Category Archives: Books

Dog Squad Blog – My Friend Watson

In April award winning author Jean Gill told us all about her four-legged friend Sherlock. This time it’s Watson’s turn.

In November, 2016,  I started re-taking the online quizzes as to which dog breed would suit me, and I knew it was time to bring a second dog into our life again. A friend for Sherlock, whose story I told here https://debmcewansbooksandblogs.com/2019/04/10/dog-squad-blog-elementary-my-dear-watson/. One of the breeds suggested by my online quizzes was a Khortals, a wire-haired pointing griffon and I took a fancy to these beautiful feisty red-coated gun-dogs. I was checking out breeders and refuges, torn between getting a puppy and adoption, when one description smacked me in the face. 

Donald. A Khortals cross.

No dog deserves that name, whatever your politics. I took it as a sign. My Long-Suffering Husband had already said yes to the principle of another dog and he leaves the detail to me. So we headed up the motorway for an hour to Donald’s refuge, one of the better ones.

Even if you don’t understand French, you’ll see that Donald is 21kg, slim and cute. The drab dog that waddled out to see us was overweight and would be 32kg when he shaped up and gained some muscle again. Too big for most people but we were pleased – we’d thought 21kg was very small as we were used to Pyrenean Mountain Dogs.

Shelter information on a dog has a kernel of truth and much that is either behaviour induced by the situation or even well-intentioned invention, like Donald’s size and weight, intended to attract new owners. So, in direct contradiction of the ‘facts’ in his description, Donald pulled like hell on the lead, growled at Sherlock when lunging after rubbish on the verge. 

We later found that he is the most chilled dog we’ve ever had about us going out and returning. He was supposed to be prone to anxiety separation, which was why he was returned to the shelter. Nope. No anxiety. That was supposed to be his failing but – don’t worry! – we discovered other reasons behind him being dumped twice. He’d been picked up as a stray in February, no ID; transferred to the refuge; adopted in July for the summer holidays and brought back in September when his owner went back to work. So he’d spent most of 2016 in the shelter, getting fat and being called Donald.

What was true about him was that he was confident and affectionate with people. That would be a nice change, I thought, but I was worried because he’d growled at Sherlock. Two male dogs at loggerheads would not be fun.


I wasn’t sure but I knew he’d be easy with my husband and with visitors, and that it was up to me to create a respectful relationship between the two dogs, with – hopefully – friendship developing. So I went for it, encouraged by the volunteers at the shelter saying to each other that ‘Donald le doux’ had found a home. Surely the nickname ‘the softie’ had some basis? Unless it was a joke like Little John in the Robin Hood tales – a giant.

When the newly-named Watson came home with us, I tested my theory about why he’d growled – and why he was fat. I kept Watson on-lead but in the same room as Sherlock, while they both ate, each from his own bowl, with some distance between the two. Watson gulped his food down and would have had Sherlock’s if he hadn’t been restrained by the lead. I was right. Food had been competitive in the box Watson shared with some adolescent hunting-dogs – and Watson had won more than his share for months.

Over a few months, Watson slowed down in his eating habits and respected Sherlock’s food bowl. He lost his ‘every dog for himself’ mentality and learned to trust me. The detectives are a great team, more comfortable with each other than I could have hoped. At twilight one day, wild boar were grazing in the orchard outside our fenced garden and the biggest of them charged right at me. Sherlock, the ex-hunting dog, shivered in total panic. Watson, who’d been raised as a pet, didn’t hesitate. He charged back at that boar, to protect me. The boar ran away and the fence prevented any disaster but Watson had shown true courage and I won’t forget that moment.

He’s not a morning person so will just wave a leg at you from the comfort of his bed, and accept a tummy tickle, while Sherlock does his happy dance at seeing you again each new day. He has a slight problem with his joints but that doesn’t spoil his life or ours and he’s always up for a little game of frisbee. 

Now we know Watson, do we have an idea as to why he was abandoned, twice? Maybe because he has an extreme hatred of bicycles and cyclists. I suspect something happened to him – perhaps an accident or perhaps he was forced to go on walks attached to a bicycle. I’ve trained him to lie down if a cyclist comes past when we’re out on a walk but I wouldn’t trust him off-lead. He has plenty of room to run around at home so that doesn’t matter.

Or maybe it’s because he does weird howls in the night sometimes. The total Baskerville experience.

I showed this private video, taken with a stealth camera, to our vet who was no more worried than Sherlock seems. The vet’s only suggestion was that Watson’s a werewolf. I think he sees dead people. If I’m there when he does it, I can say ‘No’ and he stops, so he’s in control of himself and he’s not ill. It’s very weird and we’re lucky our neighbours aren’t too close. Visitors who stay overnight here are warned.

He is also territorial in the car and barks at a passing fly, much to Sherlock’s confusion. When we’ve taken the detectives on holiday, Watson’s rendition of ‘Are we there yet?’ has been deafening but we’ve managed to drive three hours into the mountains and enjoy a week with these two amazingly civilised ex-shelter dogs.  A filled kong toy to chew when travelling has been an ear-saver.

