Saturday, March 31, 2012

Back at home and at the SPCA

Since I was away most of the week, I was eager to get back to the SPCA and see who'd been adopted.  I also found that Spring has brought a lot of puppies, and I was lucky enough to get to play with an photograph some of them.

No loose dogs today--barely.  I had on a collar that snapped--twice--but managed to catch the dog both times.  Oy!

Anyway, I wanted to share some pictures of the lovely shelter dogs I met today.  If you're in the area, you ought to check them out!





~~Angie, who is at her dog limit, but would take OREO in a heartbeat. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shelter Me, Inc.

This made me cry. How about you?


Sunday, March 25, 2012

I am finally an "official" volunteer. I've been inaugurated. :-/

When I was being trained to volunteer at the SPCA, my trainer told me what to do if a dog ever escapes my control:you are supposed to yell at the top of your lungs, "LOOSE DOG!"

And my first thought was a prayer:"Lord, please don't ever let that happen to me."

Well, it happened today.  I was trying to get a new dog, Dino, out for his picture, and that young dog proved to be more than I expected.  Our kennels have double gates--the top opens with one latch; the bottom opens with another.  So you can usually open the top and lean over to put on the dog's collar and leash.

Well, I did that--I got the collar on Dino and was just about to snap on the leash when suddenly the dog hooked his front paws on the top of the bottom gate and LEAPT OUT OVER THE BOTTOM GATE, dodging right under my outstretched arms! I tried to grab him, but he was away like a flash, and so I started yelling, "LOOSE DOG"and running after him.  I thought I had him trapped when he ran down an alley with no escape, but he got on the other side of a wall, heard me running back to the top of the alley, and the silly goose beat me out of the alley! He flew away, crossing over what felt like acres of grass, and I worried that he would make it to the parking lot . . .

Finally he ran into the building, where another dog volunteer caught him.  And as I ran up to snap on his leash, they said, "It happens."

Well.  My heart was pounding a mile a minute.  I'm not a spring chicken any more, but I sure didn't want Dino to get away.  My only consolation was that maybe he'd tired himself out so he wouldn't be so hyper for our photo shoot.

So . . . here he is--spry, active, darling Dino, who definitely needs some obedience lessons.  :-)  But he's a pretty boy, isn't he?

Have a great tomorrow!


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturdays at the SPCA

Puppy Sadie, already gone to a new home. 

Her beauty shot. 

I didn't prepare this photo, but thought it was adorable. 

LB, the one-year-old roughhouser. 

Today I realized why it's not such a good idea to photograph dogs on Saturday. :-) First, it's a busy day, with people everywhere, and that makes setting up hard. It's also difficult to get a dog to focus when all the other dogs are barking their heads off every time someone walks into the kennel area.

But the chief reason is that new dogs--especially if they're puppies--don't stick around long enough to even NEED a photograph. I'm happy for this, of course, but I spent a lot of time with a very frisky puppy this morning, and by the time I got her photo ready to upload, she had gone home with someone. Yea for them. And I'll still use the picture--right here on this blog. :-) You see? Nothing is ever wasted.

I photographed two dogs this morning--puppy Sadie and yearling L.B. (Little Boy? Leonard Bernstein? Who knows?) L.B. didn't know how to sit on my pretty little pillow, so I tossed him a stuffed toy and prayed that it would last long enough for me to get some shots. I got some shots, all right--but in most of them, he looked like he was going to tear that toy limb from limb. Not exactly the image you want to plant in prospective doggie parents' heads. But trust me--he was a very sweet dog. He just loves to play rough with his toys.

So here are a few shots from this morning--and you can probably tell that I've been learning photoshop. I HATE having that chain link fence in the background--it reminds me of a jailyard--but sometimes it's unavoidable and sometimes I can chop it out. But I love this one little area for photography because it's safe and easy and mostly sheltered from the sun.

Enjoy! Off to do Saturday things!


Bouncer Bounces Back

I have heard of animal self-mutilation--when an animal is so unhappy/afraid that he will literally harm himself--but the case I heard about involved a horse who would run into walls and fences.  This is a story about a dog, but there's a wonderful happy ending.

I'm heading off to the SPCA this morning, so thought this would be appropriate to share.

Why work with animals? Because it's good for your HEART. :-)


Friday, March 23, 2012

Doggies and fun and photos, oh my!

Boy, it's beginning to feel like summer around here! I worked at the SPCA this morning, and even though I worked in the shade, I was about to melt by the time I finished.   Here are some of the shots I took this morning--a crop of wonderful doggies!

By the way, we did post a version of that last photo, but I mostly cropped myself out.  :-) It's not important that I'm hugging Jack, it's important that he's huggable.  :-)

Many thanks for my partner in photos, Jim McCook, who often helps me with these dogs that simply won't sit still!



This picture cracks me up. She reminds me of a church lady. 

