Category Archives: inspiration
I heard just yesterday the question, “Why isn’t there any good news?” It’s true that new media seem to play up the negative stories and skip over the happy ones. What’s that expression? Blood sells, right? As 9/11 approaches each year, it seems many of us grow gloomy as well, so I thought I’d share an article I’ve been saving since last month.
I enjoyed coming across an article inAugust’s Parade magazine about acting dogs (Acting Like a Dog), and you can imagine I was thrilled to read about two corgis, Mimi and Marco, who were surrendered by their owner when they were 9 and 10 years old. Sent to a rescue organization, they were placed with Bill Berloni, an animal trainer, who placed them in a Broadway show called The Audience, a play about Queen Elizabeth II. The two “undeniable crowd pleasers” dash across the stage, thrilling audience members and are themselves rewarded with mozzarella cheese, their preferred treat.
The article continues, discussing dogs that Berloni trains, including the Chihuahua starring in Legally Blonde: The Musical, which he adopted from a shelter.
I always sort of dread when September 11 rolls around on the calendar. Like any of us old enough to remember the day, I will never forget where I was when I heard, and I will never forget the tense moments afterwards, glued to the television and unsure of the future—or the serious repercussions the day had on our society at large. It’s good to be reminded that there are positive stories out there such as the stories people like Berloni create every day—of abandoned lives turning into talent that can bring joy to thousands.
The news story brought me a smile and is one more reason we should all aspire to consider small ways we can bring joy to others—in other words, to live more like a dog!
Several months ago, I read a great “dog” book called Seven Days to Goodbye. The idea of a service dog is prominent in the book, and I have heard plenty of people praise the power of service animals. Today I have the opportunity to feature a guest post by author Sheri S. Levy, who wrote the book. When I contacted her, I specifically wanted to know: what inspired you to write the novel, especially as it relates to service dogs. Enjoy her post below, and then check out more information about the book at the bottom of the page. It’s clear from all of the pictures that we have a dog lover in our presence!
Why I wrote Seven Days to Goodbye
by Sheri S. Levy
Years ago, after acquiring my special education teaching credentials, I put teaching on hold and opted to stay home with our young children and babysit for a neighbor. Her young daughter, two years old, and the same age as my daughter, gave me the chance to play school. Our son attended half-day kindergarten and before long three additional school age children joined us after school.
Seven-year-old, David, lived across the street with a single, working mom, and his beautiful German Shepherd, Charlie. They wandered over every day and Charlie attached herself to my husband, Murphy, as he worked outside. When David and his mother couldn’t keep Charlie, Murphy instantly offered to take her. She was our first dog and the reason for all of the following dogs.
After Charlie’s death, Murphy cried in his pillow. When he traveled out of town, the children and I found the perfect puppy for his birthday. An eight-week-old, white German Shepherd, Gretchel, our family pet for twelve amusing years.
With our children gone, it pained us to say goodbye to our first grown puppy. We tried to hide our need of another dog. But it wasn’t working. A friend introduced us to her Australian Shepherds, and an unbearable desire for a pup escalated. We drove five hours to the coast to claim our first red-merle. Sydney became our first house dog, slept in our bed, joined us at Edisto, and repaired our hearts.
At six months old, Sydney romped in the snow during a January snow storm with a black Lab pup. Thinking it was a neighbor’s puppy, we played and sledded for hours. Frozen to the bone, we headed home and the Lab followed. I called the neighbors. No one knew of a black Lab missing. We waited two days for the snow to melt, and then took him to the vet. She examined him, found he had three puncture wounds, and told us he was around Sydney’s age. We named him Jake and our two-dog adventure began.
As both dogs aged, we retired and traveled across the US for a month in our old Tahoe car. The dogs walked the streets with us and rested in the hotel while we dined in the evening. A couple years later, after repeating this trip, Sydney became ill and we had to say goodbye. I wasn’t sure my heart could take the pain.
An idea about creating a story with a special needs child, and Sydney and Jake, festered in my mind. I wrote for years, revising and editing until a critiquer mentioned removing Jake to reach my emotional theme. Dreading deleting Jake, I shared this idea with Murphy. He reminded me I’d always have Jake with me in spirit. We toasted Jake, and I deleted him from the story.
My funny, happy, and sad experiences with dogs and special needs children shape my stories. Writing the real and the make-believe pieces of my life is cathartic and spurs my imagination. Seven Days to Goodbye is my heart book and its saga will continue.