Am I glad I said yes to Watson? Look at this photo. Pure joy. That’s what life is all about.

Thanks Jean. If you’d like to read more, Jean’s latest novel, an eco fantasy for nature lovers, takes the original viewpoint of bees as central characters. At special pre-order price here https://www.books2read.com/QueenBee and the Publication Date is 7thJune. I loved it.

AUTHOR BIO

www.jeangill.comJean Gill is an award-winning Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two big scruffy dogs, a beehive named Endeavour, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English in Wales and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

Publications are varied, including poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.

Sign up for Jean’s Special Readers’ Group at http://eepurl.com/AGvy5for exclusive news and offers. If you review one of Jean’s books you can add a dog to Jean’s Readers Dogs Hall of Fame on her website. Contact Jean at jean.gill@wanadoo.fr with comments or questions. She loves to hear from readers.

CONTACT

Contact jean.gill@wanadoo.fr

Sign up for Jean’s Newsletter http://eepurl.com/AGvy5

Youtube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPvXZBW-VLBibveKhXA-QZQ

IPPY Award-winning ‘Best Author Website’ www.jeangill.com

Blog www.jeangill.blogspot.com

Twitter  https://twitter.com/writerjeangill

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/writerjeangill

The Troubadours Page https://www.facebook.com/jeangilltroubadours

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4619468.Jean_Gill

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/writerjeangill/

Dog Squad Blog – Lord Banjo The Royal Pooch

Kathy Manos Penn is a corporate retiree—or escapee—who taught English before embarking on her 32-year corporate career. There,  it seemed she was always the go-to person for writing speeches, presentations, blogs, you name it, no matter her actual job. Says Kathy, “Finally, in my last ten years, I landed in a job with the word ‘communications’ in the title.” 

On a whim, she submitted an article to a local paper and wound up with a side job as a columnist. And then . . . her dog started writing. 

This week, Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch shares the story of how he came to be a dog author, with just a little bit of help from his mum. 

 Craigslist PostFlat-coated retriever needs a new home NOW. Home in foreclosure. Must go today or go to ANIMAL SHELTER tomorrow–Saturday.

And so begins my story.  I was the two-year-old dog in dire straits.  What were the chances someone would see a Friday afternoon post and respond in time to save me from a trip to the shelter the next morning?  Even if some caring person responded, would they want me once they discovered I was an 80-lb two-year-old black dog?

Eighty pounds? Strike one.  Black? Strike two.  It’s common knowledge we black dogs are the ones who get left behind at the shelter because so many folks are scared of black dogs, especially big, black dogs.  Only two years old?  Strike three for those who envision chewed shoes and furniture and rambunctious behavior. 

By now, everyone knows that I’m not a flat-coated retriever and that I went to a good home, not a shelter. Lucky for me, my mum was checking Craigslist nonstop in search of a companion pup for Tinker, who really was a flat-coated retriever mix.  Me? I look a bit like one with my wavy black fur, but I’m a Royal Pooch—a celebrity Royal Pooch.


I didn’t set out to become a celebrity, but that’s what happened.  My mum surprised my dad one Christmas by giving me a DNA test. Though my shiny, fluffy fur is black, my DNA results revealed that one of my great-grandfathers was a Great Pyrenees—a descendant of the majestic white dogs who were once the Royal Dogs of France.  I was sure our family and friends would be thrilled to learn I had royal blood and would want to hear all about my royal life, so I asked Mum to help me share the news in a book.

Puddin’, my feline sister, likes to say she helped me tell my story because she offered encouragement as Mum and I worked.  If you consider reclining on the desk or curling up in the file drawer as encouragement, you may agree with the little thing. 

Still,‘twas I, the Royal Pooch, who did the lion’s . . . I mean dog’s . . . share of the work.  Day after day, I could be found lying beneath Mum’s desk dictating my tale, and what a tale it was. 

 I thought my story was enchanting with a saved in the nick of time beginning and a happy ending.

  • Dog is rescued by loving family
  • Dog discovers he’s descended from royalty
  • Dog writes book
  • Dog resumes quiet life with Mum, Dad, and the cat.

But it turns out there’s more, much more.  My story didn’t end with me returning to my previously quiet life as I thought it would.  

That’s the first draft of the opening for my next book. What do you think?

Mum and I have a grand time doing book signings and meeting all kinds of folks, who admire my royal purple robe and love giving me belly rubs.  We discovered that dog lovers of all ages enjoy my sense of humor, so adults read my book and middle schoolers read my book and plenty of people laugh at my antics. 

I find it odd that my book is considered to be fiction. I mean, it’s all absolutely true.  Really! Every bit of it happened to moi.  Mum says most adults have a hard time believingthat I, a dog, wrote a book!  She tried to explain that for grownups to think of my book as nonfiction, they must have a “willing suspension of disbelief,” whatever that means.  I think that may be something she heard ages ago when she was in school.

Nonetheless, I didwrite a book, and I’m almost finished with my second one. I’m such a generous and gracious guy that I’m allowing the cat, Princess Puddin’, to have her own chapter this time.  She’s a beauty of a calico cat and quite intelligent. She told me in no uncertain terms, “If you think you can call yourself Lord Banjo just because some silly French King back in the day declared Great Pyrenees to be Royal, then you can call me Princess! So there.”

