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Dog Friends – Real and Imagined

By Ann H. Gabhart

Have you ever had a super dog friend? I have. Several of them. I started begging for my own dog when I was about eight. I needed a dog like I needed air to breathe. Some of you may understand that and some of you may not. We had barn cats. We had calves and lambs we bottle fed, but I had the dog hunger that nothing was going to appease except dog fur under my hands.

My wishes were answered when dad must have asked one of his friends to bring me a pup. Ollie was a collie and Spitz mix as best we could guess, but I didn’t really care. He was a dog. That was all that mattered. Since then I’ve had many dog buddies. None any more loved than my current dog, Oscar. Sometimes a dog just seems to become an extension of you as though he knows your thoughts before you think them.

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I wanted my heroine in These Healing Hills to have that kind of dog. Many of the Frontier Nursing Service midwives had dogs. The Frontier Service recruitment posters promised the nurse midwives their own horse, their own dog, and plenty of adventure to entice them to the mountains to deliver babies in the homes of their patients. So, naturally my heroine had to have her own dog. But he had to be a special dog that would matter in the story. And he was and he did.

The recruitment ad wasn’t the only reason I dropped a dog down into my story. I read the memoirs of one of the Frontier nurse midwives who had a great dog friend. Her dog chased rattlers out of her paths and even managed to block her horse and stop it once when in some mysterious way the dog sensed danger. A rock slide a few minutes later covered the trail in front of them. That’s the kind of dog friend I gave my nurse midwife character in my story. I was so glad Sarge made the cover of the book.

My Oscar hasn’t done any heroics, but he is a very good friend. He’s walked miles with me. He’s slept on his bed behind my chair while I wrote thousands of words. He’s been a good model for my fictional dogs. Trouble is, back in the summer he was diagnosed with an aggressive bone cancer in his back leg. I’m sure some of you have had to say goodbye to a furry friend long before you were ready. That’s where I am now. Not ready but knowing the day is speedily approaching when Oscar will head over the rainbow bridge.

Shelia said I could write a story about friendship. So that’s what I’ve done. My dog friends have given me unconditional love and friendship over the years. The dogs I’ve dropped into my stories have done the same for my characters from Maybe, a dog in my first young adult book, Chance Hero, to Zeb, Jocie’s answer to her dog prayer in Scent of Lilacs to Asher in The Innocent and now Sarge in These Healing Hills.

Have you ever had a special furry friend to make you smile and feel loved?

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