NoKillNJ

A Happy Customer!

At a microchip clinic in a Northern New Jersey community, a certified veterinarian prepares to insert a microchip the size of a rice kernel in the nape of a dog’s neck. Assisted by a team of trained technicians, the chip is quickly and painlessly injected without anesthetics. Success! The safety of another pet has been secured.

But what makes this occasion unique is that this clinic is free, courtesy of NJ STRAYS, a non-profit organization with a goal to encourage microchipping as a means to reduce shelter intake.

NJ STRAYS was established by Adriana Bradley in 2012 in an attempt to support families struggling to care for their pets and were in search of low-cost resources. 

According to the NJ STRAYS website, Adriana’s No-Kill approach is an inclusive solution to the unnecessary euthanization of Companion Animals in and outside shelters. Her vision is to create a long-lasting solution to this problem through educational and community support.

Nuestra Mision:

“NJ STRAYS se preocupa por la gente y sus mascotas. Nos centramos en reducir el número de mascotas que entran en perreras locales y en prevenir la eutanización innecesaria de las mismas. Somos parte del movimiento en contra de la matanza animal.” 

 

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Advocating for protective microchip measures, NJ Strays wishes to save lost pets from euthanasia when these animals find themselves in overcrowded shelters. According to the New Jersey Department of Health, more than 15,000 dogs and cats were euthanized in New Jersey shelters in 2016 alone.

Community outreach has truly been the key to success for meeting their goals. Many of the North Jersey regions served by NJ STRAYS are comprised of a large Spanish-speaking population. By offering services in English and Spanish the organization is able to have a greater impact on animal welfare. Fue un exito!

According to Rachel Moehl of the NJ STRAYS Marketing Team the frequency of these free microchipping events is dictated by need and the sponsorship support received from local Animal Control departments, dog groomers and local boarding facilities. “When we receive complete sponsorship, we’re able to offer free micro-chipping. Without complete sponsorship we are still able to offer our service for a cost of $15.00 per pet,” Moehl explains.This is a huge savings as this procedure can typically cost up to $85.00.

In 2018 NJ STRAYS microchipped 64 pets and had already surpassed that number as of June 2019 with a goal to microchip a total of 800 pets by end-of-year. When these free microchip clinics are held in conjunction with free rabies and spay and neuter events the turn-out is high with nearly 60 pets and their owners attending. Pre-registration is not required.

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Chipped and Cheerful!

Animal-loving individuals may pay it forward by sponsoring a pet’s microchip for just $10.00 while having the opportunity to dedicate the microchip to a person (or pet) of their choice. The pet who receives this gift is informed of this special dedication.

Microchipping is a crucial lifesaving precaution throughout all regions of the nation. Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a Los Angeles-based veterinarian, shares, “When I worked emergency practice and would see random clients come in as a good Samaritans having found a lost dog or cat there were plenty of times when a microchip was scanned yet the owner had not registered their information which made it more challenging to get the pets back to their respective owner.”

Rescue Groups also attest to the value of micro-chipping. Joy Manley, founder of R &R Animal Sanctuary in Wisconsin recalls an incident when a woman insisted that a surrendered dog belonged to her. It was only after Joy requested an x-ray of the dog that a microchip was revealed and the situation rightfully resolved. Although uncommon, the chip had migrated.

These situations remind pet owners to register their pet’s microchip and to regularly check the chip’s functionality during visits to veterinarians.

Remember, even the most responsible dog owner may find themselves in situations where they are separated from their beloved pets – a gate left open by a workman or visitor, the startling burst of fireworks that cause a frightened pet to flee, a slip of a leash and collar – these unfortunate circumstances can cause great anxiety and uncertainty for both pet and human. Thanks to organizations like NJ STRAYS, the awareness of microchipping increases resulting in more lives saved and happy reunions.

To learn more about NJ STRAYS please visit https://www.njstrays.org/mission

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“Paws” to Chip!

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April is National Heartworm Awareness Month and because heartworm is transmitted by mosquitos, areas with warm climates typically have a higher number of heartworm cases. That’s why in places like the Hawaiian Islands, awareness is particularly important. The American Heartworm Society estimates that 26 to 50 cases were reported per clinic in Hawaii in 2016.

When Roxy (my niece) and Kalani, a young couple residing in Oahu, wished to bring a dog into their lives they began their search at the Hawaiian Humane Society. It was there that they met and fell in love with a slate grey and white pit bull they named Tutu.

