The Wild Hunt and Samhain #folklore

It’s that time of year where everything is eerie and the ghoulies and ghosties come out to play.

Okay, not in my side of the world where things are warming up and the sun sticks around longer than the night. But in the northern hemisphere… Ah, now there things are getting dark and dire as the time for the veil between worlds gets thinner and thinner as Samhain approaches.

Samhain? you might ask. It’s the precursor for what is now called Halloween.

If you want to check out the Celtic roots of Halloween, read this awesome article over on

Now that we know that during Samhain that which divides our world from the Otherworld is at its thinnest, we also know that spirits and whatnot can pass through to ours.

Like what?

The Wild Hunt, for instance.

Belief in the Wild Hunt was once widespread across most of Europe. Common belief held that it was led by a supernatural master (Odin in Norse lore, King Herla in Britain, Gwyn ap Nudd in Wales, etc.) with a special prey in mind (Odin sought the Fairy Wood Wives, Gwyn ap Nudd herded the souls of the dead to the Underworld). The Hunt generally comprised spectral huntsmen on horseback accompanied by a pack of fairy hounds (usually white with red ears). It could fly through the air, pound over the earth, or hover just above the ground during its hunt.

The Wild Hunt is called many different things and described in many different ways depending on time and place.

On the Isle of Man, a band of 13 hunters rode out on frosty, moonlit nights on the Manx Fairy Hunt, as described in Thomas Keightley’s The Fairy Mythology (1828).

“…he heard the cry of huntsmen, the thunder of horses’ hooves, and the trumpeting of horns. He wondered why the hunt was out at night in such frost. It crossed his path several times and under the light of the moon, he saw the riders as clear as day. There were 13 huntsmen on horseback, dressed in green…”

In the Highlands of Scotland, the formidable fairy Sluagh, is often described as the souls of the unforgiven dead. They would take to the air in a great flock, hunting mortal souls to join their number. They also enjoy shooting cats, dogs, sheep, and cattle with elfshot (poisoned darts). An account in Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica (1900) describes a sighting of them in the Outer Hebrides:

“…on hearing the call, the dogs ran outside, and when the men had gathered their wits, they followed. In the bright blue night sky, they beheld a multitude of spirits with hounds on leashes and hawks perched on hands. The air was filled with music, like tinkling bells, mingled with the shouts of the sluagh calling to their hounds…”

Of course, the Wild Hunt was often associated with demons and witches as Christianity spread over the globe. Not that they were particularly sweet and cuddly to start out with…

Just like everything else, they’ve been relegated to the realm of fancy. But as recently as the 1940s, the Wild Hunt was heard passing by on Halloween near Taunton, Somerset.

In my own writing, the Hunt is slightly different. There are steeds (the spectral horses mentioned in folklore, though mine can take any shape it pleases) and the Pack (which can be the huntsmen or the hounds – they can take either shape at will). They can also manipulate the emotions of mortals and fae alike.

You can check out a short story featuring them in the Clarion Call Anthology FairyTale Riot! that will be released at the end of the month. I had loads of fun writing my short story.

I hope you learned something new, got a great scare and possibly a great read for the darker months ahead. I’ll be doing a proper post about FairyTale Riot! over on my blog on Sunday (with a review) if you’d like to check it out.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. Her dark fantasy stories can be read for free on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. She won Fiction Writer of the Year 2016 for her Afrikaans stories on INK: Skryf in Afrikaans. Her published works can be viewed on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase on Amazon and other online retailers.

Connect with Ronel:

Amazon : Twitter : Pinterest : Google+ : Goodreads : Ronel the Mythmaker : Instagram : Newsletter

Search and Rescue K9 Units

By N. M. Cedeño



A representative of the Travis County Texas Search and Rescue K9 unit was kind enough to come and speak to Sisters in Crime, Heart of Texas Chapter this summer. She provided a wealth of information for crime writers on the workings of Search and Rescue K9 Units.

Most Search and Rescue group members are unpaid volunteers. The volunteers go through training and must pass a fitness test in order to qualify to join the team. Dog handlers train their dogs to participate in the searches following training guidelines. There are three different kinds of S & R dogs: live find, trailing, and human remains detection (HRD). Searches may be categorized as wilderness, urban, or disaster. Police in cars or on foot handle most urban searches. Dogs are mostly used for wilderness and disaster searches.

