Life can take us in many different directions, some planned others not. I believe it’s called fate.
I’m Sandy, I was rescued by my people parents Allan and Deb on 14 March 2018. I think rescued is a bit of a stretch actually. I was living quite comfortably in a cat and dog rehoming centre on a military base in Cyprus, (BARC Cyprus) where we were all treated very well. Fed and watered, accommodated in basic digs, received lots of cuddles, and all our needs met. The only things missing were having our very own people parents, or a family to room with, depending on your perspective.
Deb came to look at another dog in February. She saw me first then decided almost instantly that I was ‘the one’. She only had to convince Allan to agree. He visited the following day and liked me too. At this stage I thought they were amongst the many volunteer walkers who helped out the centre staff, so didn’t allow myself to get too attached – though I felt a connection with Allan almost immediately. By the fourth visit I suspected something was going on, so here I am, sitting downstairs in their lovely home in Souni Village, contemplating the route my life has taken. They are out at work for a few hours, grafting they tell me so that I can be kept in the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed during the past couple of months.
I’m having a lazy couple of hours having already worked out how to get the treats out of the toy they left me, those little titbits are long gone. So now I return to my original question. What if?
What if I had been the only blonde puppy born in a litter of adorable black puppies, and the mistress had a reason for disliking blondes?
What if I had almost been attacked by a nasty-looking big fish with massive teeth, then another, prettier big fish saved me?
And what if I’d been washed up on a beach and saved by uniformed dog trainers who taught me skills your average dog could not even imagine?
The story started to form and I’m determined to get it all down and published eventually so you can read about what might have happened if my life had taken a different direction.
Next time I’ll introduce you to some of the other characters in ‘The Island Dog Squad’, and their special talents. I might even tell you how we met.
Oh and by the way, I didn’t tell the other dog that Deb had come to look at her. Sometimes ignorance can be bliss.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
I was sitting in the garden, chilling after a long walk and wondering what to write next.
I probably should have started book three in my ‘Aliens’ series. Ideas were swirling round in my head but nothing tangible yet. I saw movement on the ground and looked down. An army of ants were going about their business. Some headed in my direction. As one neared my foot I lifted my thumb to squish it, then hesitated as I had a fleeting thought. Looking up to the sky I wondered if anyone up there was poised to ruin the day or life of an innocent human who had taken a wrong turn, or perhaps found themselves caught up in one drama or another.
This got me thinking about death, religion, the afterlife and the eternal battle of good versus evil. I left the garden and started writing straight away. And the ant? He or she lived to fight another day. Not so the many others who pushed their luck and moved into the house shortly after. No mercy was shown to this lot.
My Afterlife series is about the eternal fight of good against evil. I wanted the good guys to win but it wasn’t always easy and that doesn’t reflect real life, unfortunately. I believe in reincarnation and have always liked the idea of Karma with the hope that we reap what we sow. When some of my baddies got their just desserts it was important that they felt the pain they’d inflicted on their victims. My overactive imagination was a great help in this process. I spent some time wondering what would be really horrible but plausible (to my story) and took it from there.
When you’re dealing with the afterlife, heaven, hell or whatever you like to call it, almost anything is possible.
In this series, when there is absolutely no doubt, the really bad souls are taken to the dark, merciless world of cruelty and demons. They either serve their masters or are subjected to pain for the amusement of the demons – sometimes both. When their masters tire of them, they are returned to earth in various guises to suffer extreme levels of humiliation, pain and degradation. If they’re lucky, those in charge may return these souls to earth as humans, to carry out their evil.
This is why the innocent suffer.
Where there is doubt, the final destination isn’t so simple.
That’s the situation in which Claire finds herself and more about this next time.
Over the moon to be the winner of Ultimate Fantasy Books Best Book Cover Contest 2017. The fantastic cover was designed by the multi-talented Jessica Bell. Big thanks to my friends, and friends of friends, for getting me through to the final.