Happy Jack. A truly sweet boy who likes women better than men. :-)

Isis--an interesting combination of breeds. Corgi and Lab?

You're already met Zelda, but I re-shot her for better color. 

Me huggin' on Jack.  What a sweet boy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

More SPCA pics

I didn't make it to the SPCA yesterday, and while I was gone, the puppy room filled up! (They keep older dogs and young dogs in an air-conditioned space).

So this morning I had my work cut out for me, but I was still very pleased to make so many puppy friends and get some great shots.  A big shout-out and thank you to Jim McCook, without whom the picture of Miles wouldn't be nearly as adorable.  :-)



Miles 2

Miles 3. This puppy doesn't take a bad picture.






And my doggies, who are NOT up for adoption.  :-)


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Tale of Three Trees in a recordable story book . . .

I just saw this . . . and now I think I have to get one for my own granddaughter! How cool is this?


Monday, March 19, 2012

Doggies of the Day

The SPCA is officially closed on Mondays, but the dogs still need walking and this morning there were two new faces that needed photos.

So I'll introduce you to both of them, and they're both wonderful dogs:  Baby and Diamond.  Yes, I went a little overboard with the feather boa! But Baby was such a good sport.

Now--to apply myself to this book in progress.  Head down, back to work.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

More Pet Portraits

My life these days is revolving around 1)the work in progress, which is now in its third draft and 2)the SPCA doggie portraits.

Here are some recent additions:

Most wonderful, of course, is when these wonderful dogs get a home.  I'm especially eager for Nala (pink bow) and Elsa (in pearls)to get the home they deserve. They are wonderful dogs!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Volunteering at the SPCA . . .

Bogie the Bouncy Boy

Little Corona

Stetson the Ridgeback

Last night I went through three hours of training at the SPCA so I could be an official volunteer--which means that I get to wear a blue shirt and mingle with all the many, many other people who love animals and volunteer at our local SPCA.

I particularly wanted to do photography of the animals, all because I had seen this youtube video about photographer Theresa Berg and her work with what I call "glamour pet photography."

So I asked my friend Sharon, who manages our church's thrift store, to be on the lookout for cute props that might work in this new endeavor.  She got me all kinds of goodies, plus I raided the house for a few things, too.

So this morning I got up, cleaned the house, put on my official blue shirt, and went over to the animal shelter.  I took an empty room, duct-taped fabric backdrops onto the wall, and went in search of animals who had a less-than-winsome photo with their bio.

And I quickly began to appreciate pet photographers.  My first customer, Corona, was a little guy who was more interested in rubbing his nose on the blanket than in looking at the camera, but he was a sweetheart.

My second customer, Bogie, was hilarious.  I'd been warned that he was a boisterous pup, so I waited until after he'd had his morning walk before I brought him into my room.  Then I simply sat down to wait as he picked up a squeaky toy and ran around the room with it, dunking it into the water bowl, tossing it up, dunking it again, tossing it aside in favor of a Kong toy, dunking it into the water, and so on.  Finally, good old Bogie decided to sit next to me on the makeshift "bed,"and there I was able to snag a few pictures.  Nothing posed, mind you, and nothing with the props I had collected. I had a feeling that I'd be lucky to get his face in the frame.

My final customer of the day was Stetson, a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix who was a little anxious about being locked in the room with me.  I sat and waited for him to calm down, but then another volunteer photographer offered his services, and we were finally cooking.  That extra person made all the difference, because a LOT of dogs will sit still--and even smile and wear a costume--for a cookie.   :-)

Then I came home, picked out the best photos, cropped them, and uploaded them.  And what should have taken an couple of hours has pretty much devoured my day, but that's okay.  I expected a learning curve.

So if you don't mind, I may be doing this about once a week and posting the photos.  It's been a lot of fun, and I love doing something that just might help find one of these wonderful dogs a forever home.



Congratulations to the Good Reads Winners!

I hope you saw the notice for a drawing on Good Reads--the names drawn would receive copies of the Advance Reader Copy of Five Miles South of Peculiar. 

Well, Good Reads just sent me the names of the winners, so their books will be going in the mail today! Six hundred and twenty-four people entered, and congratulations go to:

Suzanne Schaffer
Sheryl Barnes
Lori Weller
Deborah Vogts
Lori Quayle!

Thank you all for entering!

I'll be having an even bigger and better contest when the actual book comes out in June, so stay tuned!And of course, pre-order copies are available now on!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stephen Bly's Final Shot--is here!

A few months ago, my dear friend Stephen Bly went on to heaven.  Only a few days before his home-going, however, he was hard at work on what would be his last book, Stuart Brannon's Final Shot. 

My own daddy loved Steve's books in part, I think, because the heroes were the kind of man my dad was--and Steve was, too--hard working, God-fearing, woman-respecting men who worked hard, tried not to complain, and did what was right even though it could be painful. Stephen Bly wrote dozens of westerns, and when he died before finishing his last book, his wife, Janet Chester Bly, and three of his boys helped finish the story.