I think she has diva tendencies, but I love her in spite of her tiny tantrums. Until our next book comes out—see, I even said our book—you may want to visit Mum’s blog  https://theinkpenn.blogspot.com/to read stories from the Princess and the Pooch.  Yes, Mum writes blogs about books and things, but we all know that it’s we four-legged writers who are the most interesting.

These days, both Lord Banjo and the Princess write columns for a local paper, and their mum graciously posts them on her blog at https://theinkpenn.blogspot.com/. You can sign up to receive their posts via email, and you can contact the whole family at inkpenn119@gmail.com. They love to hear from readers. Click here http://mybook.to/ViewbookonAmazonto find Book one, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch,” on Amazon  

mybook.to/ViewbookonAmazon

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Dog Squad Blog – Elementary My Dear Watson

Jean Gill is an award-winning Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two big scruffy dogs, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English in Wales and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. She is mother or stepmother to five children and despite having had such a hectic life so far, Jean is a successful author, photographer, dog trainer and beekeeper. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.

Jean shares Sherlock’s story in this week’s post.

Every morning Sherlock does a little happy dance when he sees me or my husband, John. His partner in crime, Watson, raises one ear and demands a tummy tickle. Watson is not a morning person. The detectives enjoy breakfast and a walk in the woods, followed by bodyguard duties, during which they watch over me. Their previous lives were not so idyllic.

Sherlock with Watson

Five years ago, Sherlock was named Rudi by the animal shelter that took him in, here in northern Provence. He’s a Gascogny Blue Griffon, a scent hound, and if you look up the breed, you’ll see that all the owners are men with guns. They’re so prized as hunting dogs that I get asked whether I’m hunting, when I take him for a walk. Little female me, no gun – they only see the dog!

If you know dogs, and people’s habits with them, you can work out much of a shelter dog’s story from his behaviour. Rudi was undoubtedly dumped by a hunter, to be replaced by a younger dog, better suited to hunting. He’d been in the shelter six months and was unlikely to leave alive because he was too big, too old, male, too black – all unpopular characteristics – and received wisdom says that hunting dogs make bad pets because they are semi-wild and run away all the time. 

Luckily for Rudi, we wanted a big, beautiful (any colour), older male dog who could cope with our feisty female Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Blanche. I’ve worked with a top dog trainer, Michel Hasbrouck, so am confident that I can cope with dog problems but I don’t seek extra ones. When I adopt a dog with a past, I use my head, then give my heart. A forever home is just that. I hate shelters and Rudi’s was one of the worst. 

Blanche and Sherlock

When we met him, Rudi flinched when touched but showed no aggression. He ran away when called, typical of a dog who’s punished for previous disobedience when he does come to his human. He’d known only beatings. He was very chilled with Blanche when they were let off lead together in the enclosed wasteground that passed for an exercise yard at the shelter. And he looked me in the eyes, sad, passive and stubborn. I don’t expect love at first sight and didn’t get it but I knew I could create a bond. I’ve done it before.

When we went back to get him, I went to the pen and my heart broke. Rudi was lying beside a huge pile of restaurant waste in a dog-bowl and he’d given up. He saw me and gave just one bark. He knew I’d come back for him and he was up for it. 

So we now had a hunting-dog, who’d almost certainly never been in a house before. He was petrified at coming up the steps and through the front door. But he wanted to be with me so in he came. He lay down – great! Then John turned on the TV and Sherlock bolted out the door as if monsters were after him, which of course they were.

After two days of quiet television, Sherlock relaxed enough to watch the football and now one of his favourite places is in front of the TV. Blanche was a huge help in showing her new friend the ropes and of course jumped on him occasionally – that was her leadership style. He suffered terrible nightmares for months and on one occasion, Blanche and I both rushed to find him because of the terrible noises. He was asleep. Blanche and I looked at each other, shrugged and left him to it.

Step by step, Sherlock became the dog he’s always wanted to be. He comes when he’s called, after thinking about it. He takes treats. Like most hunting-dogs he’d probably been trained to refuse food by hand. He loves being stroked and, when the grandchildren visited, he ran up and down the garden with them, so gentle. When he found his voice, even Blanche was impressed. He has the deep bay of a hound, not at all suitable for suburbia but, luckily, we are on the border of a French village, with a huge garden and good neighbours.

He has grown more confident but still has fears. One of our training successes was with regard to his fear of sharp noises that sounded like gunshot. We think that’s probably why he was abandoned – a traumatic incident out hunting that left him too scared to work. He had an extreme reaction to us popping the cork on the local sparkling wine, Clairette. So, purely for the dog’s sake, we did this most days until he grew used to the sound. Now, we can pop away without him even lifting his head.