Our current dogs, Slater and Mulligan:
About Sheri’s book:
After Trina’s beloved dog dies, she swears she’ll never get another one. But then she learns about service dogs, and realizes if she becomes a puppy raiser, she could train puppy after puppy and never worry about them dying. But like all great ideas, this one has a serious flaw: her first service puppy must be returned to his kennel at the end of their week-long summer vacation. And saying goodbye to Sydney is going to be much tougher than she ever imagined.
Trina’s last week with Sydney is made that much harder by her newly strained friendship with her best friend, Sarah, who’s become so over-the-top boy crazy that she’s almost like a stranger. Sarah is determined to have them hang out with every boy at the beach, but when a boy named Chase takes an interest in Sydney and Trina, it puts an even bigger strain on the friendship. It’s hard enough to deal with losing Sydney, but now she may lose her best friend, too. And even if she manages to patch things up with Sarah—and figures out what to do about Chase—she still must face a daunting decision: is she strong enough to take on another service puppy?
Last month, my good friend Voula Trip came over to kindly take photos of the corgis (and of me). As might be imagined, taking pictures of two crazy corgis presents quite the challenge. We wanted to get a picture of me and the corgis along with the two corgi Squishables. Sounds easy enough, right?
Challenge #1: Squirmy Leia
It took six years for me to get her to sit still enough to brush her teeth, and even now, it depends on the day, her mood, the angle of the sun… Note that her squirming was also accompanied by high-pitched squeals, disturbing enough to make Yoda leave the area (butt pictured).
Challenge #2: Yoda is in Love with the Photographer
Yep, he’s obsessed. Makes it difficult to take pictures when he’s sitting at your feet howling up at you lovingly.
Challenge #3: Make it Look Like You’re Not Choking Leia
When Leia finally calmed down a bit, we were able to have the corgis take their “places.” But Leia wouldn’t stay still. It was suggested that I “hold her gently” in place. The first attempt looked something like a toned-down version of Homer Simpson strangling Bart. Notice Yoda gazing longingly toward the photographer:
And finally… after my hands gradually moved away from Leia’s neck in each subsequent shot, we ended up with something that looks halfway decent. If you don’t look carefully enough, you won’t notice Leia’s leg is in “spring” mode, ready to pounce away as soon as my arm is lifted. I put an arm around Yoda, too, so people might think the arms were a sign of affection instead of a near-death-grip on Squirmy Leia. Notice Yoda is still gazing longingly toward the photographer 🙂
Not that Yoda needed a reward. The ability to bask in the warm presence of his new Love was enough… but Leia was still a little wound up. When it was all over, the corgis were thrilled when Voula asked them to sit on the couch for a “private” photo shoot. With such a privilege, Leia sat still for shot after shot.
If your dog is anything like mine, you may notice a personality change in direct proportion to the level of stinkiness. My corgis are so sweet and cuddly when they’re clean, and then the dirtier they get, the more wild they become.
Had a b-b-b-bath last night.
Even the bedding was washed.
Fur smooth, scent fresh.
Must not allow this to happen again.
Person was very cuddly today.
Kept complimenting my smell.
Received two extra treats.
Bedding fluffy and comfortable. I awoke well-rested.
Maybe baths not so bad.
Tired of cuddling.
Bed too clean.
Went exploring Yard while Person distracted.
Found pile of dark brown Stink.
Thinking either skunk or raccoon.
Will investigate further for consumption.
Went back to Stink pile.
Started to eat it.
Was stopped by Person.
Rubbed nose against Stink while Person wasn’t looking.
Jumped into Crate, rubbed snout on blanket to save Scent.
Will have a good night.
Person asked, “What’s that smell?”, took out trash, seems content for now.
Found several more Gooey Blobs in Yard.
Person has been watching too closely.
Could not investigate further.
Fur has developed lovely patina.
Life is good.
Person would not come Outside with me.
Rubbed in Muck but Scent was wiped away by Rain and Towel.
Will try again tomorrow.
Rain made Muck perfect consistency.
Dashed outside despite Person’s warnings.
Was yelled at.
Smell like Muck.
I find this somehow exciting.
Had a b-b-b-bath last night.
Even the bedding was washed.
Fur smooth, scent fresh.
Must not allow this to happen again.
My person called me a “poop monster” recently. The indignity, right?