I like that picture--children carrying on a ministry when the saint has to move on.  :-)

In any case, the following is an article about the book and the effort required to finish the story:

Janet Chester Bly

My husband, Stephen Bly, hated half-done jobs. He couldn’t stand a ‘to do’ list  without immediate action. One big project for 2011: complete his novel, Stuart Brannon: The Final Shot.
      When he passed away on June 9th, 2011, my sons said to me, “Let’s finish that book.”
      The idea grew. They had their dad’s creativity and wit. They’d impart their father’s input. I also discovered the value of their feedback and encouragement. I couldn’t do it without them.
      The editor gave us a four-month extension. This incomplete project became a family affair.
      Can a committee write a novel? We had the passion to find out.
      Steve left us 7,000 words, a synopsis and some character names. We read over his sample chapters.
      “It reads more like a mystery than a western,” we four surmised.
      This book must resonate like a Stephen Bly novel and resemble the early Stuart Brannon Series. Yet, this story’s different. Brannon’s older. He struggles to fit into the 20th Century. He also grapples with the game of golf on behalf of a celebrity charity tournament.
      We immersed ourselves in the original series. We scanned other Stephen Bly novels for Brannon mentions. I scoured Steve’s resources for a basic grounding in the western world he knew so well. I also skimmed our fiction writing books for tips and printed out excerpts for the sons.
      We focused our main theme on fighting for justice, truth and mercy. 
      We met weekly to brainstorm and critique. We started with a cluster diagram of all the known factors. Spirited discussions stirred debate as well as consensus. 
      We assigned each other research topics, then talked through and roughed out random scenes. We drafted an outline and plot points to give direction for which scenes to create next.
      We tried to include as much of Steve’s writings as we could.
      To keep the constant additions discernable, I used a different color type each week that turned into a rainbow manuscript. Even with this trick and the outline, the key challenge was to keep the story’s timeline straight.
      Then I took a trip to Oregon, to discover and experience what Steve knew and we didn’t. This added much needed color and revealed critical mistakes.
      The deadline loomed as we aimed for 75,000 words. I struggled to eek out 2,000 words daily. When Aaron devised an adventure scene and Mike produced the golf tourney and poker game settings, I knew we’d hit the target count.
      After we exceeded our goal, we deleted scenes and characters that didn’t move the plot. The last days and hours were frantic with attempts to get it as perfect as possible.  
      At 10:36 a.m. on November 1st, 2011, son Mike emailed me, “Well? Ready to push ‘send’?
      At 11:46 a.m., I did.
      We finished Steve’s last undone task.

Janet Chester Bly has published 30 nonfiction and fiction books, 18 she co-authored with Christy Award winner Stephen Bly. Titles include The Hidden West Series, The Carson City Chronicles, Hope Lives Here and The Heart of a Runaway. She resides at 4200 ft. elev. on the Idaho Nez Perce Indian Reservation. Her 3 married sons live down the mountain with their families. 

In Stuart Brannon: The Final Shot, Brannon is forced to do a bit of clamming by his friend, Lady Harriet Reed-Fletcher. Then she makes him promise to try eating a razor clam fixed in various ways: a plain clam dip, a smoked clam dip, a clam cake and also a  clam spread with a touch of hot sauce. I’ll let you read about his response towards the end of Chapter 21. I definitely think Brannon would like this chowder recipe.
Razor clamming is hard. Razor clam chowder is easy. I got this off the internet at They got it from the State of Washington,
2 Tbl. - 3 slices of diced bacon or salt pork
1/2 C. chopped onion
1 - 1 ½  C. diced raw potatoes
2 C. water
1 pint clams ground or chopped and liquid
1 can evaporated milk (can use fat-free variety)
3 Tbl. butter
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

You can prepare everything, including the sautéed items, in the same soup pot.
Sauté pork or bacon until crisp. Remove scraps from pan and reserve for use later as a garnish.
Add chopped onion to hot fat, sauté until tender, but do not brown.
Combine cooked onion and diced potatoes in a deep saucepan. Add water, bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are done.
Stir in clams and all other ingredients. Heat until piping hot, but do not boil.
Serves 6.

Another time, Brannon orders bear steak off the Gearhart Hotel café menu. If you get a hankering for bear meat, like he did, here’s a recipe to try.

Printed from COOKS.COM

2 lbs. bear steak
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 c. flour
1/2 c. shortening

Cut ripened steaks 1 inch thick and pound on both sides with a meat hammer. Mix spices and rub mixture vigorously into both sides of meat. Dredge in flour. Heat shortening in skillet and sear meat on both sides. Lower heat, add 3 tablespoons warm water, and cover skillet. Simmer steaks for 15 minutes, turning once. Test with a fork for tenderness.

Stuart Brannon's Final Shot is available or can be ordered wherever fine books are sold. :-)  Link to Kindle edition here.