The human remains detection (HRD) dogs are not referred to as cadaver dogs anymore. HRD dogs must be able to identify hundreds of odors that come from decaying human remains and be able to differentiate those smells from those of decaying animals. Training the dogs to identify these odors requires the handler to obtain appropriate materials for training exercises. These materials may be donated to the trainer by dental surgeons, midwives, and other doctors or organizations with access to amputated or removed body parts. Places such as the Forensic Anthropology Research Facility, also known as the Body Farm, at Texas State University’s Freeman Ranch, will allow dog handlers to use the facility for training only once a year. The dogs can identify these smells even when underground or mixed with other smells.

My dog, Petra, who is not a S&R dog. Picture by N. M. Cedeño.

Trailing dogs are usually on leashes and are following a scent trail looking for a missing person. These dogs are used when authorities know exactly where the missing person was last seen, giving them a starting point for using the dogs. The dogs are given a sample carrying the missing person’s scent to smell, such clothing the person wore recently. Then the dog is told to find that specific scent. Each person’s individual scent is distinctive, created by soaps, sprays, detergents, shampoos, conditioners, and their own skin particles. Relatives in the same home who use the same products may have similar scents. The dogs are trained to distinguish between the missing person and close relatives.

Live find, or live search, dogs are trained to find a person in a large area of land. They can be made to work in a grid pattern or can be sent to search an area independently, off leash. The dogs are fitted with GPS trackers so that the area they search can be followed and mapped. These dogs love their game of search and find so much that they will not stop unless their handler forces them to rest. Live search dogs are trained to find the missing person’s scent as it drifts in the wind. If the dog is working independently and locates the subject, the dog can be trained to either stay with the subject and bark, or run back and forth between the searchers and the subject, leading the searchers to the missing person.

Research has shown that lost people tend to follow specific patterns depending on their age, mental state, and what they were doing when they got lost. Search and Rescue operations will begin their search for a missing person based on what the research says the person is most likely to do. For example, small children, ages 1 to 3, tend to walk in circles. When they get tired, they lay down and go to sleep where they are. Children ages 3 to 6 get scared when it gets dark, find a protected area, and curl up in a ball.  Hunters who think they know the area in which they are lost tend to keep walking, reasoning that if they keep walking, they will find their way back.

If a missing person stays still in one place, their scent will build up around them like a puddle or pool. When the wind blows the scent pool, it will be stronger, allowing a dog to find and follow the scent more easily. If the person keeps moving, the scent will be harder for the dog to follow, a small scattered trail, rather than a concentrated pool. This is why it is important to stop moving if you know that someone is looking for you. A search dog will find you faster if you stop moving.

Finally, if an area has been thoroughly searched by Search and Rescue and the missing person is not found, the search ends with the missing person declared “R.O.W.,” rest of world. The searchers know the missing person isn’t in the search area, therefore, he or she must be somewhere else, out in the rest of the world.


N. M. Cedeño was born in Houston, grew up in the Dallas Metroplex, once lived in Amarillo, and currently lives near Austin, Texas. She writes mystery short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her mysteries vary from traditional, to romantic suspense, to science fiction. She is working on the second novel in her Bad Vibes Removal Services Series.

A Thanksgiving Song

I’m Abbie Johnson Taylor, and I wrote this post.


Here’s a little ditty I wrote and posted in 2015 that I’m re-blogging. Years ago when my grandmother was alive, I enjoyed walking to her house, even as an adult. Now, our town boasts a series of connected cement walkways that would have provided a scenic route from my house to hers if she were still alive.


The following is set to a familiar tune we associate with Thanksgiving. To hear me sing it while accompanying myself on piano, click below. Happy Thanksgiving!






Over the Bridge and Along the Creek




Over the bridge and along the creek to Grandma’s house I go.

My cane knows the way. I will not stray as through the leaves I go.

Over the bridge and along the creek, now Grandma’s house I spy.

