Thanks for joining me in congratulating The Novel Approach on their fifth year anniversary. Blogs come and go with disappointing regularity and I believe it’s a huge accomplishment to maintain a quality site for five years. Kudos to all the fine people who take the time to review our books and promote our genre for nothing more than a heartfelt thank you! I’d also like to acknowledge everyone behind the scenes who contribute in one way or another. Running a daily blog is no easy task. Apart from the technical aspects, there’s the mind-numbing chore of deciding who and what to feature each day. The right mix is what keeps people coming back for more. I can only speak for myself, but I feel fortunate any time I land a spot on The Novel Approach. I wish you continued success and many more years of interesting and inspiring posts.
Today I’d like to talk about furry inspirations. Not the bearish, leather-clad hotties we see featured in some books, but the sweet and loyal four-legged variety. One of the most beloved characters in my Cutting Cords series is Freddie, Cole’s guide dog. When I started writing, I only had one character firmly in place, Sloan, my cutter. Cole sort of snuck up on me one day when a patient walked into the medical practice I managed. She was a lovely lady in her late fifties who suffered from the same genetic disease I foisted on poor Cole, retinitis pigmentosa. What caught my attention was her beautiful black Labrador, Keegan. He was the sweetest, most obedient guide dog, and I fell in love with him instantly. I was so taken with this animal I decided to add him to my story. Every time our patient had an appointment, I would sit with her while she waited for the doctor, asking endless questions about guide dogs. She was more than gracious and even offered to give me a private interview to share the process of finding the perfect match. Here’s an excerpt from Cutting Cords that describes it all.
“Guide Dogs of America. How may I help you?”
Cole introduced himself and started the initial process of acquiring a guide dog. He’d opted for GDA because of the many endorsements he’d read on their Website, as well as recommendations from people at Lighthouse. One important factor was that they accepted applicants who were not completely blind. They had certain criteria for range of vision, and Cole seemed to fit within their parameters. Right now he was still considered legally blind. Someday he’d be completely blind but that day had yet to come.
He was told the process could take anywhere from three to six months, depending on how fast the paperwork requirements were fulfilled. The most important thing he learned was the he had to be an independent traveler, well able to take public modes of transportation on his own. This included subways and buses, in addition to escalators and elevators.
Part of the application involved a home interview, as well as personal references and medical reports to determine the extent of his eye problems. After all the paperwork was complete and he was approved, Cole would be required to fly to Los Angeles and take a bus to the town of Slymar, which was located in the San Fernando Valley. That was where the training would take place.
He would be assigned a personal trainer, along with his own guide dog, but he would have to remain there for twenty-eight days. When he asked how they determine the type of dog he would receive he was told they took several factors into consideration, such as lifestyle, personality, and environment. Also important was his size and strength, the pace of his walk, and his energy level.
The most amazing thing of all was that these dogs were free! They were donated to the right candidates, rather than sold. It was a revelation to Cole that a society like this even existed. Because GDA was a charity-based organization, they were fastidious in their selection. Their primary concern was making sure the dog and the owner were a good match and would be able to work well together. It was very rare that a dog and owner were not a good fit, but it did happen, so the twenty-eight day training out in California was a critical time for both dog and master. Cole asked about dog breeds and was informed that seventy percent of their guide dogs were Labrador Retrievers. The remaining thirty percent were divided between Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds.
Cole’s Golden is named Freddie in honor of Queen’s late/great lead singer who is a favorite of mine. In fact, many songs from Queen inspired me while I was writing Cutting Cords.
Freddie, the dog, is a constant presence in all four books and, as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, a favorite character.
For anyone interested in reading The Cutting Cords Series, the bundle of four is available at Dreamspinner Press for only $9.99. Throw your name in the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a $20 gift certificate you can use at the Dreamspinner Press Store.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mickie B. Ashling is the pseudonym of a multifaceted woman who is a product of her upbringing in multiple cultures, having lived in Japan, the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East. Fluent in three languages, she’s a citizen of the world and an interesting mixture of East and West. A little bit of this and a lot of that have brought a unique touch to her literary voice she could never learn from textbooks.
By the time Mickie discovered her talent for writing, real life got in the way, and the business of raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing—and the inevitable emptying nest—dreams of becoming a published writer were resurrected and she’s never looked back.
She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called “gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking.” She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings.
Mickie currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.