It is pretty easy to tell you about my favorite hobby. I grew up with a brown, miniature Dachshund, Heidi. She roamed from room to room at night. My canopy bed was higher off the ground than Mom and Dad’s or my brother’s. When Heidi ventured to my room, she stretched her short legs as far as she could and whined. She’d wake me, and I’d lean over to lift her on to my bed. She immediately burrowed under my covers and warmed my feet.
After I married, my husband rescued the neighbor’s five-year-old German shepherd, Charlie. When she passed on, my husband was lost. While he traveled for his job, my two children and I plotted a surprise for his birthday. We discovered an eight-week-old, White shepherd and brought her home. I had never had a puppy, and I learned how much attention puppies needed.
I found a small wooden playpen in our attic and strung sheets through the slats to keep her small body inside. She used her paws to push the sheet down and would squeeze herself out. Of course, as soon as she was free, she peed on the carpet.
When Murphy arrived home, we had kept the puppy hidden and told him to go sit on the couch. He did as we commanded. My two children made Dad keep his eyes shut. I plopped the puppy on his lap, and she preceded to lick his face. His eyes popped open in shock. We let Dad choose her name. Since our four-year-old daughter couldn’t say Gretchen or Gretel and mixed the two words, we named her Gretchel.
This started my trek on training dogs. We didn’t have a fence, and Gretchel learned to stay in our yard. She loved to fill her mouth with rocks as we walked. When she couldn’t add another in her mouth, she’d drop all of the rocks on the street, and rearrange them in her mouth to fit one more.
After Gretchel, our children were gone, and we chose our first Aussie, Sydney. Aussie’s can learn words like a two to three-year-old child. I was teaching special education and became fixated on teaching Sydney as many words as I could. He knew the names of each of his toys, the colors, and many commands.
A black Lab blew into our yard during a snow storm when Sydney was six-months-old. The dog’s ribs were visible, and he had three puncture wounds. Once the snow melted, we took Jake to the vet and adopted him. Jake was full of mischief. He uprooted plants, chewed on electrical wires, tree trunks, and ate the tongues out to Murphy’s work boots. He needed a lot of positive attention!
Sydney and Jake enjoyed Edisto Beach. They learned about boating, and not drinking salt water, When I decided to write, I wanted to use my dog experiences and our days with close friends on Edisto Beach. Both Sydney and Jake had moved on to the Rainbow Bridge. But I continued learning new dog skills. I trained my next Aussies in Rally and in Agility. I researched service dogs and learned from PAALS.org how they handled and trained their service puppies.
At graduation services, the dog’s new forever companion shares how their lives have been made better because of their service dog. Their stories make me tear up.
Seven Days to Goodbye was published and my memories are on paper. The sequel, Starting Over, encompasses other memories from teaching many types of children. You cannot teach a child without getting involved in their life.
My multi-handicapped classroom became an oasis for troubled children. The minute they walked into my room, they knew they were safe and loved. My students understood about positive reinforcement. If they did what I asked, they received rewards. During the summer, I enjoyed bringing a needy child to my home for a few hours. They had a chance to go swimming, picnic, and see movies. My children were young and they enjoyed having older playmates.
The Trina Ryan Novel series, has a new service puppy, teen issues, tough choices, family dynamics, changing relationships, horseback riding, and a fun first-time romance.
by Sheri Levy
GENRE: Contemporary Young Adult
Trina Ryan’s challenging summer starts off with puppy-fueled energy burst as she takes on another service dog for training-an eight-week-old black Labrador named Colton. And to help explore another dream, she’s taken a job at the barn next door in exchange for riding lessons with the barn’s schooling horse. It doesn’t take long for Trina to butt heads with Morgan Hart, an award winning rider with a gorgeous thoroughbred named Knight- and a demanding, nasty demeanor with both people and her horse.
Adding to the list of frustrations is the difficulty in maintaining a long distance relationship with Chase, her first boyfriend from last summer, while trying to deal with unwanted attention from a new boy in her puppy training class.
At least best friend Sarah still has her back, but Trina wearies of Morgan’s constant insults and her heartless treatment of Knight, she decides to use her dog training skills to look underneath Morgan’s hostile attitude and develop a sense of trust.
Slowly, Morgan’s angry shield cracks enough to where she’s able to share a troubling family secret. Can Trina help Morgan confront her family problems and make a fresh start?
At three o’clock in the morning, I sat with my butt squished against the wall on the hard tile floor, my forehead resting on bent knees. I’d given up going back to bed and waited for Colton’s next outburst.
Seconds later he whined. I lifted my head as his nose poked out of the crate, sniffing. He tilted his head and toddled toward me. His tail beat back and forth. After a quick pee on the clean newspapers, he crawled onto my lap.
He put his front paws on my shoulders, and his dark eyes flirted mischief.
I smiled. “Ms. Jennifer and Mom warned me you’d be waking up all night.”
Colton’s ears drooped, and I stroked his velvety fur. Cradling his plump body, I buried my face in his fuzz. I inhaled his toasty puppy smell, trying hard not to think about Sydney, the first service dog I trained.
Sydney had come to me when his family moved away from South Carolina. At six-months-old, he was trained in his basic needs. He even slept through the night.
During our beach vacation, Sydney had worked his special magic with Logan, a young boy with autism. My best friend Sarah and I had met his cute older brothers, Peyton and Chase.
Sydney and I had snuggled on our last night and I’d told him about my memories of our year together.
In the morning, I’d clenched my teeth behind a fake smile and returned him to be matched to his forever companion.
Minutes before leaving the facility empty-handed, large, brown puppy eyes from the nursery had connected with mine. I’d decided to train another.
Eight-week-old Colton was a blank slate. I would be his first and only foster momma until he turned eighteen months old.
Colton nosed me again. He lifted his chocolate brown eyes to mine, and warmed the achy parts of my heart.
Starting Over will be published August 1st, 2017. Please pre-order with FictionAddiction
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Sheri S. Levy is the author of an award-winning debut novel in her series, Trina Ryan’s Dogs in Training. Seven Days to Goodbye, won in 2015, and her magazine article, Scent with Love, won in 2011, with the Dog Writers Association in the Special Interest category. She is an active member of SCBWI and SIBA.
After a twenty-five-year teaching career in special needs, Sheri remains active with tutoring teens in reading and writing. PAALS, (Palmetto Animal Assisted Living Services), has helped with her research on writing about service dogs and how they change lives. Sheri, in turn, shares her book proceeds to support PAALS.org.
Sheri enjoys doing author visits and teaching writing workshops. When she is not writing, she reads, plays with her two dogs, listens to music, and hangs out with her husband and family.
You can find more information on her website; and Facebook, Sherislevyauthor; Twitter, @SheriSLevy
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The tour dates can be found here