I doubt that he ever had a bed. He now uses all of those available, as the mood takes him, and he also turns two rugs into dens. He is the sweetest and most civilised dog I’ve ever known, with no desire to escape whatsoever. He used to be petrified at the sight or sound of hunters. Now, he ignores them. That life was a long time ago and more than his name has changed. When we lost Blanche and adopted Watson, it was Sherlock’s turn to show the ropes to the new dog. And he did. To show his advanced level of house-training, Sherlock even taught Watson his favourite domestic activity: hoovering – or rather Dysoning. And the video is here to prove it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5Q4xPrKLO4&t=  

Watson looks sweet, doesn’t he? He is! But he was abandoned twice and spent most of 2017 in a shelter – a story for another day.

Great story, thanks Jean. If you would like read more of Jean’s true stories about dogs, you’ll find them in ‘One Sixth of a Gill’ (available free to members of her Special Readers’ Group http://eepurl.com/AGvy5) and in ‘Someone To Look Up To’. http://books2read.com/someone , on offer at $0.99/ £0.99.

Top Pick Award from Litpick Student Reviews. By IPPY and Global Ebook Award Winning author.
‘Jean Gill has captured the innermost thoughts of this magnificent animal.’
 Les Ingham, Pyr 

Jean’s publications are varied, including poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. My favourites are ‘Someone to Look Up To’ and the Troubadours series.

Book 1 of the multi-award-winning Historical Fiction series The Troubadours Quartet ‘Believable, page-turning and memorable.’ Lela Michael, S.P. Review 

If you want to know more, sign up for Jean’s newsletter at http://eepurl.com/AGvy5 for updates and a free book. If you review one of Jean’s books you can add a dog to Jean’s Readers Dogs Hall of Fame on her website. Contact Jean at jean.gill@wanadoo.fr with comments or questions. She loves to hear from readers.

Dog Squad Blog – Soldier Dogs and their Handler

We go back to the seventies for today’s blog from my friend Andy who grew up in Llanbradach. After leaving school and working in a factory making helmets he decided he wanted out. With limited choices, Andy decided to join the British Army.

Here’s what happened. 

Following basic training, I became an Airborne Supply Specialist, which involved pushing whatever it was out of Hercules planes with 16 Parachute Heavy Drop Company, RAOC. But my error was to apply for as many courses as I could, from Medic, to Jungle and Arctic Warfare. The course I coveted most was that of Dog Handler, which I knew would help overcome my fear of German Shepherds. When my application was approved, I was packed off to Melton Mowbray to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps where they trained both animals and squaddies.

The course was brilliant and I passed with flying colours. Unfortunately, I hadn’t looked at the small print when applying but now discovered: after passing the course you will be sent on attachment to the Army Dog Unit Northern Ireland for two years. It was the height of the so-called troubles and even when regiments went to some parts of Northern Ireland, it was only for six months. I wondered how I was going to survive six months let alone two years. But this was a unique unit as everyone was a volunteer and the unit has been served by every Regiment and Corps.

During my first six months, I learned so many things from my fellow members and the dog I was given. Guard Dog Sand was a cross between a Rhodesian Ridgeback and Labrador. We became a real team, patrolling HMP Maze, HMP Magilligan and on point on patrols in Co Londonderry and Co Armagh and also during riots.

At the end of two years I was promoted to lance corporal and asked if I would like to extend for a further two years. I agreed without a second thought and was sent to the Maze Prison to take charge of C Section of 20 dogs and handlers.  

There were a few dogs who had reputations – Dixon, Jebel, Prince and a 108 pounds of a black German Shepherd named Sebastian. The history with this dog soldier was a horror story. He was sent to the Hong Kong police as a gift from the British Army. When taken out of his sky kennel he immediately attacked six police officers and was sent back to Melton Mowbray and then onto the Maze. He had chewed a Scot’s Guard handler, his next handler took four weeks to enter his kennel, and the same for the next. The following handler failed and the decision was made to destroy Sebastian. I found this too much and voiced my opinion and the reply came back from my Sergeant: 

‘Thanks for volunteering Max!’

This frightened me more than going out on patrol but I took two weeks leave and stayed outside Sebastian’s kennel reading newspapers and books, talking, or doing anything I could think of. I spent days throwing tennis balls into Sebastian’s kennel hoping for some sort of interaction but nothing came, until day 13 when he picked the ball up and brought it to me at the front of his kennel. I told him to sit and to my amazement he did! This was a major breakthrough and was followed by an order for me to take Sebastian straight out on the outer patrol of the Maze. So I had to go in clip him up and walk out with him. It was like going into a gladiator’s arena and while I did so, 15 men (2 in full baiting suits) were on standby with hoses, brushes, and one with a 9mm handgun. With dry throat and a cold sweat I walked into this beast’s domain. I called Sebastian and he came running over to me. I found this most intimidating but I gave the command ‘sit’. 

He did as told and I clipped the lead on Sebastian and we went straight out on the outer perimeter of the Maze. The smiles of my fellow handlers as I walked out was so rewarding; any doubts about me quickly turned to respect. 

From that day on we grew stronger as a working dog team, being called out for cell clearance, riots and hard patrolling. As our successes grew so did our reputation, throughout Northern Ireland. I can honestly say this dog saved my life and the lives of lots of others on many occasions. I never once questioned his reactions and trusted him one hundred percent. We knew each other’s footsteps one for one. I felt as if I had a bulletproof Ready Brek glow about me and my partner Sebastian (you have to be a certain age to remember the Ready Brek advert).

