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.