Finding and Giving Encouragement: A Writer’s Reflection
A few years ago, while observing the night sky from a mountain overlook near my home, a woman asked, “Did you have a blind dog several years ago?” I looked at her and responded, “Yes. How did you know?” She answered, “I contacted you when my dog was going blind. You shared such helpful information. I also got your guidebook for owners of blind dogs.”
Her words encouraged me and made me smile. A writer friend also shared encouraging words when she emailed a photo of the book cover for Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? during a trip to another country. Her words, “Sage is making an impact even overseas!”
Sage was a springer spaniel my husband and I adopted in 2001 and became completely blind a few years later due to a genetic disease known as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). She lived with us for more than a decade, passing in 2012 from canine cancer. Sage inspired several writings, including children’s books, devotionals, short stories, magazine articles, and the guidebook for owners of blind dogs previously mentioned.
Animals and nature inspire much of my writing. I’ve been a journalist and creative writer for more than 30 years, serving as a reporter, editor, freelance writer, blogger, and author. I enjoy sharing stories and photographs of travels, including to America’s national parks, and helping people understand the importance of pet rescue, adoption and caring for our furry friends. I share information I hope others will find helpful – I also write books to entertain, whether that’s a story for children or my line of sweet, contemporary Pet Rescue Romance books.
Despite her lack of vision, Sage enjoyed exploring, and for most of her life, she traveled with my husband and I, whether short trips or extended vacations. She also loved to search the backyard, using her senses of hearing and smell to find birds and squirrels. One of the reasons I wrote so many stories about her was to help people, including children, understand a blind dog is not “useless” or to be pitied – they can still enjoy life by implementing those other senses, which seem to heighten. People often see “imperfect” and “lack of ability” as something bad; yes, it’s sad that a dog or cat is missing a limb or blind or deaf, but, just like people, they are still valuable and lovable. Animals adapt, oftentimes better than humans, and therefore, a “disabled” pet still makes a wonderful companion.
One of the books I’m currently working on, titled Rescuing Sarah, features a dog with one eye. I’m basing that animal character on Sage, just as I based the shih tzu in my stories Rescue Road, Paws-ing for Love, and My Montana Love on my shih tzu, Jeremiah. Jax is the dog in the story, and he is a puppy mill survivor; Jeremiah is also a puppy mill survivor. In those books I also feature animals that are rescued and adopted, highlighting the importance of those endeavors.
I also enjoy sharing about nature. In fact, the only non-dog story of mine that published in a Chicken Soup book was in “The Spirit of America” collection, in which I wrote about the wonder and value of America’s national parks. I was fortunate to conduct a few presentations after that book released.
One of magazines for which I freelance, Wyoming Rural Electric News (WREN), will publish an essay of mine in two upcoming issues. For the April edition I wrote about Wyoming’s birds of spring: the mountain bluebird, sandhill crane, and western meadowlark. The appearance of these lovely creatures indicates the warmer season has finally taken root … and after the dumping of snow we received earlier in the week, humans and animals are so looking forward to that beautiful season! The May issue of WREN will feature my essay about volunteering as a transporter for pet rescue organizations, and in that story I highlight some of the dogs and cats I’ve met during my nearly 12 years as a rescue transporter.
My goals as a writer are to educate, inform, inspire, and entertain, and weaving my passions for nature and animals, including pets, helps me achieve that goal. I am blessed to share stories that I hope touch hearts of readers and entertain them as well.
You can find more information about my books, including the guidebook for dog owners, Help! My Dog is Going Blind – Now What Do I Do?, on my Amazon Author Central page: amazon.com/author/gayleirwin.
You can find the numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the publications about dogs and cats, on the publisher’s website: https://www.chickensoup.com/books.
BOOKSIGNING! I join another Casper, Wyoming writer, Leslie Colburn, for a booksigning on Saturday, May 6, 11 am to 1 pm, at Wind City Books in Casper. We will autograph copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul books in which we each have a short story – mine is published in “Lessons Learned from My Dog” and her story is published in “Lessons Learned from My Cat.” We will also be selling copies of our children’s books as we join the bookstore staff in celebrating Be Kind to Animals Week and Children’s Book Week. If you are in Casper that day, come see us! We will be donating a portion of book sales to the Casper Humane Society and a non-profit children’s charity.