My little brother and I used to ride our bikes for hours on end; we created a slalom course around the house, down to our barn, and then back again. One time I had a sled riding party with a bunch of my tween friends, when we hit a bump and everyone flew off the toboggan. Our black lab Gally was running alongside us and somehow landed on my head in the mayhem. We slid down the hill together, Gally on top of me with my face dragging along the ground underneath. Needless to say, I was pretty scraped up, and I was so embarrassed to go to school all the next week.
I spent hours on end with my cats at the farm—especially a very shy cat named Streaker, who didn’t warm up to anyone in the family except me. I’d snuggle with her each day in the hay mow, and of course sneak her treats and food.
I was tasked with feeding the dogs and cats each day, and it always made me happy to watch them eat and know they weren’t going hungry. Still to this day I can’t stand seeing an animal hungry or suffering without food and water.
Although our farm could have been construed as idyllic, the same couldn’t be said about my childhood. What was hardest for me in all of it was watching the animals suffer, and feeling helpless to stop it.
I witnessed a lot of animal death—the chickens, cows, and pigs on the farm, as well as animals hunted on the property. The message I received was “It’s just the way it is. Deal with it.” And I believed it, for many years.
I remember one time the preacher came to hunt deer on the farm with my father, and my father killed a bunch of deer and piled them in the corner of the barn so the preacher wouldn’t see them. (Because only one deer per season was legal.)
None of our animals were allowed to live inside the home with us.
Our ‘hunting’ beagle Maggie lived on a chain, but I never saw her allowed free to train or hunt until the day my brother lost her in the woods. I often wonder what happened to her…did she die out there, did she find a family who gave her the love she deserved, or did she find an even worse family who didn’t even feed her? I’ll never know.
Our black lab Gally mostly ran the farm, but he ended up chained sometimes too when he couldn’t behave himself and stay home. We had a momma cat named Misty with kittens who lived in the barn, or huddled outside our front door waiting to come in. When my parents weren’t home, I would sneak the cats and Gally into the house, which was why they all ended up sitting right outside the door. After my mother complained about the cats sitting there for months, my father killed them all—including my beloved Streaker—leaving only one cat alive. I didn’t speak to my father for two months.
Is it any wonder I would grow up to want to protect the animals?
Q. What made you want to become an author?
Foster Doggie Insanity: Tips & Tales to Keep your Kool as a Doggie Foster Parent
I’m not sure WANT is the word I’d use. When I first became an author, I NEEDED to spread the word about chaining, and writing and editing books was a good fit for me.
Long before I formed Dogs Deserve Better to advocate for chained dogs, I got my B.A. in Visual Arts and spent 15 years as a graphic designer and book designer. From that I learned the ins and outs of book design and publishing, so it was only natural for me to write and design books for the cause when I was with Dogs Deserve Better.
After leaving the organization in 2015, I was struggling emotionally and didn’t know where I wanted to go from here. I spent a year in therapy trying to get to the bottom of the trauma I’d gone through, and exploring what would bring me happiness while still advocating for the animals.
Every time I thought of writing more of my own books (maybe fiction this time!) or putting out books by other authors for the animals, I got a thrill of excitement, which told me this was an avenue worth exploring.
I finally decided to go for my dream of writing fiction that encompassed the animal issues that mean the most to me, and help other authors too by publishing other books that advocated for animals. That’s when the idea for Who Chains You Publishing was born.
The name of the company was and is very personal to me, and reflects not only on my love for the chained dogs, but also forces us as humans to take a look at the things that hold us back from making the most difference for the animals.
I can certainly say today that there are still many things that hold me back, even after all these years of trying to be better for them. It’s humbling, really.
Q. Tell us one thing about you that nobody knows. Until now.
Hmmm, this is a good one. I’m sure there isn’t much that my husband doesn’t know, and maybe some close friends. Or people on my Facebook page. Ha!
I’ve got one thing, though, that people who don’t pay attention or interact with me on a weekly basis wouldn’t know. So here goes:
I’m a Pokemon Go addict. Yep. People on my FB page could know that, since I post about it on occasion, so it’s not a total secret.
I heard about it when my son and his girlfriend came to visit for the weekend last year after it first came out; my daughter immediately started playing it with them, and all three of them were catching pokemon in our kitchen while we talked. The next day I was driving us to the movies and dinner, and they were all playing and discussing it, and I felt like the odd woman out.