We worked in areas such as West Belfast, Armagh, Londonderry, Forkhill and Crossmaglen. Time flew and my four years soon came to an end. 

I was told to attend a meeting with the Commanding Officer and ordered to be on my best behaviour. I was marched into the room and carried out the normal army greetings of salute and standing ramrod straight as my whole body was on Viagra! I wasn’t sure why I was in there and suspected some sort of family emergency, but the CO’s tone was not that bad. I even wondered if it was good news and perhaps they had a sunshine posting in store for me. No such luck. The CO asked me to stay for another two years.

I grinned like an idiot when he read out our achievements and told me we were the Army Dog Unit’s best asset. I was chuffed to be asked to stay on and my ‘yes sir’ was the most enthusiastic and proudest I have ever said. 

All Army dogs were trained to the highest standards and saved thousands of lives in their roles as search explosive dogs (known as wagtails), tracking dog (known as groundhogs), or guard dogs (called snappers or land sharks). 

Sebastian and I grew stronger as a team and won many conflicts. It was a lot more than love that I had for this dog. I respected and trusted him and put my life in his hands on many occasions. He was a soldier as much as I was and a highly trained Army weapon too.

We were used for what the Army called hard patrols, where the dog team was at the front point of the patrol and would pick up the scent of anyone in front of the patrol. Then we were also used in riots for many tasks eg holding the crowds back, snatch squads, also close protection of VIPs, patrolling prisons and also cell clearance. On one occasion Sebastian and I were called to get two prisoners out of a cell. The remaining prisoners where locked in their cells and the prison officers had drawn back to the reception of the wing while Sebastian and I walked to the cell accompanied by two soldiers in full riot gear. The prisoners would shout abuse, spit, and throw whatever they could – including cups full of urine. This only heightened the dog up to switch on mode. The prisoners were hidden behind the door with weapons ready to attack us both. Sebastian with his nose and super hero sense walked into the cell and without hesitation turned to the left and nailed the prisoner holding the metal bed leg. The man dropped to the ground and yelled. Sebastian looked up at the same time jumping and grabbed the second prison by the upper arm. Both prisoners had given up in a matter of seconds. The sense of achievement from this result and many similar has never been matched since leaving Northern Ireland.

My six year tour was coming to an end as my final two months were spent training a new handler to take over Sebastian. The day I said farewell and thanked him for being at my side was one of the saddest of my life. It was only a few weeks later that I received a call from a fellow dog handler who told me of Sebastian’s sad end. 

Every dog is a unique individual with its own skills and personality. I’ve always put my dog’s needs before my own and each one I have had or worked with has been loved with all my heart.

My Unlikely Soldiers series is about the British Army during this period. Check out this link for further information http://smarturl.it/m202d6

“Written with passion, humour and knowledge, Unlikely Soldiers is a riveting coming of age tale. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a good story, I’m waiting for the sequel with baited breath.”

Dog Squad Blog – Lovely Little Lexi

Today’s guest blogger is Charity Rowell-Stansbury. Charity has been a blogger for over ten years and an avid reader for as long as she can remember. She adores her 10-year-old rescue dog Lexi who isn’t part of the original Islan Dog Squad, but features in Book 3. Here’s their story, told by Charity. 

Lexi has been my constant companion and muse for two years. Our story almost ended before it even began. 

In April 2015, I was diagnosed with PTSD and I lost my job shortly after. A little over a year into a marriage with my now ex-husband, Kyle, we decided that it would be nice if I had a companion who could stay with me at home while Kyle was at work. We were both determined to adopt a dog; however, we also knew it would be difficult because I have asthma and allergies, which means I can only tolerate certain breeds. Since the dog was more for me than him, it was up to me to filter through the hundreds of dogs in our local rescue agencies to find one that might be a good match.

After a couple of weeks of searching and following local rescues on Facebook, one of the local agencies posted a picture of a dog named “Coconut.” Her story was incredibly sad because she had an owner who loved her very much, but he wasn’t able to continue to take care of her. Unfortunately, she had heartworm and the agency was trying to raise funds to cure her. I expressed our interest in her and even offered to pay a portion of the heartworm cure, plus the adoption fee, for the opportunity to meet her. Over the course of two weeks, the agency seemed receptive, but I started receiving private messages from complete strangers on Facebook telling me that the agency was just stringing me along to receive a donation. When I pressed the rescue agency for a specific date when Kyle and I could meet Coconut, I was told that she had been promised to someone else. I was crushed and was ready to put my search on hold for a few weeks because I didn’t think I could handle another rejection. 

Coconut

A couple of days after my horrible experience, I decided to look just one more time at another agency’s site before taking a break. During that search, I found this picture:

Lexi, pre-adoption 2016

Her name was “Lexi” and she was a Maltese; one of the breeds that several allergy and asthma foundations said I should be able to tolerate. I could see the wariness in her eyes but there was something else behind it, curiosity and a bit of playfulness. I imagined she was looking at the camera saying “Whatcha doin’?” I saw a couple of other dogs on the site that I also liked, so I sent an email expressing my interest. 

