Friday, September 18, 2009

Charlene's Life With Dogs & how the contest came to be

Over the course of my lifetime, I've owned and loved many dogs, and vice versa. The sense of kinship undoubtedly started when I was a baby.  My parents loved telling the story about how their Irish Setter simply would not leave my side.  Wherever they pushed my baby carriage, so went the faithful dog.  Although that's not the dog in this picture (I'm older), you can see the love and trust.

Growing up, I went on many hunting trips with my dad, usually with one of a long string of German short-haired pointers. Schnapps, the biggest of the bunch, let my brother and I dress him up in play clothes, complete with clip-on earrings. He was faithful, calm and excellent when on task.

I remember dad's return from one hunting trip.  He asked me to dig into the big "game" pocket in the back of his hunting vest. Anticipating the feel of fur or feathers, I stuck my hand down in. Instead of discovering dinner, I felt a wriggling mass of puppy we named Zippy. Such a sweet memory. I still miss my dad.

We once owned a full blooded Beagle who climbed the fence post we briefly tied her to.  She sat on top of it like the Queen of the Land. Mitzi Flicker Revelie, our miniature Schnauzer, was a friendly dog until she produced a litter of pups she didn't like, after which she turned mean. (Go figure.) Cindy, our favored black-and-white mutt (over time, we cohabitated with many mutts), was a steadfast companion. Smokey, a full-blooded black Cocker Spaniel, was a true dear.  Somewhere is a picture of little-girl me pulling her puppies (some black, some blond) around in a wagon.  Bluejay, one of dad's German shorthairs, was a relentless escape artist. One night we received a panicked call. She was in the bowling alley chasing bowling balls down the alley and back up the ball return. Muddy feet, tongue flapping …

Fast-forward to my adulthood. Butch the Wonderdog, a mutt who looked mostly like a border collie, came to us when Brian, our youngest, was in junior high. We adopted him from DuPage Animal Control when he could still fit in the web of Brian's baseball mitt. What a good friend to all of us.  After Butch passed on to doggie heaven, George and I were dogless for many years--until I couldn't stand it anymore. I am a better person when in a serious relationship with a dog, and thus, the hunt began.

I first saw Kornflake's picture on the internet. He was listed with the Winona Area Humane Society in Winona MN. At that time, WAHS had no facilities to house dogs; they were placed with volunteer foster parents until adopted out. I set up a meeting with his fosters and it was love at first site. Trouble was, George had bum knees. (They’ve since been replaced.) Kornflake was too big. I left him with tears in my eyes (that quickly he'd burrowed into my heart) and a big hug and well wishes for perfect placement.

Two weeks later, I was still relentlessly pursuing the right match. I drove within a hundred-mile radius and tried to talk myself into everything from a quirky poodle mix to a white fluffy purebred. Every time I'd walk away, I'd ask myself, "What was wrong with that one?" Finally I realized the only thing "wrong" was that it wasn't Kornflake.

Then it struck me: it's not the size of the dog that could create a hazard for George's bad knees, it's the obedience factor. Guide dogs are always big dogs. DUH! I called WAHS. Did they by any miracle still have Kornflake, who was gentle and not a power house muscle dog? YES! They'd also recently discovered he was housebroken, and since I'd last seen him, he'd been neutered—and three other families were currently interested in him. I raced down the hill and we've lived happily together since four years ago when he moved in.

"What kind of dog is that?" I am often asked when at the farmer's market or out running errands. "He's a big red kind," I say with a chuckle. Then I heard about DNA testing for dogs and my curiosity blossomed. "Why would you care what mix he is?" friends asked. Because … Because. However, I did not act on the impulse. Life marched on. But a couple months before Stray Affections released, I started thinking about ways to let dog lovers know about a book I believe will move their hearts. After all, it is my love for Kornflake (and all the dogs who have gone before him)--the longing I hold to keep him well--that is behind the tender words Cassandra, my main character, speaks to Toby when, as a child, she discovers him in the woods behind her house. 

Hm. Perhaps there was a way to marry my curiosity with a fun promotional contest.  Doggie DNA? Why not! Dr. Laurel Logas (left) at Pet Medical Center, Kornflake's vet in MN, graciously agreed to sponsor the DNA testing. HOW EXCITING! And how appropriate:  Pet Medical Center was the first to check him out when he came to WAHS all skin and bones, ear infection and way bad stinky. Pet Medical Center put him on the road to recovery and he's been well and their willing patient since.  Just this last spring, he even had his teeth cleaned! (Aw, pretty boy!)

So, Kornflake's blood was drawn. (He was a very good and brave soldier) It is working its way through the WisdomPanel process, so as of this writing, I do not know the results. But the closer we get to finding out, the more excited I become.  Pet Medical Center is hosting an open house October 10th, and on that day, I will give a short presentation about Kornflake and Stray Affections, and we will announce--
Ta-Dah!--the Big Reveal. 

Throughout Kornflake's four years of wondrous presence in my life, I've changed my mind a dozen times as to what I think his mix might be. In fairness to everyone entering the contest, following is a list of breed possibilities (mixes of them) that have flicked through my mind: Lab, German Shepard, Redbone Coonhound, Greyhound, Basset Hound, Beagle, Vizsla, Airdale, Foxhound, Bloodhound, Golden, Harrier, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Irish Setter ... the list goes on. (CONTEST HELPFUL HINT: one of the "pertinent links" leads to pictures of all these dogs and more.)

If Kornflake was born of two full-blooded parents, results will come easy. If, however, two mutt dogs produced him, WisdomPanel results will be ... sketchier at best and more difficult in outcome. Deciphering the contest's winners' pool could be a challenge. But we're gonna have fun anyway and give it our best shot. In the end, this will remain true: Kornflake is a Very Good Dog. (CONTEST HELPFUL HINT: one of the "pertinent links" shows you how surprising these results can be!)

So, there you have a brief recap of my life with dogs and how the contest came to be. Have fun guessing, but read the rules CAREFULLY. Only entries in COMPLETE COMPLIANCE will be eligible to win one of the prizes--which I'm still figuring out.  I'll post prize updates as I settle on them, but one will be the actual snowglobe I held in my hands when filming this promotional video.

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