See, last Friday night, my person and her person were having pizza. A corgi loves pizza. It’s food, isn’t it?
My silly person couldn’t finish all the pizza, and she left it there on the table. As if I didn’t know it was there. So what I did was, I jumped up and down like a kang-aroooo, and I kept doing that, and adding pathetic squeals, until my person said, “Okay, already. You can have a piece.”
So she took all the cheese off (how dare she!) and gave me some of the crust. It was so good that I kang-aroooed again, and she gave me some more. Before she knew it, she had gaved me almost all the pizza slice (except that my stupid brother got some, too).
I was so content that I curled up on her lap to take a nap until bedtime.
But before bedtime, my person woke me up and said, “Leia, you stink! Do you need to go out?”
It was not the Time to Go Out, but I will never say no to a romp around the yard, so I went out with her. But she didn’t want to play. She crossed her arms like I was supposed to be doing my business. But my person knows I already did my business for the day. How dare she!
She stayed out so long until she finally said, “Okay, I’m freezing.” And then we went to bed.
The next day, she came down and saw that I had made a mess in my crate. She (how dare she) said she had to get rubber cleaning gloves because I “slept in it,” and she had to carry me outside. She then complained about how cold it was out, and how the hose wasn’t hooked up and that she’d have to carry me back inside for a b-b-bath! The nerve of her! And she didn’t even feed me, either. Instead, she cleaned me with some stinky shampoo.
She even made me go to the vet when the poop wouldn’t stop coming. The vet said I didn’t have any parasites (of course I didn’t!) and that it just had to “run its course.” Whatever that means. I like to run, so whatever!
Turns out, “run its course” has nothing to do with running. Instead, it means being crated for like 20 hours a day! What’s a gal supposed to do being crated so long? Even being let out every three hours… the nerve!
All I had to do while in that crate was stare at my brother. He had to be in his crate, too “because of me.” Here are two funny stories about him.
First: my person had to cut my “butt fluff” the other day. She said she was tired of me squealing when she had to wash my butt fluff in the sink. I tried to tell her she didn’t have to wash my butt fluff—she could just leave it. But she insisted. So she took me outside with scissors and cut a little bit at a time. I squealed each time those scary scissors sliced together. I don’t like the noise they make.
So here’s the stupid part. My dumb brother always has to copy me (because I’m so amazing). So as soon as my person finished cutting my butt fluff, Yoda came running over and presented his rump for cutting! Can you believe the stupidity of that dog? So my person just shook her head and said, “Yoda, you don’t need a haircut. You aren’t sick.” You’d think Yoda would trot away, but instead, he just howled at my person.
So what she said was, she was going to pretend to cut Yoda’s butt fluff so that he wouldn’t feel left out. But here’s what happened: she opened the scissors up, and they made that scary slicing sound, and Yoda got so scared—with the scissors like a foot away from his butt—that he ran across the yard squealing.
He’s such a scared-y dog, and a goody-two-paws, too. Here’s why. After I stopped being sick, my person was still skeptical of my “poop situation” (the indignity!). So when I barked at 5:15 in the morning, she came right down to let me out. I wasn’t sick or anything, and she gave me some petting and food and then said she was “going back to bed.”
She put these baby gates at the bottom of the stairs and told us to “stay.”
I stayed for a little bit. In the past, I barreled through the gate, and the noise woke my person, and then I got yelled at and crated.
The time after that, I moved the gate ever so slowly, so my person didn’t even notice. When she woke up, I was sleeping in the hallway just outside her bedroom. She didn’t even know!
This time I was just as sneaky. Stealth-like, I moved the gate millimeter by millimeter until there was just enough of an opening for me to squeak by. I was being so quiet, not even jingling my collar. I made it to the upstairs hallway and then…
My pesky brother.
He loves to howl. He’s got about five hundred different kind of howls. There’s an excitement-howl, a fear-howl, a startled-howl, and greeting-howl, and worst of all, there’s a tattle-tale-howl. The tattle-tale-howl has been used time and time again to
Which is what he was trying to do. He tattle-howled me, and my person got up right away. Without even looking, she knew it was a tattle-tale-howl. She called, “Leia, what have you done this time?”
She was onto me.
And there I was standing in the hallway. What could I do? I ran down the stairway, but it was too late. She saw that I was still on the wrong side of the baby gate. And so I was in trouble.
I thought for sure it was the crate for me, but things worked out okay in the end.