A little over a week later, I received a phone call from Nancy, a foster guardian with the rescue agency. She said that all of the other dogs were adopted, except for Lexi because she was shy and reserved during adoption events. I immediately empathized with Lexi because I can be shy and reserved around groups of people, and it takes me a while to warm up to new friends. I admitted to Nancy that Lexi was my first choice, but I was a bit wary of mentioning it in the email because of my experience with the other rescue agency. Nancy and I set up a date for when she and Lexi could come by the apartment. At the end of the meeting, Kyle and I had a new furry family member. 

Lexi, day after adoption

Since Lexi is the first dog I’ve ever had, I was overwhelmed at first. When we spent our first day at home alone together, we did a lot of staring at each other and thinking, “What am I supposed to do with you?” After a couple of days, I learned that she was timid about exploring her surroundings and I needed to be calm and confident to encourage her when we went outside. After a week, she was more confident about walking outside and decided that she wanted to introduce herself to some of the people in our apartment community. This forced me to come out of my shell and connect with neighbors. It didn’t take us too long to figure out our individual strengths and weaknesses, and we soon learned how to emotionally support each other.

Lexi, 2016

Today, Lexi is a completely different dog. We’ve been through a lot together, including a precipitous change of address and a divorce, but we have overcome these challenges together. I can’t imagine going through the past couple of years without her, and I’m looking forward to going through the next few years with her in my life.

Lexi, 2019

To read more about Charity and Lexi, check out Charity’s wonderful blog and book reviews here: https://www.onmykindle.net

Dog Squad Blog – Barking Mad Chip

Today my guest blogger is Dean Evans. Dean and Sarah are the proud people parents of Chip (AKA Aden in the books). If Chip were a person he would be called eccentric or a nutter (depending on your point of view). I’ll let Dean explain.

Chip’s story starts in a scrapyard in Barnsley. We saw this tri-colour Collie with pedigree papers, when he was six months old. He was skinny (weighing five kilos), covered in bite marks, with both eyes full of gunk. But he was such a happy little boy. He didn’t like walking on a lead at that age but was very obedient. 

I brought him home and he settled in well with our five year old Husky Thor. There was drama on our second walk out with both dogs. Chip confronted a Rhodesian Ridgeback that had a go at Thor who was forty-five kilos of non-confrontational Husky. He got in front of Thor to protect him – all five kilos of him. He soon started to gain weight and put on three kilos during the first week with us. 

Chip has developed some strange habits. The kids where we used to live nicknamed him the spinning dog, due to him spinning continuously up the road on walks. Not sure if this was because I was walking too slowly or if he is completely mad. He also used to chase cars. He’s now decided that’s too much hassle so when given the chance, he sprints up the roads in the opposite direction to the car, absolutely flat out, then comes back tail up, looking very pleased with himself. If Sarah or I stop to talk to someone during one of our walks or are chatting to the neighbours, Chip loves to make as much noise as possible. He is so jealous around other dogs and hates me stroking or giving them any attention. He shows his displeasure by eyeballing them and they learn to back off. 

Butter wouldn’t melt…

Chip could also be described as an all-in-one home entertainment system. When watching any sports he is very noisy and barks at the TV or makes other strange noises when he has a toy in his mouth. He is most excitable during football matches but also enjoys rugby, cricket and boxing. As long as spectators are making a noise he is quite happy and loves winding himself up during goal kicks, free kicks and corners.

Chip watching footie

Well known for being the fun police with other dogs, Chip will run for miles to stop other dogs enjoying themselves. He also goes berserk around the swimming pool when the grandkids are over making mad noises, picking up any toys in his mouth and running off with them.

Chip chastising Obie

Like most dogs, he is very enthusiastic about food and chases us around the kitchen near dinnertime keeping so close that he constantly bumps into whoever is feeding him. He is also a grazer at meal times; a few mouthfuls at a time then back five minutes later for a few more.

He absolutely hates the heavy rain, thunder and lightning, and shakes like a leaf. Any loud noises freak him out and at night he will jump up on the bed and if he’s really frightened will lie across my head. Only my head by the way and he only ever wakes me up if he needs to go out at night – he knows who the soft touch is in our house.

So he’s crazy, loud and a bit strange but he’s a massive personality and a whole lot of fun. Chip’s wonderful and he makes our world a better place.

Click here to discover more about The Island Dog Squad. http://smarturl.it/ru5uye

Dog Squad Blog – A Pug Named Lola

Lola and Obie belong to my friend Jo and Sandy hit it off with them both as soon as they met. When Sandy and Obie become too boisterous, Lola gives them a little warning and they always heed it. Lola seemed a natural for the role of ‘Dog Squad’ leader, mission name Bunty. 

The real Lola and Obie

Here’s Lola’s story, told by Jo.

For many years I wanted a pug, their unusual look and character appealed to me. One day I went into the pet shop with my daughter to buy fish food. I noticed a little pug puppy sitting in its cage looking at me. She was tiny and of course we picked her up, cooed over her and instantly fell in love. I handed over 700 Cypriot pounds – we left the pet shop with the pug and without the fish food we were supposed to buy. 