Tutu had found himself at the shelter as a stray and had only been there for four days before being rehomed. According to Roxy, he’s the Cuddle Master. “He really is the sweetest little soulful guy. He loves people and attention and is a good source of entertainment and joy.”

Those who adopt pit bulls or any “bully type” dog face specific challenges. As Roxy explains, “Luckily out here pit-bull type dogs are very popular, so we don’t get too much negativity, just sometimes  people with small dogs crossing the street when they see him coming.” But Roxy and Kalani practice responsible dog ownership and understand and respect those who may harbor a fear of these dogs noting that Tutu does catch some people off guard just by his size. “He’s a big pup,” Roxy says.

But not long after the adoption took place Roxy and Kalani faced another challenge when during a routine vet check it was suspected that Tutu might have heartworm; thin, long white parasitic worms that despite their name do not live in the heart, but reside in the lungs of dogs (and cats). These worms can grow to be over a foot long beginning the first stage of their development in the gut of mosquitos before being transmitted to their unwitting furry host. After being injected into the mammal, heartworms enter the larval stage in the capillaries and skin of the dog followed by the adult stage where they reside in the dog’s pulmonary veins.   

Heartworm infestation can be difficult to detect. Symptoms include a progressively worsening cough, anemia, difficulty breathing and a reluctance to exercise. Tutu’s treatment had to be delayed due to stomach issues from being on antibiotics for too long for a previous condition. “Our vet actually wouldn’t give him any new medication, including heartworm prevention, for months until his stomach healed,” Roxy explains. When he was cleared to get his medicines up-to-date, he was prescribed the Heartworm test which is always done before treatment starts. When his first result came back positive and a second test came back borderline Heartworm treatment began.

Roxy, Kalani and of course Tutu were fortunate. As Roxy recalls, “Tutu didn’t actually display any symptoms at all and we were lucky to have caught it very early and were able to get rid of the worms using only preventative treatments, patience, and rest.” Because his heartworm condition was not severe and he’s so young, and otherwise healthy, he didn’t have to undergo more extreme treatments.

After he was diagnosed heartworm positive Tutu was house-bound, and his movement restricted to keep his heart rate as low as possible. While the preventative medicine kills the heartworms, little bits of them can break off and travel to a dog’s heart causing great harm or worse. “We had to wait four months after his first dose of medicine to re-check for the heart worms. When he came back all clear we eased him back into physical activity, since we’d kept his movement to a minimum for so long,” Roxy recalls.

As is true for humans, so is for dogs and “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” and less expensive, too. With regular visits with a veterinarian, blood tests and providing once-a-month heartworm prevention meds, dog owners can effectively minimize, if not eliminate, the impact of this deadly disease. Other preventative measures include avoiding the times of dawn and dusk for walks and eliminating standing water where mosquitos lay their eggs.

In early January, on the occasion of Roxy’s birthday, she and Kalani received notice that Tutu was healthy!  “We were able to take him down to the beach to watch the sunset with me to celebrate,” Roxy happily relays.

These days Tutu continues to enjoy the good life in his tropical paradise. According to Roxy, he’s a “resilient little guy,” and they’re working on his off-leash training at the beach to focus while being around other dogs. Although Tutu can be quite stubborn, he has no other behavioral or health issues. His only “flaws” seem to be that he’s a little bit of a bed hog and heavy sleeper at times.

It’s successful adoption stories like this that can have a positive impact on the dog-human bond and young adopters like Roxy and Kalani are excellent role models for intelligent and informed dog adoption. Their commitment to making Tutu physically and emotionally healthy sets a good example for everyone. I thank them for sharing their story and for bringing awareness to the serious issue of heartworm.

Mahalo, thank you, and much love to everyone in their endeavors to keep their pets happy and healthy.

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These frigid winter days have many staying inside curled up with a good book and if you love to read great books filled with stories that embrace the dog-human bond, you might consider joining the Yahoo Group, DogRead.

DogRead is the original cyber book club where authors join readers online in an Interactive Workshop format featuring a new dog-related book each month. The group was established in 2000 by Treshell Jones. After Treshell’s passing, Dana Mackonis, one of her co-moderators, took over the management of the group. Now with nearly 6,500 members, DogRead has hosted over 300 authors who write dog-centric books in a multitude of genres. Each author is invited to discuss their current titles with group members for a two week period in a moderated conversation.