The stress of the past few weeks finally caught up with me on Wednesday. The endless stream of visitors arriving empty handed and leaving with some of our cherished items over the past month or so has been very unsettling. But, if that wasn’t enough, seeing your cases dragged along Molly’s driveway and the hidden tears as you said your goodbyes just about finished me off. I’m not being overly dramatic when I tell you that your departure left me totally and utterly devastated. Neither Scruffy nor Molly could cheer me up as I watched Allan’s car depart. Not only were you both leaving me, but you were also taking my foster folks!
As soon as the car disappeared from sight I turned to food for comfort and ate as many treats as Molly would allow. Feeling both physically and emotionally yucky I then lay down to contemplate what was to become of me.
It seemed like an age later that Scruffy alerted me to the sound of an engine in the distance. I hoped with all my heart that you had returned to me, but alas not. Still, Allan and Deb walked in and it was great to see them both. They drove me to their home and eventually I settled in – I must admit that it took a few more treats and kind words before I started to feel anything like my old self.
And then I remembered!
I could have kicked myself. You told me a few weeks ago that we were going to live in Spain but that you were going to Victoria’s graduation first. I would follow a week later and you would meet me at the airport. With all the hassle of the last month, I totally forgot! So, as much as I’m having fun with the foster folks, I’m really looking forward to seeing you both next Wednesday. I must admit that I’m not looking forward to the flight but then I’m no different to lots of other nervous fliers. I hope you’ve arranged for the vet to give me a little something to help me sleep because unlike you Daddy Derek, I can’t have a few pints before I board. Or can I?
And talking about a little something, I’m looking forward to being spoiled rotten when I arrive in Spain – remember you said you’d make it up to me?
I’m off to do some cycling now to work off those extra calories from yesterday. Have fun at Victoria’s graduation and give her a big sloppy kiss from me.
Hasta la vista to my very favourite people parents, until next Wednesday when we all begin our new adventure. x
Hola amigos. Remember I told you last time that we’re on the move? Well, they’ve had that little chat with Kara and I and if you haven’t already guessed, we’re off to Spain next month. But before I share my thoughts on this, I just have to tell you about my latest dating experience.
I know I said I was committed to singledom after a string of dating disasters, but that changed when I received a message out of the blue from a cute-looking spaniel. What did it for me was the uniform. She said she was a major and looked so good in her little combat jacket, so I agreed to a date. She was good company but very hyper – aren’t all spaniels? She told me she worked as a sniffer dog but wouldn’t go into any details when I asked questions. How exciting! I can’t say there was a massive spark but I was seduced by the romance of a lady in uniform with such an exciting sounding job, so agreed to a second date. Anyway, the following day I received a pm from her partner for life (his words not mine). It turns out she’s actually unemployed and has never even been in the military! He says she has issues (really?). We had a bit of a blokie chat and actually got on quite well. Poor dog, he obviously adores her but I don’t think she’s any good for him. Close shave for me though.
Anyway, back to the move. Not yet sure how I feel about it but I’ve decided to go along with it. A change is as good as a rest and all that. The cat has been a bit chilled over the last few months, due to finding a couple of mates to hang out with. But she’s back to her old paranoid self since the news of the move. She doesn’t like change and now she knows we have to fly, she’s doing my head in. ‘What if we crash? What if it gets hijacked? What if I’m air sick?’ She says all this while pacing about and has taken to crossing herself with her front right paw. She also looks upwards as if waiting for some sort of heavenly intervention – I think she’s turning into a born again something or other but am not quite sure what.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly cool about being propelled into the air at 150 miles an hour or so, but having done a little research, flying still seems to be the safest way to travel (isn’t Google wonderful?) And, between you and I, I expect to be upgraded due to being just a little bit famous since starting this blog. I have tried explaining to Kara how safe flying actually is. Problem is she won’t stay still or keep quiet long enough to listen. I think I’m going to have to administer brandy or something the next time the people parents are out in the hope that this will calm her down long enough for me to allay her fears.
I’ll let you know how it all goes as soon as we have a decent connection.
