thing was shaking, and I held her close to my chest and my heart. She gradually calmed down and with her eyes asked me the eternal question, “Are you my new mommy?”

As part of my bargain with myself to manage taking on a pet, I gave up candy, so I named my puppy Toffee. Apparently no one liked or could remember the name, so we had a family council with suggestions from everyone. After mulling over it, I decided on my granddaughter’s suggestion, Snickers, for my puppy sports the same coloring.

I wouldn’t want to brag about my dog, but Snickers can run faster, drink louder, make more friends, and lick more people than probably just about any other dog in the world. When we’re out for walks, she wants to greet every person and meet just about every dog. She made special friends with the neighbors I never knew, quickly convincing us she preferred people to dogs.

This bright, endearing little pup fears dangers in the sky (hot air balloons and cherry pickers) and checks to see if there is a parallel world at the other end of the toilet.  Snickers boasts her own dresser drawer of toys because she claimed it by opening the drawer on her own. She hides under my bed when the heat or air conditioning comes on, when she hears loud noises, and especially if she thinks I might be leaving. Happily, Snickers likes to be near me but also gives me personal space. Perhaps best of all, Snickers knows when I don’t feel well, and she licks my sore and achy spots (usually my left toes and ankle (thank you, Snickers!).

A reader might wonder about Snickers’ very long name. Price is for my cousins Trudy and Jerry Price, who convinced me I should have a pet after one of my visits with them and their pet-filled household. I added Price to Snickers’ name soon after I adopted her to recognize their role in my adopting Snickers, and soon after both Trudy and Jerry passed, Tchotchke seemed to be a fit.  Could there have been a better token of love than my little Snickers?

My daughter, her husband, and their daughter gave Snickers the Houdini moniker. They kept her one weekend when I was away, that is, they tried to keep her contained, but she would have none of it. Anne and Tom thought Snickers would stay in the same room in the basement where they had kept their chocolate lab, Ginger. Of course, Snickers wanted to get out and be with the family (she likes people!). While Ginger had stayed behind the French doors, Snickers pushed on them until they opened. Tom built a wall of boxes at the other opening into the pet room; Snickers jumped it, nosed it, and found her way through, surprising all three of the family members at one time or another.

Snickers (Age 2)

In the very same way, jumping, nosing, seeking, Snickers has become my family, so much so that I have caught myself addressing my younger granddaughter as “Snickers.”  Fortunately, that young woman understands grandmothers and pets, and remains very understanding. My older granddaughter noted Snickers and I share some of the same characteristics; I knew we were both very determined, both like snacks, both like to solve challenges (someday she will open the patio door!), and both take naps. We even look alike in one way, as the granddaughter pointed out:  Snickers has a crook in her tail that reflects my slightly bent arthritic fingers.

My thanks to Barbara for sharing Snickers with us!  If you’d like to contribute a story, email me.  Meanwhile, be sure to check out Snicker’s latest adventures and other stories at Barbara’s blog, Doors and Windows, at bjatma.wordpress.com.