I thought, this is kinda silly that I refuse to play because I’m “too old” when I could bond with my kids over it. So I joined up…and shortly thereafter both my kids quit playing.
Ha! But not me. I’m Team Instinct, or known to me as Yellow, and I’m currently a level 36, which isn’t too shabby. Now that the Gym raids have started, I’ve joined up with other like-minded folks in Culpeper, VA, and I go out to catch the legendary Pokemon with them a few times a week. I felt very self-conscious at first about my age (I’m 53), but there are folks of all ages raiding together, and if I want to catch the legendaries, I’ve got to suck it up and get out there anyway. So I did.
Last weekend a bunch of us were standing outside a store in town waiting for a raid to begin, when a store owner just a little older than me asked what we were doing. Someone told him we were playing Pokemon Go, and he said “You all need to get something better to do.” I felt like a teenager being criticized by an adult, woohoo!
My husband dislikes that I play, too, and he often asks if I’ll still be playing when I’m in the nursing home. I guess we’ll see, won’t we?
My immediate goal is to get to level 40, and after that, who knows if I’ll hang it up.
Q. Tell us what celebrity you’d love to be for a day, and why.
I’m gonna go with Angelina Jolie. Why? Because I can’t figure her out. I’d like to know what really went down with Brad Pitt, what it’s like to have that much money, and if she’s really into the causes she embraces. I mean, don’t get me wrong…even if she’s not into them, she makes a difference just by showing up, so I would never knock her for it.
I remember being accused of being “fake” about dog chaining at one point, and I thought, well—even if that were true—if I’m showing up and doing the work I’m still making a difference on behalf of chained dogs regardless of my motivation.
Angelina reminds me of someone I used to know, though, or thought I knew, and it’s only intrigued me further as to what she’s really like inside her own mind. I guess I’ll never find out…
Q. Do you have pets? How many and what are their names?
Khronos, aka Buddy (Joe’s nickname), aka His Puppiness (my nickname)
Yes, I’ve always had pets, even when I wasn’t supposed to. When I was young and in the military, I was always finding stray cats and feeding them and trying to find homes for them. I fostered about 250 dogs when I was with DDB, and today I finally consider myself in ‘retirement’ mode when it comes to pets.
I’ve committed to fostering once a year (dog or cat), but other than that, we’re keeping our animal family small. Right now we have one dog named Khronos, and three cats, Una, Tootie, and Vivian.
Q. Where would you travel for your dream vacation, and why?
I want to travel to Wales, because my family history on both sides stems from that region, and I want to see if I’ll feel anything magical like “Aw, my roots have finally found their way home!”
And then, of course, while I’m there I might as well check out the other sights in London and the suchlike. I guess I need to go in the summer, because I don’t like being cold.
Q. If you could wave a magic wand and make one thing better for animals, what would it be?
Duh. This is an easy one for me. I mean, don’t get me wrong—I want freedom for ALL animals, and I want us as humans to stop eating them. (Why? Because we CAN.)
But Dog Chaining has been my issue for so many years that if I get one wave of a magic wand, it will HAVE TO BE USED TO FREE EVERY DOG FROM HIS/HER CHAIN OR PEN AND GIVE THEM A LOVING, INSIDE, HOME AND FAMILY. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Dog Chaining Needs to End.
Q. What’s Coming UP for You? What’s Next?
The author with her beloved kitty, Tuna
Well, I’m loving doing the publishing so much…except it’s not yet paying any bills. I’m not ready to throw in the towel, though, so I do some design or consulting and even some notary work on the side trying to make a little money to fund my dream of making Who Chains You a viable publishing company on behalf of animals and those of us who fight for their rights.
My main struggle with doing it all is finding enough time in my day to write the next books in my Chained Gods Series AND publish works by other authors too. I haven’t yet found the balance, but I will keep working on it.
I do know that I feel happy when I’m designing and publishing books for others and bringing such a huge smile to their faces when they see their work in print. For an author there’s no greater joy than the day you hold your very own printed piece in your hands. I like bringing that gift to others.
So I will continue to write, design, and publish both my books and others for the foreseeable future.
That’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it.