Hurray for the turkey, stuffing, and yams and Grandma’s apple pie.


Over the bridge and along the creek to Grandma’s house I go.

My dog knows the way so “Forward,” I say as along the path we go.

Over the bridge and along the creek, now Grandma’s house we spy.

I must insure my trusty guide does not eat Grandma’s pie. Ruff ruff.




I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir. My work has appeared in The Avocet and Magnets and Ladders. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home and other facilities that served senior citizens. For more information, please visit my website and blog.



Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.





Adoption Time, Part 2: His Name Is…

Gayle and Jeremiah_Sidney NEThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

His name is Jeremiah, and no, he’s not a bullfrog! Back in the early 1970s, a song by Three Dog Night rose up the charts and remained at #1 for several weeks. “Joy to the World” starts off “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine….” See the delightfully-cartooned video below:



On my post last week, I mentioned that my husband and I were adopting a new dog and the reasons for that. I also mentioned we planned to re-name the dog. Greg and I had a list of names; ones I liked he didn’t and vice-versa. So, we began looking at other possibilities, including “Yaddy” (Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals award-winning baseball catcher); “Jackson” – a town in western Wyoming (we had “Cody” already, another Wyoming town, so that was out); and “Joseph” (our other dog is Mary, but that just seemed too strange to have “Joseph” as well). So, we explored other options. Because we are Christians, we went through a list of Biblical names (of course, Mary, is in the Bible, so another Biblical name could be appropriate, just not “Joseph”) – we decided “Jeremiah” fit.

Jeremiah_resting_Sidney NE
Jeremiah, formerly Stormy

The name means “exalted of the Lord,” or “appointed by God.” We truly believe this little dog was appointed to be ours – we went through many inquiries about dogs not only at this facility (Hearts United for Animals), but also via a few other, more local, shelters and sanctuaries. “Stormy” at that time was the one still available. And, perhaps he will be exalted living in our house – certainly he has been from the horrible conditions of a puppy mill. So, as I mentioned in last week’s post, new home, new life, new name. He is still learning his name, but he’s a smart little guy, and he’s quickly learning a lot of new things: commands, like “sit” and “come;” housetraining (puppy mill dogs are rarely, if ever, living in a home – generally they are kept in tiny cages outdoors; and how to interact with cats. He is also learning about toys and cuddles – and liking both!

Everything is new to him. He barks at the TV. He is afraid of going down steps (but he’s acclimated to going up them, hopping like a rabbit!). He’s never been groomed except at the shelter with just scissors, so his trip to the “doggie spa” yesterday was frightening. Thankfully, and as I suspected would happen, our Mary-dog has become a wonderful “big sister” – she is helping to teach him many things, including (1) going potty outdoors is more fun than indoors because there are trees and bushes to smell and a big yard to explore; (2) a person’s hand is not always for abusing, but most often (at least in this household) for affectionate pats and pets; (3) sleeping on a comfy bed is WONDERFUL; and (4) having friends, both human and other animal, is FANTASTIC!

Jeremiah rode very well in the car from Nebraska to Wyoming; we overnighted in North Platte so we could all have a break. Considering his background, Greg and I were happily surprised that our new dog didn’t get motion-sick. I held him on my lap for a while and then he rode sweetly in the backseat beside Mary.

Mary and Jeremiah
Jeremiah and Mary in the Nebraska hotel room.

This is our first puppy mill rescue dog (you can read more about this nasty places on my pet blog from this week: Mary was adopted through English Springer Spaniel Rescue, but she didn’t come from an abusive, horrific, neglectful background; she was loved and cared for but her special person died unexpectedly, and therefore, the rescue helped to re-home her. Cody, our cocker who passed last year, was a stud dog, and at 10, the people let him go; so though his background was somewhat similar to Jeremiah, Cody was treated better and was housebroken and used to, at least some, affection. He was turned over to the Casper Humane Society. And Sage had just recently lost her home due to a divorce. So, each of our dogs have their own story; each also came from a different place and a different state (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Nebraska).

I’ve christened Jeremiah with a middle name: “Story.” It’s similar to “Stormy” and therefore, has a familiar sound to his previous name, but, most importantly, it reflects what I do (write stories) and the fact that he, story and dogs like him, have a story. Needless to say, there will be a “Jeremiah Story” book one of these days!

