After a year of being pet-less, my husband and I agreed it was time to adopt a new dog. Last year, at Christmas time, we lost both our standard poodles to different cancers. It was a devastating blow. But, we figured we had been lucky with them for as long as we had – nearly fifteen years – and we did our best to respect their memory and move forward. However, as the holidays approached, I was determined to bring a little joy back into our lives. Something in the form of a wet nose, padded paws, and furry tail. And, because I do believe fate interceded, we found a breeder with pups available post-holiday.
The pups were born November 5th , ten in all, and like I said, available for adoption between Christmas and New Years. However, there were problems. While the pups were fine, Ali, their mom, a three-year-old standard poodle show dog, was not. The breeder was faced with some tough choices. Ali couldn’t be bred again and would have to be re-homed. Did I want her?
Absolutely! I didn't have to think twice about it.
So, on December 30th rather than return from the breeders with an eight-week-old puppy, puppy pads and a stack of manuals on How to Train Your Puppy, we brought Ali home. And she is....well, you decide. That’s her picture above, and if it looks like she’s posing for the camera, she probably is. After all, she was a show dog and the equivalent of Miss California when it comes to that type of thing. But to me, she’s Ali, my new best friend.
If I sound a bit preoccupied, it’s because I am. Not that I’ve time to be. I’ve got a new book coming out later this year – WITHOUT A DOUBT, the fourth in the Carol Childs Mysteries and my final edits will keep me busy right up until mid-April. And then of course, because I am obsessive, I’m working on a fifth book in the series and a couple of short stories I hope to submit to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. But I’m taking a dog leg – you know, an alternate route – and going to allow myself a little play time.
One of my pet projects has long been working and writing about therapeutic riding programs for disabled children. For years I had horses and worked with and reported on some of the fabulous things horses could do for a child who was crippled and unable to do anything more than sit in a wheelchair. Through one of the therapeutic riding programs I worked with, I watched as some of their small deformed bodies were mounted on the back of a horse and held securely in place as trainers worked with the horse and child. When I say it was heartwarming, I mean I could feel the blood rush to my heart and that I had tears in my eyes when I saw the smiles on their faces and their parents. For the first time, some of those sitting on the back of a horse were able to look down on their caretakers or see them eye to eye.
I’ve never forgotten that experience, and after adopting Ali, it got me thinking about using her as a therapy dog. She’s calm, well-trained and I think it’s no accident we’ve found each other. If all works out, I hope to have her visiting children's hospitals and old folks’ homes before the end of the year.
How about that? Without even realizing it, I’ve just given Ali her first New Year’s Resolution.
So, it’s going to be a busy year. Between my crazy writing schedule and working with Ali, it’s an exciting time, but if you’ll excuse the pun, I’m doggedly determined.
Stay tuned. Room for Doubt, the fourth of the Carol Childs Mysteries with Henery Press, drops July 18th.