My person said I was “too cute for my own good,” and she said she would stay downstairs with us so we could cuddle with her on the couch.
And that’s just what we did.
Me. Her. And even my pesky brother.
From the warmth of the couch, this is Leia the Poop Monster, signing off!
Today I’m featuring a guest canine on my blog. She’s best known in the literary world as Chloe the Book Critic, and let me tell you: she’s the toughest critic I’ve ever met. She likes to try as many types of literature as possible, but writers beware: she eats what she doesn’t like.
And I haven’t met a book she likes yet!
She started out her early months as a critic of newspapers. It looks like perhaps she’s a fan of shopping because she left a few of the store circulars intact:
Here we see her brother Buster, who is not a book critic, wondering how she could be so critical, even of the sports and weather section:
It’s even been rumored that she devoured (quite literally, I’m sorry to say) a copy of Corgi Capers. In her most recent endeavors, she decided to critique a book her person had borrowed from a friend. Chloe only made it a few pages in before deciding the book was worthy of her harshest criticism:
But who could stay mad at that face?
Chloe is a rescue; she used to be a racing greyhound, but at only three years old, she broke her toe, making her eligible for rescue status. She has a sweet personality and is even friends with the corgis. Since her rescue, she has healed, gained weight, learned how to play, and adjusted to life with her beloved brother Buster. She is well-loved by her human.
If you have written a book that you’d like reviewed or critiqued… don’t send it to Chloe!
I sometimes feature guest dogs on this dog blog. If you’re interested in featuring your pup, let’s chat: send me an email!
Today, we suffered the indignity of a visit to the vet. Hmph! Canine friends, have you ever been to such a place?
It starts out with your person saying “We’re going for a ride in the car!” But don’t be fooled. You’ll be driving along, wondering where the heck you get to go, and all of a sudden–bam! The scent of it’ll hit you like fresh shampoo from a bath. The vet! There is nothing quite like the smell of the vet. There’s the exciting smell of other animals, the intriguing smell of all the people who live in the vet building, and the yucky smell of mediciny-things.
And that’s just what we smelled today. Our person told us we were so wild we’d “sleep good tonight.” We sleep good every night, so we don’t know what she was talking about. She tried to get a picture of us “being excited.” Here’s how it came out:
See, what happens is: when we get to the vet, our person doesn’t let us in right away. She makes weird hand gestures through the glass window at the people sitting behind a counter. Then she brings us in real quick-like. Other dogs get to go on the scale there near the counter, but we’re too special for that. What happens when we get to the vet is, they say “Oh, it’s Leia and Yoda. We’ll get you to your own room real quick.” Then they come around and open up our own very special room so we don’t have to wait in the waiting room with all the other dogs.
It’s nice to be special.
We don’t know why our person turns bright red and tells us we’re too loud and barky. She should be thanking us for letting her have the royal treatment. But instead, she always says confusing things like, “I wish you two would just behave” or “Quiet, Yoda.”
Anyway, what happens next is, we have to listen real careful-like. Here is a picture of us listening:
What are we listening for? First of all, the person behind the desk keeps saying “hello” into that hand-held ringy thing. We can hear it even through the closed door of our own private room. Whenever we hear the word “hello,” it means someone has come into the room to greet us, so as soon as we hear it, we bark. Our person makes no sense. She usually responds by saying weird words like “Quiet” or “That’s just on TV. No one’s here.” What the heck does that even mean?
We heard the person behind the counter say “hello” quite a few times, and we were sure to bark each and every time–like good corgis should.
Then someone said “hello” right in our room. It was a person with a leash, and we knew she was coming to take us away. She always does. She always asks for Leia first, and Leia was on it! She ran between the two chairs in the room. It is the only place to hide in that room:
What happens next is beyond the realm of dignity, so we aren’t going to write about it. But talk about being poked and prodded! Leia always makes sure she squeals bloody murder and kicks and squirms as much as possible. Just because we have to suffer indignities doesn’t mean we have to go down without a fight!
While this is happening, I–Yoda–get quite upset. It’s important that I listen to make sure my sister is squealing loud enough. It doesn’t matter that she probably woke up people in the next zipcode. I’ve got to listen. I even stop barking when the person out in the waiting room says “hello.” Here’s what it looks like to listen for your sister squealing:
When my sister finally comes back, I know it’s my turn. How do I know? I have to sniff her real good. She smells like someone’s perfume and like mediciny-things. She’s extra squirmy when she gets back. I know I’m supposed to be a good dog and go with the person holding the leash, but I want to make my objections known. So I look at my person and ask with my sad eyes, “Really???” Maybe if I look at her hard enough, she won’t make me go.