Lola took over the house with all her toys, bed, and feeding bowls. When I brought my son Zak home from nursery that day, he was ecstatic and went wild when he saw her. Lola and Zak quickly became best buddies and even go to bed together now at the same time in the same room.

As a puppy Lola was partial to my plant pots in the garden, quite often we found her running around the garden with one in her mouth and my lovely plants devastated, if I shouted at her for being a naughty girl she would huff and puff and turn her back on me. She doesn’t take well to discipline but I’ve since discovered this is a common trait amongst pugs.

For such a small dog she is a huge princess! Lola is extremely stubborn and if she doesn’t want to do something there is no making her do it. She will even throw a dirty look and turn her back on you. As for her snoring, it’s like an old-fashioned train. 

…And sleep

Lola must be the only dog that doesn’t like exercise. When the fancy takes her she can trot along with the rest of us but when she’s had enough or if she doesn’t like the route she goes on strike, sits down and refuses to move. Carrying her home is not an option; she is a solid 12 kilos. So we do tend to bow down to her and take the route her majesty dictates.

Just chilling

She follows me everywhere in the house. I can’t even go to the bathroom without Lola and Obie sitting guard at the side of me. 

Lola is a funny, unusual little girl adored by us all. For such a small dog she has a massive personality and none of us could imagine what our home would be like without her. 

Obie and Lola are like chalk and cheese and I’ll tell you Obie’s story next time.

To find our more about ‘The Island Dog Squad’ series, click here.http://smarturl.it/ru5uye

“I have nothing but the highest of praises to sing for this thought-provoking, tear-jerking tale of torture, death, hope and survival.” Rosie Malezer for Readers’ Favorite – 5 stars

The Island Dog Squad – Coming to Amazon on 20 July 2018

I’m excited to tell you that the first book in my new series of novellas will be live on Amazon on 20 July 2018. ‘The Island Dog Squad’ is inspired by Sandy, our lovely rescue dog. Sandy intends to write a blog about the series and her life, and will get around to it shortly.

Jessica Bell designed the cover and came up with these three after I submitted the questionnaire. They’re all fabulous so it was a really difficult decision. I asked some of my friends and readers on Facebook what they think, then decided to go for my favourite, with the dog standing on the rocks.

This is the winner!

 

Here’s the blurb and a few comments from the 5-star reviews:

I have nothing but the highest of praises to sing for this thought-provoking, tear-jerking tale of torture, death, hope and survival.” 

Rosie Malezer for Readers’ Favorite

 

“Anyone who’s had the privilege of sharing their lives with an animal companion will love Sandy’s story … most highly recommended.” 

Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

 

In the depths of despair, she has no idea who, or where she is.

Dying of thirst and with her ribcage almost poking through her skin, she can barely put one paw in front of the other when she’s rescued from the street.

When Sandy’s people parents take her to her beautiful new home on the island, she tries to focus on her future, and return the love and kindness showered upon her.

Then she meets Lola, Obie and Chip, and the traumatic flashbacks begin.

As her past slowly unravels, and her memory returns, Sandy must make a choice that will determine her life and her future.

What will she decide?

‘The Island Dog Squad’, an animal action and adventure novella, told by Sandy the rescue dog.

Who’s the Top Dog?

Please welcome the multi-genre best-selling author Jean Gill. I love Jean’s historical novels, the Troubadours Quartet. But am excited to hear that her wonderful dog story ‘Someone To Look Up To: (a dog’s search for love and understanding)’ is currently the number one best seller in its category on Amazon. I’ve asked Jean to give us an insight into her life in France and how she became a best-seller.
Over to you Jean.

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Thank you, Deb! I’m a Welsh writer and photographer now living in the south of France with a big white dog, a scruffy black dog, a Nikon D750 and a man. We escaped the rain in 2003 when my husband retired. I wanted to write full-time after having taught English in Wales for many years. My claim to fame is that I was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales. I’m also mother or stepmother to five children so life was very hectic.

Have you always loved dogs?

I joined the P.D.S.A. (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) when I was seven. I knitted blankets for dogs and nagged my parents for one (with no luck, as we moved house and country too often). As an adult, the moment I was in a house with a garden, I adopted a dog advertised in the local paper as ‘deaf Pyrenean puppy needs re-homing’. So I think that’s a ‘yes’. 😊

How did you become a dog trainer?

When we moved to France, I joined French dog forums to meet other fans of the Great Pyrenees breed. We’d been owned by four of them and were discussing whether to start the great adventure once again. Training was often discussed on the forums and somebody recommended Michel Hasbrouck’s bestseller Dressage Tendresse so I read it and it all made sense to me.

Jean with Bétel learning to swim

I contacted Michel to ask whether he knew of a similar book in English for my friends, and he said, ‘Why don’t you translate it for me?’ So I did, and we found a publisher to bring out Gentle Dog Training. Michel and I became friends, and worked together to support dog-owners online, offering them his Dogmaster training.