I’ve been honored to be a DogRead featured author twice for two of my titles, Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher and Something’s Lost and Must be Found. Now I’m excited to share that for the first time, DogRead will feature an anthology. Second-Chance Dogs: True Stories of the Dogs We Rescue and the Dogs Who Rescue Us (Revell-Baker Group, September, 2018) will be the featured book for the week beginning February 15th. Joining the book conversation will be some of my fellow contributors to Second Chance Dogs who are also active members of the Dog Writers Association of American (DWAA).

In her essay, “Finding the Way Home”, Denise Fleck shares her girlhood story of Blondie, a sweet stray who came to stay at a time when a young girl really needed a canine friend. In her essay, “Gotcha Day” Jen Reeder, outgoing president of the DWAA (thanks for your service, Jen) tells of how she returned to the shelter where she’d rescued her beloved Rio. Rio became a beloved therapy dog and to express her gratitude to Rio’s shelter, Jen presented a special and meaningful gift that only a dog-writer can bestow.

Lonnie Hull Dupont, editing under the name of Callie Smith Grant, pays tribute to her sister who is truly “all bark and no bite” in her contribution “Strangers in the Snow”. Lonnie’s “My August Dog” tells of her life-changing trip to Greece where a homeless mother dog inspired her to make life-changing decisions with enduring results.

In her contribution “The Sound of Home”, Susan C. Willett talks about making an adoption choice that helped her family heal the loss of a beloved pup while helping a pair of adorable adoptable dogs. Susan’s “What’s Wrong with Your Dog” reminds us how dogs can teach us about acceptance and seeing beyond perceived “imperfections”.

Personally, I am thankful that “Surrender”, my story about our foster-to-furever dog, Teddy, was accepted as one of the many tributes to our beloved dogs featured in Second-Chance Dogs.

I think it’s so impressive that so much emotion can be evoked by these stories, most no longer than 3,000 words, and how each entry by these DWAA members, and so many other accomplished authors, encourage us to examine our own relationships with our dogs and fellow humans. As she has proven in the past, Callie (Lonnie) is a terrific editor and writer with a true heart for companion animals.

We hope you’ll become a DogRead member and join us for a discussion of Second-Chance Dogs in February! If you’d like to become a member of DogRead please visit: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/DogRead/info and remember to like their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/DogRead-300094168780/about/?ref=page_internal

Second Chance Dogs may be purchased directly through The Baker Revell Publishing Group site: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/second-chance-dogs/378700

 

 

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“Every day’s a holiday. Some holidays are better than others.” Attribution Unknown

Welcome to a new year nearly three weeks in. The above is one of my favorite quotes because of its positivity. It reminds me that even a day that brings sadness and bad news contains something that is good, even if we have to search for it. It also reminds me of the myriad of holidays and observances, much like National Dog Week, that ask us to  consider a topic we might otherwise overlook whether it be social causes, lesser known diseases and challenges, a forgotten figure in history, food and beverages and of course occasions that celebrate and honor our pets.

January presents among other observances National Train Your Dog, Walk Your Dog, and Unchain a Dog Month, Change a Pet’s Life Day and the lighter Dress Up Your Pet Day.

It occurs to me that Walk Your Dog and Unchain a Dog Month present two sides of the dog-human connection, while at the same time asking those who are good dog-guardians to be even more caring and engaged. Dog walking seems like a simple act at first, but the “art of dog walking” differs depending on where one resides. Suburban dog owners with large fenced-in yards may simply open a sliding glass door each morning to allow their dogs outdoor time. This may be ideal, but don’t forget that your dog(s) may become bored at times and might wonder what lies beyond that tall fence. Getting your dog out and about helps with socialization and may be good for their humans as they get some fresh air and exercise. Ironically many city-dogs may enjoy more walks than their suburban cousins, but those dogs must master elevators and stairwells and good timing. On the other paw, dogs of those who live in more rural areas may never see a leash, or don’t require a  fenced in yard. These dogs wander leash-free and hopefully safely each and every day.

Sadly, some people still believe it’s alright to chain a dog in their backyards in the heat of summer and during frigid days and nights. In many cases these dogs have little access to food and water and live sad and lonely days. Many states have passed laws that give law enforcement the ability to take action to protect and rescue these unfortunate dogs. If you see a dog suffering please check with local authorities to see how you can help.