Jeremiah_after groom
Jeremiah in his Wyoming home after his vet visit and groom appointment.

The journey continues. Travel, a new home, vet visit, and doggie spa, all in less than one week. “Jeremiah’s Journey” is probably a great title for a book — maybe I better get on that pretty soon!

What pet adoption stories do you have? What ones have you written? Or is there one you should write if you haven’t? Do you struggle with names for your book/story characters as Greg and I did with our new dog’s name? How do you come up with names for your characters?


Gayle_signing photoGayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming author and freelance writer. Her inspirational pet books for children and adults teach valuable life lessons, such as courage, perseverance, friendship, and nature appreciation. She is also a contributing writer to magazines and newspapers, as well as Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the August 2017 release Chicken Soup The Dog Really Did That? Gayle is a pet rescue and adoption advocate. Learn more about her and her work at


cody-cabin-cover2   bookcover_tail-tales_front-cover   Chicken Soup book_Dog Really Did That_2017   Mary Book Cover   Mary Ranch_Front Cover Option



Since all three people in my writers group attended the Left Coast Crime Conference in

Stephen Buehler - Hands around knee
by Stephen Buehler

Hawaii this past March, I asked this question during one of our meetings: What did you get out of the conference? (In a recent blog, here’s what Sarah M. Chen said.)

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to the LCC conference without having a current book out. My last published short story was in an 2013 anthology which I brought to sell but it’s hard to sell a book when you are  only 1 in 12 writers. They want to read something that’s all your, like a novel. (I do have a short story coming out in April in the LAst Resort, SINCLA anthology and I feel good about that.)

Feeling anxious that I had nothing current to promote I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy my time in Honolulu.

Here’s what I brought back:

Sunset in Hawiia
Sunset in Hawaii

First – I was in Hawaii!!! Yippee! Though I didn’t take full advantage of staying at a hotel by the ocean I was finally taking a vacation! My last one was 12 months ago – last year’s LCC in Phoenix. It feels good to get away from your hometown and your problems and normal responsibilities. I did find that I missed Seymour more than I thought and looked forward to seeing him on my return.

Seymour 10-9-15 tongue in

The overall best thing I brought back was knowing that I meet a lot of new writers and readers. For the past few years, I haven’t attended Bouchercon (which is 3 times the size of LCC) and many writers/readers go to both. It’s an event I’d love to go to but I can’t afford it at the moment. At LCC Hawaii, I was able to meet those writers that I missed that had attended Bouchercon. I enjoyed making new friends to share ideas with and to cheer on.

Another good thing – I was on a panel, Performing Sleuths, Standing Ovations, which gave me and my writing more exposure. The topic dealt with main characters/sleuths that are also performers. Mine is a magician. Others panelists created protagonists in a rock band, a mariachi band and a classical violinist.  Afterwards people said they enjoyed it. I had a chance to let more people know that I’m a magician and am writing a novel about a magician. Self-branding.

Perfroming Sleuths panel
Performing Sleuths Panel (I’m in the middle)

Late one night, I performed magic tricks for a bunch of writers and it went over very well. Just for this conference I put together a routine with a new Sherlock Holmes theme and it went over beautifully.

There’s nothing better in the world than being surrounded by authors and readers of crime fiction.

In summing up: I may not have had a big breakthrough at the conference but all the smaller ones added up to make me glad I went.

Another thing I brought back – a heck of a lot of bookmarks!

What have you brought back from a conference?

*                                        *                                              *

Stephen Buehler’s short fiction has been published in numerous on-line publications including, Akashic Books. His Derringer Nominated short story, Not My Day appeared in the Last Exit to Murder anthology. His short story, Seth’s Big Move will appear in the LAst Resort anthology in April 2017. He is currently revising his novella, The Mindreading Murders, into novel length. It’s about a magician, psychics and of course, murder. He is also currently seeking a home for his mystery/comedy P.I. novel, Detective Rules. By day he is a script/story consultant, magician and lives with a dog named Seymour.