In the meantime, my sister has been freaking out in the waiting room. While I’m being taken for blood work, she tries to tug at the leashes to drag our person home:
Of course, I know my person would never leave without me, no matter how demanding Leia is.
Once the vet has looked us over, we are ready to go. We’re still upset because the vet said, “Leia acts pretty typical for a corgi, based on what I’ve seen.” What does that mean? He should know better than to test the dignity of a corgi! Hmph!
But I digress.
Once our person lets us leave, we know our time at the vet is coming to an end, so we must be as loud as possible. If we should happen to see a ferret being dropped off for dental work, we should bark and howl at it. If we see a person dropping off a cat for daycare, we should growl.
And we do. How we do!
Why, oh why, does our person always take us to the car and then go back into the building, telling us she “has to pay” before we can go home?
Oh, she’ll pay alright. She’ll pay for making us go to the vet. We have it all worked out. After returning home, we have a plan:
1. Drink the entire bowl of water.
2. Spit up part of said bowl of water.
3. Drink up the part we spit up.
4. Act pathetic and clingy. Receive treat.
5. Take a nap. For about twelve seconds.
6. Run to door. Cry. Get let out.
7. Stand outside and do nothing. Refuse to come when called.
8. Come running when our person utters, “Treat!”
9. Take a nap.
10. Act pathetic and clingy again. Get petting and cuddles. Get treats from all members of the household.
11. Take another nap. Make it impossible for our person to be productive (ex: lick laptop, push laptop off of person’s lap, bark at random noises)
That usually works pretty well, and our person doesn’t dare take us to the vet for about a whole year or so. You should totally try it.
Wishing you a vet-free day!
-Leia and Yoda Corgi
Leia: A Corgi
A princess in every sense:
I demand service in its appropriate time—
A time for petting,
A time for going outside,
For bathing (yes, I demand even that),
And if the appropriate service is not provided
At the appropriate time,
I bark sharply
Until you obey.
(And you will obey.)
I cry at the fast food window
Until the smell of goodies fills the car.
I growl at my brother,
Or the cavachon,
Or the poodle,
Or the squirrel or bird or mouse,
Or even the boxer that outweighs me by four.
I do bad things
And then make my face look so sad,
My stance so cuddly,
That no one can stay mad at me,
Not even for a second.
Through this behavior,
I make people smile.
And that is worth
Every pesky little quirk.
Leia the Corgi is the inspiration behind the character “Sapphie” in the Corgi Capers kidlit mystery series.
Book 3: Curtain Calls and Fire Halls has recently been released. Check it out to read up on the corgis’ latest adventures. You can also find a discount on the three-book set directly from the publisher!
Because we’ve been meeting new fur-iends lately and everyone might not know us, we decided to introduce ourselves. Our person, Val, is helping us with this post. She doesn’t want any nonsense from me (Leia).
My brother is sitting under the desk right now in what he calls his “cubicle.” He is afraid of everything, including keyboards, so I’ll be talking for the both of us.
So like I said, my name’s Leia Corgi. I’m the cutest of the corgis in this house. I was born in a liter of four—I was the only girl, and when my person found me, I was being picked on by my three brothers because I wouldn’t stop biting their ears. When my person sits at the computer, I sit right next to her in the extra office chair. Here I am, looking cute as ever:
We used to live in a townhome. We didn’t like it because it had too many stairs. The vet said that with our tiny little legs, we should avoid stairs as much as possible. But I’m Leia! So if there’s stairs, I’m gonna run up an’ down ‘em. We also had a tiny little yard. Our person got it fenced in for us, but it was no use chasing squirrels or birds. They made it past the fence before we could get to ‘em. Same for cats. There was this giant gray cat that used to visit us. She had a jingle bell on her collar, and whenever we heard it, we went nuts! But the cat knew we had a fence, and she would sit about six inches outside our fence and lick her paw while we barked and barked.
Our person told us we were in for a treat. We moved further out toward “the country” a year and a half ago. I got so much exercise running around there that the vet no longer tells my person to watch my weight. (Hmph! The nerve of that vet to talk about a girl’s weight!).