As for Change a Pet’s Life Day, I still hear people saying that shelter pets are somehow damaged goods without realizing how much these pets need another chance at having a good home and family. It asks potential pet owners to consider that when seeking a new family member. Dress Up Your Pet Day encourages the more playful and fun-side of having a pet, and as many of us in pet-writing biz know, pet-couture is a big industy filled with creative individuals. If you’ve ever witnessed a pet fashion-show, you can’t help but smile at the models on the run-way and appreciate the fact that many of these events raise funds and awareness for good causes.

And of course whether welcoming a new pup or an older dog to your home, set aside some time to work on obedience training, and seek professionals who can help develop good life-time habits that will strengthen the dog-human bond.

Has walking your dog lead you to new friendships or encounters that were life-changing? Have you ever helped a dog become unchained or worked to pass legislation that helped to free neglected dogs in your neighborhood or state? Do you design fashions for pets or have you changed the life of a pet through foster or rescue? If so, please share in the comment section or leave your stories over on the National Dog Week Facebook page. We love to hear from our readers. https://www.facebook.com/NatDogWeek/

 

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My foster-to-furever dog, Teddy celebrates 6 years with us this month! He tolerated Dress Up Day!

 

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The Dog Days may have officially ended, but the “Dog Daze” loom – can you believe National Dog Week – seven days of pure canine celebration – will observe its 90th Observation the week of September 24th?

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Poster Stamps from Dog Weeks Past

Yes Virginia, there really is a Dog Week and if it had its own Santa, it would be Captain Wm. Lewis Judy, best known as Will Judy, the individual often cited as The Man who Brought America to the Dogs.

As his biographer, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that you could “read all about it” in a book I wrote titled Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher (McFarland & Co. – 2014). If your school, or community library, doesn’t offer it, I hope that you’ll request that they acquire a copy, or two. With over 1,000 footnotes (I’m still recovering) it offers an overview of Judy’s publishing career told through his magazines, books and his never-ending promotion of his beloved National Dog Week launched in 1928.

To help keep the Week of the Dog a relevant part of American History, I launched a blog in 2010 (due to book writing my posts have been infrequent but I do hope to change that) and a Facebook Page to connect with dog-loving readers. Judy was also an art lover and promoted artists (as well as authors) whose work embraced that special dog-human bond. To that end, I created some art of my own that captures the enduring spirit of National Dog Week and all that it encompasses and Judy’s undying patriotism.

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Someone once referred to me as the “Wizard of Dog Week” and that made me laugh. I sometimes get messages addressed to “Dear Sir” – from those who think Will is still with us sitting behind an Internet Wall dispensing “wise” observations about the role of dogs in our lives. Even as early as the 1930s, Judy was aware that dog-centric topics could be wrought with contention and controversy, but he handled his detractors with dignity and humor. Like Judy, I’m both encouraged by news items and incidents that inspire the world in the Ways of Dog; alternately dismayed when I see how far we still have to go on the path of enlightenment. The latter was never lost on Captain Judy. But he never gave up the good fight – trained in the ministry in his youth, he retained a unique spirituality that permeated his writings and approach to the dog-human bond.

Dog Week is YOUR week. Throughout the month of September, leading up to its 90th appearance on the American calendar, I’ll use its Community Facebook Page to offer excerpts from Dog’s Best Friend (and some of my other books) as we honor Dog Week’s rich and poignant history – a week that still calls for collective thoughtfulness and action on behalf of our beloved canines.

Please join us by “Liking” the official National Dog Week Community Page, https://tinyurl.com/y8o4mxzv share your love of all things dog, and become an active part of the observance’s unique history. I hope my Writing Story and works inspire.  Thank you.

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Photo Credit: Lori Fusaro, provided courtesy of Laura Coffey.  Chaney, a retired military working dog, trekked thousands of miles and sniffed out explosives during multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010 and 2011, Chaney’s handler was U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Matt Hatala. Their story is chronicled in the book “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts,” written by Laura T. Coffey and with photographs by Lori Fusaro. (Photo credit: Lori Fusaro / “My Old Dog”)

Laura T. Coffey, a senior writer, editor and producer for TODAY.com, the website of NBC’s TODAY show, is also the author of the best-selling non-fiction book My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts (New World Library – Sept. 2015)  An award-winning journalist with nearly three decades of experience, Laura has written and edited hundreds of high-profile human-interest stories. She lives in Seattle with her husband, Michael, their son, Tyler, their two senior dogs, Frida and Manny, and their rescued cat, Obi-Wann Catnobi.