Novel Writing, Book Marketing, Event Planning… Oh My!

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

November began with a BANG, and I was JAZZED! I had completed my magazine writing assignments for the year (or nearly so), book events were falling into place, and I had new marketing strategies to employ. Last Friday I secured radio and TV interviews for upcoming events and sent out additional press releases in hopes of setting up another radio interview and getting some newspaper publicity. It’s exhausting work, but I’m feeling optimistic and energized as the holiday book season approaches.

National Novel Writing Month/NaNo

Pets are my passion; should make a great romance story, right? Two years ago I started such an endeavor because of taking a college writing class. I was surrounded by several romance writers. However, I wanted my work to reflect my concern for the welfare of animals, therefore, I created my primary female character as a writer who rescues pets (write what you know, right?!). I received positive feedback from the students, the teacher, and other writers with whom I shared the idea. However, the romance genre is out of my comfort zone, and therefore, I put the story away. But, I a niggling persisted the past few months, and since I had completed nearly 17,000 words with NaNo 2014, I decided to dust the manuscript off and use this year’s NaNo as a catalyst to finish the book. I’m progressing, not as well as I’d hoped, but progressing nonetheless.

computerBook Marketing

In October, I began a subscription to ThriveHive, a DYI marketing venture of Propel Marketing. Cost is about $50 per month, and through it I receive ability to schedule Facebook and Twitter posts, have a website (although I already have one), create an email list (which I’m in the process of doing now), and have other marketing tools to promote myself and my books. I haven’t done as much with this as I’d hoped by now, but I believe it will be a positive benefit as I learn and apply in the future. Additionally, I joined TribeWriters, a course and community by writer-guru Jeff Goins; writers grow through learning, applying, and engaging. It too costs about $50/month. Between the two new opportunities, I hope to increase my book sales and develop as a writer (author and freelancer). I also became a member of several Facebook groups through which I recently promoted my Kindle books during free and discounted price days. I’ve been hoping to guest blog on pet blog sites, but haven’t managed to make those connections yet. I’ll save that endeavor for next spring when I can plug into special times, like Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, Be Kind to Animals Week, and Children’s Book Week. There are SO MANY PLACES AND WAYS for a writer to promote books and articles, to engage with other writers and with readers or potential readers – sometimes the possibilities are overwhelming! I wish I had more time to research and apply the various techniques and opportunities; having a day-job can be confining to a writer, but until the writing pays all (or at least most of) the bills, this is the road I must travel.

Event Planning

‘Tis the season for booksignings! Every Saturday through Christmas I have at least one event, and for that, I’m thankful! From Casper and Douglas, Wyoming to locations in Montana, weather-permitting I’ll be out and about reading from and (hopefully) selling books. I had my first reading of my newest children’s story, BobCat Goes to School, on Saturday; another is scheduled at an out-of-town library on December 3 (praying for good travel weather!). I’m blessed to be able to share some of these events with my friend Chris who illustrated the book; this is her first illustrated-book endeavor and her first experiences at promotion events. I enjoy reading, signing, and selling events, but they are a lot of work, including creating press releases and emailing newspapers and radio stations, developing flyers and sending to store owners, and making sure I have enough books to sell at each location. I’m thankful for the additional money holiday sales generates, but I’d like to find new and steady ways to produce more online sales (hence, the book marketing activities above).

These various endeavors help the month of November pass quickly. I can’t believe the middle of the month has arrived! What writing-related undertakings are keeping you occupied in the weeks leading up to the holiday season?


Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallGayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational pet stories for children and adults, including a Kindle e-book for owners of blind dogs. She is also a contributing writer to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well as the summer pet anthology by Sundown Press titled Memories from Maple Street: Pawprints on My Heart. She is currently working on additional manuscripts and short stories, with hopes of new book releases in spring 2017. Learn more at

bobcat-front-cover   bookcover_tail-tales_front-cover   irwin_pawprints-on-my-heart-book-cover   cody-cabin-cover2   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014

Florida Loons by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

In my last third Thursday poets group meeting, we were prompted to write some loons. A loon is similar to haiku, written in one of two ways: syllables with the first line having five, the second three, and the third five, or words with the first line having three, the second five, and the third three. I chose to write three loons about my recent visit to Florida, using the word three five three method. Below each loon is a description of the event that inspired it.