So we moved out here to the country. The best thing is when it snows. My brother and I love to play in the snow. In fact, I think snow might be the only thing my brother is not afraid of. Here’s a picture of me and Yoda in the snow. We hope it snows at least this much again this winter. Our person doesn’t agree.
At least I’m not a scaredy-dog. When we go for a ride in the car car car!, our person makes me sit in the back because I run from side to side and squeal the whole time. This terrifies Yoda, of course, and he jumps into the front seat and plops down in the passenger seat and stares and stares and stares at our person—as if she could protect him from me! Here is a picture of him cowering there in the car. Sad, isn’t it?
Anyway, Yoda is afraid of just about everything, but he’s especially afraid of me. Whenever our person lets us sleep on her chair with her, I have to make sure to push Yoda down to her feet. I try to sleep as close to her face as possible. Sometimes she yells as me and says something about my breath and makes me move away (my breath?! She’s almost as rude as our vet! How could she insult me like that?) Anyway, here’s a picture our other person snapped of me trying to sleep as close as possible to our person:
And speaking of scary, here is my favoritest picture of Yoda being afraid of me:
I’m a very smart dog, so I need a lot of distractions to keep me entertained. We used to have a hamster. It lived for two years and then died. My person got another hamster. It didn’t live the fully-anticipated two years, so our person said she was too sad to keep getting hamsters. But I loved them. I used to sit and watch them run around their little wheels for weeks at a time. The only thing better than a hamster would be a cat, but we can’t. Our person is allergic. How selfish!
Speaking of cats. In case you didn’t know, our person writes books about corgis. They’re called Corgi Capers, and we always get to be cover models. In the last book, she finally wrote about us being friends with a cat. You can see the cat on the cover. She looks just the like one that used to come torment us in our yard at the townhome. Here are the covers to the books:
She also wrote a book about a corgi that doesn’t look like us (the nerve!). It’s an illustrated book, and even though it doesn’t star us, it’s a good read. It’s about taking the time to enjoy each day and not to be afraid of everything (like my brother). It’s a lesson her parents taught her because she used to be afraid of lots of things—though not as many things as Yoda!
It’s now 4:34, and I was supposed to be fed at exactly 4:00, so I’m giving my person the “corgi eye stare” to let her know. So although there’s lots more I could tell you about myself, I’d rather go eat now. You should tell your person to feed you now, too! If you want to read more about me, you can check out the other blog posts here at www.corgicapers.com. I especially like the story “In Search of Winter.” It was written by Sapphie Corgi, the dog in Corgi Capers that’s mostly inspired by me.
Have a happy day, and I hope to talk to you again soon!
Leia Corgi (and, under the desk, Yoda, too!)
Launch Week Elements: Firefighters
Welcome back! I’m wrapping up my “launch week elements” feature, during which I’m highlighting elements from my newest book, Corgi Capers 3: Curtain Calls and Fire Halls, which is now available for purchase! You can find it at Amazon (ebook coming soon) and DWB’s publisher store for now (you can also buy a set of all three for one lower price!). Once I stock up on copies, I’ll offer autographed editions at my own store and send out copies to all the winners. Check out the contest below, in which one lucky person will win an autographed copy. I’ve decided to draw the names on Thursday because it’s my birthday, so you have a few days left to make sure you are entered 🙂
Today was scheduled to be my post about firefighters, and an interesting and timely thing happened yesterday that I’d like to share.
Yesterday at the high school where I teach, it was raining when the fire alarm sounded. The students and I all looked at each other. We all knew that planned fire drills are never conducted in the rain, especially rain as cold as it was yesterday. This was either someone playing a prank, a terrible mistake, or the real deal.
We hurried outside, everyone huddled together to stay warm in the rain. A moment later, a fire truck arrived, followed by several police cars, another engine, an ambulance, an SUV… phones emerged as students recorded the action. The second engine to arrive pulled up to the fire hydrant, attached the hose, and continued down the drive, the hose unraveling as the engine continued toward the area in question. Eyes bulged open. There might be a fire. The other engine was raising its ladder.
I wondered whether I had any dry clothes in my car—I figured, as long as this might take, I’d likely be soaked by the time we were allowed back in the building. I also wondered about the students. How terrible would it be to have to sit through classes wet and cold after standing and waiting in the rain?