Earlier this year, Laura was awarded the Captain Will Judy Special Award from the Dog Writers Association of America for a chapter from My Old Dog titled ‘Never give up’: How an Ex-military Dog Rescued the Veteran Who Needed Him Most.

Please tell us about the article you wrote for your nomination. ‘Never give up’: How an Ex-military Dog Rescued the Veteran Who Needed Him Most first appeared as a chapter of my non-fiction book about senior dog rescue, My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts. Then I adapted it as a story for TODAY.com, the website of NBC’s TODAY show.

What/who inspired its creation? Please share with the story of how you came to write this. While working on My Old Dog, I knew I wanted to include some compelling stories of working dogs who needed help securing safe, comfortable retirements when they aged out of their vocations. Chaney, the retired military working dog featured in this story, absolutely fell into that category. Chaney trekked thousands of miles and sniffed out explosives during multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the years 2010 and 2011, Chaney’s handler was U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Matt Hatala. When Chaney became too old to work, he encountered a logistical morass and languished in a kennel for months because he was a “contract working dog” owned by a private contractor. Matt Hatala kept trying to adopt his former bomb-sniffing buddy and he encountered many roadblocks along the way, but his perseverance ultimately paid off and the pair were reunited. As soon as I heard about this story, I knew I had to write about it!

Why do you think this piece qualified for the Dog Writers Association of America’s Captain William Lewis Judy Award? First of all, can I tell you how honored I am that this story won the Captain William Lewis Judy Award? Because I am! This is an award for a story that educates people about the important role of military dogs and the emotional and physical care these dogs need during their training, active service and retirement. Chaney’s role in helping Matt and Matt’s fellow Marines while serving in Afghanistan was far-reaching and powerful. This importance of this role became especially evident after Matt returned home from Afghanistan and struggled with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Matt opens up about his struggles — including his attempt to take his own life — in My Old Dog. This is what made Matt’s eventual reunion with Chaney so crucial. Matt credits Chaney with saving his life, and Matt has become an advocate for the benefits of service dogs for veterans. When veterans are out and about with dogs, the dogs are people magnets — in a good way! The presence of dogs leads to inevitable conversations, which leads to veterans getting thanked profusely for their service, which leads to veterans feeling less alone and alienated from other people. It’s so, so important.

Please talk about your work with the TODAY show and how that role can help educate the world about the roles of our dogs in society. I’ve been a writer and editor for the TODAY show’s website since 2008, and over the course of this incredibly fun decade, it’s been rewarding to watch the site’s coverage of pets and animals grow in such a positive way. I’ve written and edited every imaginable kind of story for TODAY over the years, but almost all of my “greatest hits” have involved dogs! One stand-out story involved a dog rescued from abuse who went on to help a young boy with autism. I’ve also written about iconic dogs, floating dogs, military dogs, guide dogs, therapy dogs, cleaned-up dogs and hero dogs. One day I wrote a story about senior dogs being overlooked in animal shelters — and that story went so viral and affected people so profoundly that it led to the writing of My Old Dog! These days I’m working as an editor for TODAY Parents so it’s tricky for me to write as many pets stories as I’d like, but I still try to do so whenever I can. Other wonderful writers like Arin Greenwood are crafting so many great stories about pets and animals for TODAY.com on a regular basis, and that makes me very happy to see.

Please tell us about your role as the current Vice-President of the DWAA. I love being involved with the Dog Writers Association because it’s a support network for writers and editors who all love dogs and care deeply about telling animal stories well. At first blush these stories might seem a little bit “fluffy” to some people, but they’re actually quite important. They matter because they touch people’s hearts, and they make people think. When told well, the stories we write can inspire people to perform incredible acts of kindness and selflessness — and, when that happens, our readers’ lives become more happy and meaningful and fulfilling. This is not a small thing. This is a huge thing, and it’s one of the reasons I’m so proud to be a dog writer.

