Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Service Dogs

If you've read Dottie's Daring Day, I hope you enjoyed the whole chapter about Champ, the service dog who works with a blind owner. When I first started drafting Dottie's book, I wanted to highlight all kinds of working dogs, but the story took off in another direction. Guess I'll have to write more dog books to get it all in. But I do want to take a moment to thank two of my best sources of information for making Champ a genuine service dog who is correctly portrayed.

First, here's a shout-out to my writer friend Ronda Del Boccio and her service dog, Jemma.

I snapped this photo of Jemma at a conference Ronda and I attended.
Look at that focus! She is READY.

Jemma is a wonderful example of a service dog. I have sat next to her at several all-day conferences, and she never makes a peep or distracts in any way. Okay, I may get distracted and take photos of how sweet she is when I should be listening, but that's not her fault. She and Ronda make a great team.

Ronda was a huge help in correcting my drafts and making sure that Champ and his owner were working together the way a service dog and a visually disabled human would. And I had quite a bit of it wrong. The axiom "write what you know" really means that you need to find out about those things you don't know as well and represent them accurately. I take that very seriously, especially since I write mostly for children. Thank you, Ronda and Jemma, for helping me get it right. You can follow Jemma's adventures on Facebook at this link.

Second, I am very grateful to the organization Leader Dogs for the Blind (who, coincidentally, trained Jemma). In my early book drafts, I reached out to them and asked what three or four things they would want kids to understand about how a service dog works with an owner. The number one thing they wanted to stress was that the dog doesn't do the actual leading. Service dogs are trained to watch for dangers, like cars in the street, but the owner is the one who decides where to go. In my story, Champ explains this to Dottie to make sure the point was clear. The group was a big help in directing my earliest drafts of the story and developing Champ's part in it. Thank you!

If you haven't gotten your copy of Dottie's Daring Day yet, my next public event will be Springfest on April 15th on Dickson Street in Fayetteville--right where the story takes place. We might even have Dottie come join us for part of the day!

I'll do another post closer to the date, but you can sign up now for Kimba and Hiro's 10th birthday party celebration coming next week on Facebook. 10 years old! There will be book giveaways and sale prices on kindles and kitten pictures galore. Even some fun videos. Join the fun yourself, and invite your friends. It's open to everyone! Click here for the Facebook event page. I've already started posting because I just can't help it.

This weekend, sweet Dottie and her human and diverse animal family, including Miss Slinky, will be moving again to a new (and much nicer) apartment in Fayetteville. I'm sure I will have many photos to share after that. Here's hoping for some better weather to make it all go smoothly. I think we are all ready for spring.

Have a great weekend!

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