The two main protagonists in Unlikely Soldiers are Michelle (nicknamed Mouse) and Guy. I mentioned in the last post that some of the things that happened to Mouse are based on my experience in the Army. Not so with Guy. I didn’t want these books to be about Allan (my husband) and I. I took advice from a good friend who’s an ex Royal Military Policeman, and lots of Guy’s life in book one is based on my friend’s own experiences.
Allan’s Scottish but Guy’s not. He’s from North Yorkshire and without giving away too much of the plot, has been brought up in a dysfunctional family by a mother who doesn’t give a damn. He’s the eldest of a number of children; his father is absent (for reasons explained in the book) and let’s just say that his mother has problems. In my early Army days in the late seventies/early eighties, I met so many people who’d had it tough as youngsters and had joined the Army as a means of escape. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Army was the making of them.
Guy does have a stabling male influence in the form of an elderly neighbour who has his own interesting past. Guy hoped to be the first in his family to leave school with a decent education but a chain of events beyond his control put paid to that. The neighbour convinces him that if he doesn’t get away from home, he could end up being a parent substitute to his siblings. As much as he loves his brothers and sisters, Guy doesn’t want this; he’s also worried that he might turn out like his father. That’s his worst nightmare so he decides to enlist.
It takes him a while to get used to the strange new Army regime, but he fits right in. His trade training is tough – remember that this is the nineteen seventies and life was very different back then. Guy learns to look after himself and to keep his mouth shut. He also encounters personal tragedy early on in his Army career, which changes his outlook on life. He’s determined to make the most of his life in the Army so tries to deny his feelings when he’s attracted to anyone.
Fate does its job and Guy and Mouse eventually meet – under testing circumstances. They both have baggage and life back in the day came with its own complications. Many women were still fighting hard for equality and some men refused to take the aspirations of career-minded women seriously.
Their Army careers are important to both Mouse and Guy, and there are also other people who could come between them.
The path of true love is seldom a smooth one, especially in the Army where the chain of command always have the final word…
I usually love Sunday mornings. The people parents are always in, instead of rushing off to work or out gallivanting like they do on weekdays. Derek might clean the pool or tidy the garden and Lilia sort the washing or potter about the house. Kara the cat usually annoys me less when they’re about which is a bonus. Sometimes I join in with the activities, others I lie around doing nothing. Whatever I’m doing, I simply enjoy just hanging with the family.
That all changed last Sunday.
I sensed something wasn’t right as soon as I opened my eyes, and my nose started twitching. Smoke! The lazy day vibe completely disappeared as Derek made a quick call to the neighbours. Their curtains were closed and I listened as he explained that a fire was heading our way!
We all did a search for Kara, to no avail. The decision was made to evacuate and it was only then that I realised I quite like the old girl. Yes I know she’s a pain and we enjoy winding each other up, but she’s our pain.
It was lovely at the beach where the people parents had their breakfast. But it was still a worry not knowing whether we and many others would have a home to return to, and whether we would discover a charcoaled cat.
Derek made some calls a little later and after a family discussion, it was decided that it was safe to return. The fire fighters, helicopter/plane pilots and some helpful civilians had done a marvellous job. The fire had been contained and as far as I’m aware, there was no serious damage to person or property. But what about the cat? I later discovered that Kara decided to have a sleep over with one of the neighbourhood toms (they’re just friends by the way, she’s not that sort of cat). She sauntered into the kitchen with not a care in the world, which is very unlike her as she’s a serial worrier.
It was a worry for all of us and I’ve taken some photos this morning to show you some of the damage. So sad looking I think you’ll agree.
I would love to say that everything’s back to normal now, but not so in our house. We’ve had more visitors than usual and some of the furniture has disappeared. I hear talk of pastures new but they haven’t sat me down yet and told me exactly what’s going on. I’ll let it ride for a bit. After last Sunday I know they wouldn’t go anywhere without me and as long as my little family is together – except Victoria who’s working in London – I really don’t mind where we live. I will miss this place and a number of people (especially Allan next door, who’s such great fun). But the world is a global village and I can always use Face Time to keep in touch.