Note: We were saddened to hear of the news that Chaney passed last month. To learn more about this remarkable dog please go to: https://www.facebook.com/MyOldDog/posts/2024671337565668

 

I thank my local American Legion Post of Brick Township, NJ for their continued sponsorship of the Captain Will Judy Award, named for the man who founded National Dog Week and promoted the humane use of military dogs and Service Dogs in the 1930s, and Laura for embracing the dog-human bond through her words and actions and her work on behalf of the DWAA. The DWAA Writing Competition Nomination season opens July 9th, so please take a look at the DWAA site to learn about our writing categories for the annual DWAA Writing Competition that is open to members and non-members! We hope you’ll enter your best canine-centric work! https://dogwriters.org/writing-competition/

Happy Fourth of July everyone! To learn more about Will Judy and National Dog Week, please go to: https://www.facebook.com/NatDogWeek/

     I’m excited to share that during the month of May, a collection of my Antique Postcard Art will be featured at Jafajems, in Montclair, New Jersey.  Since 1998, this venue owned by Carol Jafagee, has offered a unique collection of textiles, furnishings, and decorative items for the home including pillows, throws and carpets, pottery, artwork and candles, furniture, frames and glassware.
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Montclair Train Station, c. 1920

     Carol has been a client of mine for some time. In December, after contacting me to order artwork for her shore home, we discussed the possibility of having my artwork carried in her shop. Now, I am happy to announce that during the month of May, Jafajems will feature a dozen pieces of artwork created especially for this venue; a mix of original vintage postcard art (1905-1940s) presenting scenes of Montclair, Glen Ridge and New York City. 
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Buildings of NYC – 1940s

     Since 1989, I’ve created thousands of these postcard creations for many gift-giving occasions especially suited for those who have “everything”. These small works of art offer great nostalgic impact; preserving memories of hometowns, favorite cities, special vacations spots and more, as well as postal history. 
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     I truly look forward to this opportunity as Montclair, a suburb of New York City, is a community where over the past several years I’ve developed a loyal following. At one time, it was my privilege to be involved in helping to organize the former Montclair Craft Show, an event that once featured the work of the area’s finest artisans.
     Spring time is a perfect time for starting anew – and it’s been refreshing getting back into painting (and blogging). I will continue to post about my writing (lots going on there) as well. 
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Springtime in Paris – c. 1910

     I also thank so many of you who have reached out to me, and my family, after the loss of my sister, Manette in March. Being immersed in the creative process helps to stay positive during difficult times, but I truly miss her encouragement and sense of humor. 
     If you’ve got any questions regarding my art and/or writing, please feel free to contact me at lbkauthor@gmail.com. If you wish to be on my newly developing mailing-list please use my contact page to  provide your e-mail and USPS mailing address. 
     If you live in Essex County or nearby, I hope you’ll stop by Jafagems to explore Carol’s shop and add to your art collections this May, and beyond!
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Presenter/Keynote Speaker for the Manasquan River Artist Group last November

For information about  Jafajems please visit: http://jafajems.com/

As above, so below. As within, so without. The Emerald Tablet, circa 3000 BC

Some of you who stop by this blog and my Author Page know that recently, we said “good-bye” to my younger sister, Manette. She helped me to launch this blog back in 2010 and I’ve written a tribute to her each year on the occasion of her birthday. I thank so many who’ve reached out with kind condolences for my family. These days, we spend a lot of time reminiscing – I’ve poured over photos and so many cards and letters she wrote me in the early 1980s, long before texts and posts were possible.

One memory stands out, however,  a story I’ve never shared for fear some would think I was just a “Story” teller. But this true experience still resonates and has special meaning for me these days, especially.

Back around 2010, my husband and I began renting a home in the heart of Big Pine Key, about an hour east of Key West. We loved that house situated on a lagoon with the front yard facing a nature preserve filled with gentle inquisitive tiny Key Deer. We also love the memories formed there as we had so many visitors.

On one occasion, my sister and her husband David, came to spend some time in Big Pine. During her visit, my sister gave me a copy of the bestselling book The Secret. Written by Rhonda Byrne, it took the publishing world by a storm, selling zillions of copies. Published by Atria/Beyond Words in 2006, The Secret basically recounts the history of positive thinking, encouraging readers to visualize that anything is possible. The book has been embraced and scorned by many.

While I found no harm in reading the thoughts and quotes of many great minds joined in positivity, there was a great deal of doubting and much fun was poked in the direction of Manette, and myself, throughout the visit whenever the book was mentioned.

One of the practices suggested in the book is to visualize an object in your mind and this “thing” will manifest (ex. a coin on the ground, a white feather, a winning lotto ticket?). I recall thinking this was ridiculous, but I played along and visualized white pebbles. This was absurd, however, I realized because the entire front yard of the rental house was filled with millions of little white pebbles. Brilliant!