downtown jupiter pub

with one or two drinks

stranger in photo


My brother Andy, his wife Christina, and I went to a festival where food trucks lined the streets for blocks, selling all kinds of goodies from tacos to ice cream. After we ate our fill, we wandered into a bar. When Christina took a picture of Andy and me with her phone, upon studying the photo, she discovered that a stranger standing behind me was also captured. Nevertheless, she posted that picture on Facebook moments later.



paddling our canoe

down the lazy loxahatchee river

shy alligator appears.


We were in a narrow part of the river, hoping to spot some wildlife. We found more than we bargained for when Christina spotted an alligator about six inches away from the boat. She snapped a picture, and then she and Andy back paddled as fast as they could to get to safety. Christina said the alligator seemed shy so we probably weren’t in any danger. I hope that’s the closest I ever come to being consumed by one of those creatures.




tug of war

with a loving energetic doxhund

in glowing firelight


One warm evening, Andy lit a fire in the pit on the patio, and we sat around, drinking, chatting, and listening to music. Max brought me a dirty sock to throw for him. When I reached for it, he tried to pull it away from me. I tugged back and so it continued.


walk on sand

feel cool, refreshing ocean waves

sit on tree


While walking on the beach, we found a tree stump that appeared to have been washed ashore. Andy thought it may have come from The Bahamas. The first time we saw it, the stump was almost totally submerged, but when we returned a few days later, it had been washed farther onto the bank so we could sit on it and stick our feet in the ocean. That felt heavenly.


It’s your turn to write a loon or two or three, using either method above. Please feel free to share your results below.


Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

It’s a Spring Thing!

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

According to the calendar, spring starts today. Where I live (central Wyoming) spring seemed to start at the end of February. We experienced record-breaking (or close to it) temperatures, and lack of snow. That changed for many parts of the state this past week as a significant system rolled in. Most of the major snow hit the more mountainous areas, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. I’m okay with that – moisture in the mountains is good, especially this time of year, and if rain falls on the plains off and on for the next few months, that’s good, too.

Ever since I lived in West Yellowstone, Montana, for several years during the 1990s, I’ve not been a big fan of snow. The last winter I lived there, temperatures dropped to -50F for about a week and more than 25 feet of snow fell. I was trapped in my little rental house for a day and had to crawl out a window and shovel out the doorway. As I said, that was my FINAL winter there, and I’ve disliked harsh winter conditions ever since. If all goes and I do retire somewhat comfortably, I plan to spend winter months in warmer western climates – like Arizona. No one knows the future, we can only hope and make some plans and see how it all shakes out, but being a snowbird is my desire.


I love spring – I enjoy seeing colorful flowers and buds on trees as they emerge from their dormancy. I enjoy warmer temperatures of 60s and 70s (even 50s are okay in March and April!), and I like to hear the patter of raindrops on my windows. New life bursts forth in nature, and oftentimes in people, when spring arrives.

Last week I took my dog Mary to the local, fenced-in dog park (I like safety for my spaniels) and we saw MANY dogs and their guardians. Mary gets to meet new friends, both two and four-legged, and gets to run through the two-acre fenced-in park, sniffing and learning and enjoying. She and I both get exercise and make new acquaintances. It’s much more fun to walk the dog park in warmer temperatures and no snow or mud. Again, it’s like new life emerges … for all of us who use the dog park because of the spring weather.

Mary dog park_fence and river

Writing is similar. Sometimes as writers we’re dormant, unsure of what we want to write or occasionally even HOW to write. Then, a vacation, an outing, even a walk breaks the stagnation and new life springs forth: new thoughts, new energy, new stories (or even old stories that have been quiet in our brains or on our computers).

I’m in the process of creating two new children’s works, one about a rescue dog and one about a cat that needs rescuing (well, needs to get out of the school building after he gets locked in, at least!) I’m excited for these stories to finally break forth, much like the daffodils and apple tree buds. The dog story has been in my head and on the computer for nearly five years; the cat story more than one year. Just like spring is the right time for flowers and trees to blossom, this must be the right time for my two children’s stories to emerge and bloom.