I watched the efficiency with which the firefighters inspected the scene. They worked quickly with the administration to determine the location of the incident, and before long, the entire school was being directed back into the building through a prescribed route into the safety of the auditorium. We were told which hallways to avoid while the smoke was being cleared.
On the way in, the smell of smoke was strong and pungent. This was the real deal—an electrical fire? Although I do not have the full, official story, we were told that the fire department had to vent the smoke out of the building before we would be allowed back into the corridors.
As I stood there, monitoring students and watching their excitement and fear, it dawned on me that today was the release date for my novel having largely to do with firefighters, and here I was, seeing them in action. The bravery and dedication I hoped to capture in Corgi Capers had been right there, playing itself out in the firefighters who worked efficiently to quell the incident before it would have spread. In fact, the whole event is eerily reminiscent of a passage in chapter 2 of Corgi Capers: Curtain Calls and Fire Halls, in which a character named Spark, the daughter of a firefighter, recounts a time she discovered an electrical fire in her school:
“I’m in seventh grade,” she said. “My dad’s a firefighter here. He’s been teaching me about fire safety all my life, and after what happened last year, he thought I should start volunteering.” She smiled proudly.
“What happened last year?” asked Gavin.
“I was at a rehearsal for my middle school’s chorus concert, and I smelled something burning. Everyone else ignored it. Even the teacher thought it was just someone burning food in the cafeteria. But I insisted.” She crossed her arms and smiled. “I asked for a bathroom pass, but I snuck backstage instead. I saw a bunch of wires coming out from the wall and into the lighting control box. I smelled the smoke coming from that direction. I told the teacher right away. We had to evacuate the school, and when the firemen arrived, they said the wires were old and had overheated inside the walls. If I hadn’t insisted, they might have actually caught on fire. They ran a whole story about it in the newspaper.” She smiled. “My picture was on the front page.”
Spark emulates the passion her father has for being a protector, for saving others. I saw that passion in action yesterday.
Before the incident happened, I wanted to write my entire post about the concept of volunteer firefighters—how many dedicate their time to saving the lives of others, and how many of them are able to raise money from the community because of the important nature of their cause. With citizens paying taxes for all manner of services—some worthwhile and others questionable—it amazes me that one of the most important services, firefighting, is often paid for voluntarily, right out of the pockets of citizens. It’s a true testament to the heroic nature of the cause. For several years, I have been privileged to support one of the local fire companies in Adams County, Pennsylvania, and learn more about firefighting in the process.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to a local Virginia firefighter, and he explained just how important volunteers are to most fire companies—even ones partially funded by tax dollars. He explained the way shifts are divided up—and how most firefighters have other jobs outside of firefighting or have long shifts during which their families worry about their safe return. Knowing this, I was touched while watching the firefighters in action at my school. It put the concept of “having a bad day” into perspective. Just moments earlier, students were complaining about being tired, or having too much homework, or simply wanting Thanksgiving break to arrive. But seeing the efficiency of the firefighters made me realize that, like any life-saving professions, firefighters must block out any distractions and focus only on the task at hand. Lives and property depend on it.
As Thanksgiving approaches and students prepare for time away from school to sleep in and visit with family, I realize that we live in a world with brave and caring people who look out for each other and risk life and limb to make the world a better place. And that’s something to be thankful for all year ‘round.
Corgi Capers Book 3 Giveaway
Sign up to follow this blog via email (sign-up is toward the upper-right), and at the end of the week, I’ll randomly select a winner to receive a free copy of Corgi Capers: Curtain Calls and Fire Halls. Haven’t read the first two? The winner can choose one of the other Corgi Capers books instead.
Winner will be chosen on or shortly after November 17, 2014. The prize will be the winner’s choice of Corgi Capers 1, 2, or 3. Paperback copy available only to U.S. addresses. International winners will receive choice of ebook version instead. Void where prohibited.
I’ve already blogged about the winners of the Name that Cat contest (and about cats as well) and the inspiration of one of the winning names. Being inspired to enjoy life is a constant theme in Corgi Capers, as Zeph (inspired by my own fraidy-dog Yoda) is afraid of most things. Many characters volunteer and push beyond their comfort zones, learning to find the heart of a hero beating within, often taking inspiration from neighbors and the bravery of firefighters. Curious to learn more? You can view the trailer here. I’m pleased to be working with Yuming Cao to bring this bravery to life through illustration, and a new, illustrated corgi book will also be available soon.