After my sister and her husband departed, I was out walking our late great Portuguese water dog, Hooper, when a pack of four young kids began circling us on bikes; they looked to be between ages 6-12. They spoke with a twang and told me they were from a town on the Georgia-Florida border. The oldest, a boy, proudly showed me his pocket knife. They were intrigued with Hooper and “our” house and asked for a tour. Not knowing these kids, and it not being “my” house, I had to decline. We talked for bit before they rode off to their own rental down on the end of the road.

The next day, the pack returned. It was Sunday and the family, who had rented a house just for a long weekend, would be leaving later that day. They played with Hooper and talked to me for a while then as kids will, got bored and pedaled home. The youngest, a quiet little girl stopped, however, and reached for something on the ground. She reminded me of my own sister, petite, brown-haired with blue-eyes – quiet. She circled back to me and when she returned, I inquired about her family for some reason. “Is that all of you?” I asked pointing in the direction of her siblings. She answered with a sad nod and told me that she had recently lost her only sister, the eldest sibling. I told her I had lost a brother just a few years earlier and knew how she felt. Then she held out her hand. “These are for you,” she said. She opened her small palm to reveal two small white pebbles. I was too stunned to speak. I just watched her ride off to join her brothers and sisters. I never saw them again.

I found those pebbles early this year, high up on a shelf next to a tiny angel-winged figurine of our late great “Hoop Girl”. Then, I found my copy of The Secret and reread what my sister had written to me several years ago, her words more meaningful than ever.

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I can’t explain why certain things happen. People may think that I imagined this (my husband saw those kids) or say it was just a coincidence, but I like to think that everyday we are privy to small “secrets” that let us know everything really does happen for a reason, and these “small” moments let us know that everything will be okay.

Thanks again. Stay safe in the storms. Spring is near.

 

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Congratulations to all my colleagues who received nominations and awards from the DWAA in their Annual Writing Competition, and a thank you to the Contest organizers and those who offered to read and judge entries in numerous categories.

This year, under the direction of DWAA President, Jen Reeder, and increased Social Media engagement, the competition attracted a record number of entries – up 24% from last year! We had entries from all over the world including Canada, Germany, Italy, Australia and Wales proving the love of dogs, and the writing of, has no boundaries.

I thank the judges for selecting my entry On the Scent of Life as the winner of the Short Fiction Category. The story was inspired by a chance meeting I’d had with a Cadaver dog handler, and his dog, in Florida several years ago. Something about that brief encounter stuck in my head and I’d always wanted to use it as a prompt for a story about the the dark side of those who do such hard work, and the impact it can have on these heroes. I wanted to share a story that ultimately shows that we can make choices to live in positivity, and in the present, and sometimes a little dog shall lead us, with a big thanks to Aimee Gertsch who also hosted my winning entry last year, Second Chances, with a similar theme. Read it here: http://4theloveofanimals.com/blog/2017/06/15/on-the-scent-of-life/

The Fiction award is special to me because many of the categories of the DWAA Writing Competition are created for works of Non-Fiction with a few designated for photography, graphics, painting, poetry and Short Fiction. I think that strong Fiction, inspired by true events, can create a story that sits long in the memory of a reader. I have no scientific evidence, it’s just something I think about as I write, even if the piece is ultimately a ghost story. 

I’m also thrilled to relay that the Captain William Lewis Judy Award, sponsored by my local American Legion Post, was presented to author and DWAA Vice President, Laura Coffey who’s book My Old Dog, (recently declared a bestseller) took top honors in the Book Category in last year’s event. Laura, a writer/editor for the TODAY Show, wrote a moving piece about the relationship between a Marine named Matt and his retired military dog, Chaney, a story that appears in My Old Dog.

I also thank blogger Kristin Avery for giving my personal account Fostering Ginger a good home on her The Daily Pip site; it was a nominee in a Rescue Writing Category in this year’s competition. I’ve included that link as well. Read it here:  http://www.thedailypip.com/search?q=Lisa+Begin-Kruysman

This year, I’ve also enjoyed being a contributor to Ruff Drafts, the official DWAA Newsletter. My feature, “Observance Breeds Awareness” presents a quarterly review of the days, weeks, and months of the year that have us thinking about all the ways man’s best friend enhances our lives, and inspires writers, bloggers and authors to find new and creative ways to share those stories with the world.

I thank those who stop by to read and those who give me appreciated feedback. May 2018,  the Year of the Dog, be a good one for all!