When we welcomed two Great Pyrenees puppies into the family, I took the first one, Blanche, to Michel in Switzerland, for two days intensive training (of me, not of the dog). We always joked that she’d been to Swiss Finishing School.

A few years later, after we’d worked together online, I went back to train as a dog-trainer and passed the weekend’s challenges – like most experts, Michel is exacting. I wanted to continue but life threw me a curve ball. My husband needed an emergency appendectomy and I faced the fact that, in my fifties, I couldn’t take on all these new careers, or I’d explode.

I trained as a beekeeper instead and I did learn enough from Michel to feel confident in dealing with whatever problems my own dogs present. That has been a life-saver.

Is the book fiction or faction?

Faction. All the stories in the book are true, based on some of the thousands of true stories I came across on forums and in my work with Michel. They did not all happen to the same dog but I shaped them to make an adventure from the dog’s viewpoint, to show both the mistakes we humans make and the love we could find.

And your characters, are they based on real people/dogs?

The character of Sirius owes a lot to my own dog Bételgeuse, who had a sense of justice as big as his heart. His sister Snow is very like my Blanche-Neige, feisty and playful. Some of the anecdotes in the book are from my own life with dogs. Blanche really did steal a whole slab of Beaufort cheese and sat there with her cheeks hamsterful, jaws glued together, until I noticed and rescued her.

Unfortunately, the macho attitude to dog-training is also drawn from life and I well remember one man, a doctor by profession, bragging about how he disciplined his Great Pyrenees.

As for animal shelters: yes, there are indeed some like this, with these types of people working there. We have adopted three dogs from French shelters, since I wrote the book, and life matched fiction far too well.

Any advice for new dog owners? (My husband and I are looking to adopt our first dog from a rescue centre).

The great adventure begins! Advice is not a one-off as the more you learn, the more you’ll understand. Read Someone To Look Up To – of course! I’ve blogged about dog adoption too, with some advice here

And in my book One Sixth of a Gill http://smarturl.it/1sixth which is available free to those who sign up for my newsletter. www.jeangill.com

Top Tips

Choosing – talk to the shelter workers about what sort of life you are offering the dog and listen to their recommendations. Don’t let pity rule you. Don’t choose a dog with health problems. Don’t choose a scared dog. Especially if you are new to dog adoption, you want to lessen your chance of dealing with aggression. Don’t worry if the dog is more interested in rushing along the lane on a test walk than he/she is in you – shelter dogs have to make the most of the tiny amount of time they have outside a cage.

Travel

If you can, make the journey from shelter to your home a chance for you to talk to your dog, to stroke him, to give him some dog treats, (if he likes them). Let him have an old cardigan with your smell on it. This is where the relationship begins. You can use a dog crate with the cardigan and some treats in it, especially if travelling alone. Make sure you have a collar with your contact on it, to put on the dog – dogs get lost by escaping at this stage!

Jean’s current dogs – Sherlock and Watson

Jean with Betel

Homecoming

Make time to be with your dog for at least the first 2 days and ban all your friends and neighbours from the house. Your dog has enough to deal with! Establish a routine to make the dog feel secure; a place to sleep, a place for food and routine times for going outside. DON’T let the dog off-lead anywhere that’s not fenced, for at least 2 months and even then, test that the recall can be trusted. If not, DON’T take a risk. It is normal for a dog to try to escape, even to go back to a horrible shelter. Your dog has to learn that this is home.

When your dog is lying peacefully, doing nothing wrong, praise him in a purring voice. Tell him he’s beautiful. Love him with your voice. Ditto when he does something you want to encourage.

NEVER ask your dog to do something unless you can enforce it. You are teaching disobedience and disrespect.

THE TIP OF TIPS

Ask for help if you need it, from a trusted dog trainer who never recommends hitting or shouting.

I could write a book on it! But of course I have. As has Michel.

What other books do you write?

I’ve written nineteen books, including medieval historical fiction (the award-winning Troubadours Quartet), memoir, non-fiction, Young Adult and poetry.

What is your next project?

I don’t know! I have several photography projects, including a shoot in a smithy with a master craftsman who’s going to make me a Damascene steel knife. My bees will wake up in the next couple of months. I am working on Watson’s vélophobie – he goes bonkers when he sees a bicycle. I can only guess at what happened in his life before us – he was dumped twice at the shelter. But I don’t know what I’m going to write next. Input from my readers will influence my choice as I have drawerfuls of ideas and don’t know what to choose. What do you think I should write next?

Thanks for sharing Jean and for your top training tips. I’m popping over to Amazon now to check out your other books.

As for your next writing project. I know your readers would love another historical fiction series or how about some cozy mysteries involving a bee-keeping amateur detective?

Check out the links below if you want to contact Jean Gill or would like to know more about her books.

Jean.gill@wanadoo.fr

IPPY Award for Best Author Website www.jeangill.com

Blog www.jeangill.blogspot.com

https://twitter.com/writerjeangill

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/writerjeangill

The Troubadours Page https://www.facebook.com/jeangilltroubadours

Youtube book trailers https://www.youtube.com/user/beteljean

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/writerjeangill/