With Thanks

As a child, I was very fortunate to have an older brother and sister willing to take me WAY across town to the public library. (Thanks, Jim Holmes and Maureen Kidd!) The wonderful librarians steered me first to the children’s section and, after I’d gone through those shelves, allowed me to read whatever I wanted as long as I showed them first. (How lucky was I???) I raced through biographies and travel guides and read about places I’d never heard of that inspired a love of geography and the library’s Map Room. I quickly fell in love with the glossy, sophisticated publications like Harper’s and the New Yorker as well as newspapers from around the world in languages I didn’t understand. (Thanks to the patient librarians who introduced me to the wonders of the world, and who unknowingly set me on a journey to travel the globe!)

Many of the stories I read referred to New York City as simply “the City.” When I was in the first grade, I had to make up a story about people in that particular city so, drawing upon what I’d read at the library, I referred to NYC as “the City” paying careful attention to capitalization, of course.

My teacher Miss Hess was convinced I stole the story “because first graders cannot possibly know things like that” and scored it an F. I cried all the way home. My mother, at a complete loss over how to deal with an hysterical 6-year-old, told me “just wait until your father comes home.” (Not your usual use of that phrase.)

My father went straight to the school with me in tow. Even though I had to wait on the steps outside the classroom, I clearly heard every word my father said in my defense. From that firestorm, a writer was born.

You should know our wonderful father made sure Santa put a dictionary under the Christmas tree for us and gave us a magnetic alphabet board so we could play with words. Despite his fiercely mathematical mind (genes I sadly did not inherit) our father was a literary aficionado who loved  to complete the New York Times crossword in ink. He was seriously good at the show Jeopardy, too.  He clearly understood this daughter of his was DIFFERENT (an understatement if you ask anyone who knew me then or now!) and knew I was prone to integrate what I read into whatever I was doing.  He’d read the story and it made perfect sense to him. Of course, my Dad loved to read the Horatio Hornblower series and would discuss those books and the Napoleon Wars with his kids, as long as we didn’t interrupt his reading time while eating supper after working late. (And yeah, I paid attention. Any wonder I followed his footsteps and joined the military?)

From my earliest days, my father was a champion of my writing. I carry his words in my heart and remember them often.

Thanks, Dad, for the gift of literature, and words, and the world beyond my doorstep.

 

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!