Last Wednesday, the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) announced the nominees of their Regular Categories for their Annual Writing Competition. The DWAA, formed in 1935, continues to support and reward writers, bloggers and authors who capture the essence of the human-canine bond on so many levels.

This year, for the first time ever, winners of Regular Categories, and those of the Special Awards category, will be announced before the DWAA Banquet in New York City held this year on the evening of February 10th. So, many of my fellow nominees, and DWAA members, will be excitedly watching on Wednesday, December 13th, at 7:00pm (EST) on the DWAA Facebook and Twitter sites as the results roll in!

Yes, I said fellow-nominees, because for the third year in a row, I was thrilled to discover that my writing had garnered notice. In 2015, my biography of DWAA Co-Founder, Will Judy, was nominated in the Reference Book category and last year I was honored with three nominations, taking home a Maxwell in the Short Fiction category and The North Shore Animal League America Award for my blog post on the topic of Spay and Neuter.

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Teddy models the Maxwell: A very Sirius occasion!

This year, I’ve been nominated in the Short Fiction category for my short story On the Scent of Life about the personal struggle of a Cadaver dog handler, and for a guest blog post titled Fostering Ginger. Special Awards are “super secret” with no nominations, just that “And the winner is” moment! No matter the outcome, I’m honored to be nominated among such talented colleagues and wish all nominees the best.

Also last Wednesday, just after these announcements were made, I tuned into a webinar to reunite with fellow students and instructors from the Middle Grade Mastery course I’d enjoyed this past spring. The MGM course is one of many classes offered by Mira Reisberg of the Children’s Book Academy, and was co-taught by author Hillary Homzie. During the MGM course, I revised a Middle Grade novel with the personal input and one-on-one editorial guidance of Mira and enjoyed critique groups with fellow-writers from around the world, many who have remained in my Writing Universe.

During this hourlong gathering, those in attendance spoke about their journeys in securing agent representation and their submissions and subsequent review by editors. Mira and Hillary offered helpful insight to get us unstuck if we’re in a rut and suggested ways we can improve our chances of making 2018 a success for our projects.

Hillary reminded us to be mindful of our time by restricting time spent watching TV (sorry binge watchers) or on Social Media. She rightfully pointed out that even by writing one or two paragraphs a day, we are heading toward completion be it a Picture Book or a 45,000 word MG Novel. I also liked her reminder that when we’re unsure of where our character and plot are going, to stop and interview our characters to fully flush them out.

Mira encouraged us to mine our imaginations for all the possibilities and outcomes of a plot by asking the simple question, “So, what’s your premise?” It’s a deceivingly simple question, but one should be able to let an audience know the essence and purpose of your book in just a few sentences enticing readers to want to know more.

I’ve met many aspiring writers who feel that they don’t need writing instruction because they think all you need to do is think up a story and sit down at the keyboard. That’s a great start, but there’s so much more to it. Even with a gripping, well-executed manuscript, it isn’t easy to engage overworked literary agents and editors, or small presses and The Big Five publishers.

Part of the appeal of the MGM course, and others offered by the CBA, are that they include the involvement of some well-established agents and editors. Scholarships are also available and some students even receive a Golden Ticket from a participating agent, or editor, with an invaluable invitation to submit a Full Manuscript for serious consideration! The CBA courses use Facebook as their meeting base, so if you do take a course, be advised you’ll need to set up an account to participate.

My MGM project has endured many revisions, title changes and winding paths, but with each turn, it becomes a stronger story and I’m hopeful that it will find the right home in the coming year, embracing the mantra that it will land on “the right desk, at the right time”. While there is no course to find the exact moment of that winning combination, taking writing courses like those offered by CBA just might make that match a reality.

For the entire list of DWAA Writer’s Competition Nominees:

https://dogwriters.org/2017-nominees/

For more information on the Children’s Book Academy visit:

http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/

For a free webinar and Scholarship info: https://wj168-366180.pages.infusionsoft.net/

Work hard and practice Enlightened Persistence. To be continued!

Hooper

"Is it dog week yet?"

"Is it dog week yet?"

Michelle Mongelli and Wheezey

Pike, at Geiger Key

Hooper in the Keys

Hooper in the Keys

“Two Culprits” by Steven Hall

Logan & Koda

DJ

DJ Goes to Westminster

Zac and Cooper

"Look daddy, I can fly!"

“Hooper” – Best in Snow

Pita in Matt’s Garden

Hooper with cousin Roxy, Summer 2009

Me and my “Hoop”

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