Even though the calendar says “spring,” in my area winter can return, at least for a short time. That’s true for my stories, too – the edits can bring a lurch to my heart and be hard to accept, like the return of winter to my landscape. But, it’s only for a short time, and that extra moisture from a March or April snowfall is good for the prairie, just as it’s good for me to edit, slice and re-create the stories. Spring will come again, both to my writing and to the natural environment where I live – I look forward to what spring (and winter-like spring) produces, on the page and on the land.

wildflowers in forest

How about you? What do you envision “springing forth” in your writing and in your yard or landscape this year?

Happy Spring, everyone — I hope you have opportunity to get outside and walk through a park/dog park and to enjoy the nature around you!


Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin writes inspirational dog books for children and adults and has had short stories published in five Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her books include: Sage’s Big Adventure; Sage Finds Friends; Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest; Walking in Trust – Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two devotion books for dog lovers. She is also the author of the Kindle book Help! My Dog is Going Blind – Now What Do I Do? A former humane and conservation educator, Gayle once lived next door to Yellowstone National Park, and served as editor of the West Yellowstone News. Gayle volunteers for various animal rescue organizations. Her pets have been adopted from such great organizations. Learn more about Gayle and her writings at this website:

SageBigAdventureFront-small  Sage Finds Friends_front cover  Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage  Walking_FrontCover_small  Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final  Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover  Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014

Baby It’s Cold Outside

This post by Jennifer Flaten

Today after dropping the kids off at school, I decided that since I was already all bundled up for the cold I should fill the bird feeders.

I figured I would take Ginger along. I mean she’s a dog, why wouldn’t she like the opportunity to snuffle around the yard.

Well, she wouldn’t like it because it’s cold out, and we had to walk on the snow.

Ginger will never take part inIMG_20150331_163854 an Iditarod, I mean besides being rather too short to pull a sled she really, really, I mean really, hates to be cold.

Part of it is that she is a short coated dog, but for the rest I blame the kids. They baby her. Especially, my oldest. If she sees Ginger snoozing on the sofa au natural, she will wrap her in blankets. And, let me tell you Ginger doesn’t shrug the blankets off or protest in any other way. In fact, she gets a rather contented look in her eye.

Often on Saturdays, I will go looking for the dog, only to find her snuggled under the covers with kid. So, really it is no surprise the dog was less than thrilled to trudge through the snow.

It was like walking with a recalcitrant toddler. She was shuffling her feet (you could practically hear her complaining about her cold paws) and shooting me dirty looks the entire time we were outside. I feel this might be a small retaliation for me always encouraging her to hurry up when we go outside for her potty breaks.

When I finished filling the feeders and announced it was time to go in she instantly perked up and raced for the house. Once inside she immediately hopped on the sofa, which was-surprise, surprise-located in the sunniest part of the house.

She spent the remainder of the morning toasting in the sun.

Browse my jewelry on Etsy

A Tribute to Pets

Cody_GayleThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

“The road to my heart is paved in pawprints.” Such a sign hangs on our livingroom wall. No truer words were ever written or spoken when it comes to this lady. Since I was a child, animals have captured my heart, from dogs and cats to zebras and koalas. As a youngster and then a teenager, I collected posters of animals, in particular the exotics that I’d never see in the wild, such as tigers and mountain lions. I was a big cat fan, both wild ones and domestic ones, for most of my younger years. But after I raised my second dog from a puppy when I was a teen, both cats and dogs became my focus, and I’ve been loving them and helping them ever since.

Pawprints sign

On Thursday, my husband and I said goodbye to Cody, our nearly 18-year-old cocker spaniel we adopted in 2008. Friends of ours bid farewell to one of their beloved dogs this past week as well. Needless to say, it’s been a sad week. Had Cody lived until March, it would have been eight years since I saw him in a cage at the Casper Humane Society and a week later, adopted him – the best birthday present I ever had!

Cody fit well into our little family of two cats and a blind dog. Sage, our springer at the time, was a year younger than Cody, and though she and the cats had a bit of a struggle adjusting to this new dog (Cody chased the cats constantly for a few months, until one day, our black and white Murphy slapped him in the face), the three other pets and Cody settled into a much better relationship over time. From these experiences came my children’s books Sage Learns to Share and Sage Finds Friends. Cody also inspired Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest. For years to come, readers of these books will be impacted by Cody, Sage, and my cats, Murphy and Bailey.

Sage and Cody


murphy and bailey2
Bailey and Murphy
Cody and Bailey

Over the years, I’ve learned much from animals, and I share those in my writing and speaking endeavors. So, here is a little tribute to Cody and to all pets who touch our lives on the lessons they teach us.

  1. Courage – Sage was lost for three days in the woods. Blind and alone, she survived in an area where black bears and mountain lions reside. Although I’ll never know exactly how, except for the grace of a loving Creator, she lived through the experience, and Greg and I were able to find her and bring her home safe. From that spawned Sage’s Big Adventure – Living with Blindness, a story that has captured the hearts of both children and adults, and reminds us all that animals are brave and they have value, no matter their abilities or disabilities – and that lesson applies to people as well.
  2. Tenacity – Again, Sage’s life is such a testimony, so is Cody’s. He lived to nearly 18 years of age, something not a lot of dogs do. He had major health issues, starting at about age 13, including nearly dying from an autoimmune disease. But, he rebounded, and he pushed through the many health setbacks thereafter. His heart remained strong to the very end, one of the reasons making that “tough decision” this week was even more difficult. However, his other issues, including kidney and liver failure and painful cornea problems, were too much for his aging body to tackle, and ultimately the reasons the vet said, “It’s time.”
  3. Friendship – Dogs and cats, and other pets, give us the ultimate friendship: devotion and love with no strings attached (well, except for food and shelter!). I’ve never known a human to wait at the door or window for me to come home – not even my husband or parents do that! That wagging tail, excited bark, rub against the leg and meow from my cats … each and every warm greeting is the ultimate in faithfulness and friendship as is the lying by my side when I’m sick or a head on the knee when I’m discouraged. Our friends’ dog, Chewy, was certified as a pet therapy animal, as is our Mary- together, we visited nursing homes and libraries, sharing information about animals and providing smiles to both children and the elderly. Pets give us the best gift in life: themselves.
Chewy and Mary at Library
Chewy and Mary at library

There are so many other lessons we learn and gifts we are given by our pets, but these three to me rate at the top.

There is also the lesson in loss/grief. When Sage passed four years come March, Cody and the cats gathered around her on that final night. Greg and I weren’t the only ones crying. For days afterward, Cody searched for her. Mary has looked for Cody both inside and outside the house these past few days. I’m thankful Greg and I had Cody during the time we lost Sage and I’m thankful we now have Mary. Because of Mary, whom we adopted three years ago this month, I truly believe Cody lived as long as he did, for his health, both physically and emotionally, went down dramatically after Sage’s passing. Mary perked up our then 13-year-old boy and they spent many hours in the backyard, going for walks, and exploring the forest about our mountain cabin. We are dealing with the loss of Cody alongside our Mary-dog, and though the hole is deep, I know his life was good, especially these past 7.75 years with Greg and me. He was loved and cared for and he gave love and caring in return. Another lesson: sharing, the sharing of affection, of time, of caring and compassion, of experiences.

Mary and Cody at the cabin

I am thankful to God for the gift of my pets, each and every one, from my childhood days to middle age years. I am also thankful for the gift of writing, the passion for writing, and the desire to share the lessons and joys of having pets. Although Sage and Cody are both gone from this earth, their legacy lives on in my books and stories, so through my grief I find joy and gratitude. My heart certainly has pawprints etched all through it!

Gayle and Cody_home_Cody last day

What pawprints have been left on your heart and what lessons have you learned from animals?

Wyoming’s Woodland Cody-boy, June 10, 1998 to January 21, 2016. RIP, my friend.

Gayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspirational dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest. She’s also composed two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. Her latest work is a children’s book called Sage Finds Friends and she is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including The Dog Did What?. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at

Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage   Sage Finds Friends_front cover   SageBigAdventureFront-small   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014