Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trudy & McDuff

I write about my friend, Trudy, in Life with McDuff: Lessons Learned from a Therapy Dog. She had two Lhasa Apsos that she was crazy about, but one day she said to me, “I love Jasmine and Bandit, Judy, but they’re not like McDuff. McDuff is special.” Other friends of mine felt the same way. I’m a dog lover, and I’ve liked other people’s dogs. But I never loved someone else’s dog the way they loved McDuff. I write of those special relationships in my book.

Sophisticated Lhasa Apsos and rambunctious Scottish terriers don’t mix. A half hour into a holiday visit to Trudy and David’s home with McDuff, Jasmine and Bandit begged to be put in the basement. They wanted no parts of that crazy, high-energy Scottie.

Trudy and I became close friends when we worked as legal secretaries at the Columbus, Ohio, prestigious law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. Some of my dearest friends still work there. Even though I moved on to other jobs, and moved out of state, we have never lost touch. They have supported and encouraged me down through the years. A person is blessed to have only one true friend in life. I have been blessed with many.

My dear friend died of leukemia at the age of fifty-three. Even though I had moved from Ohio to Nevada, we talked on the phone and e-mailed nearly every day during her long and courageous battle. We discussed life. We discussed death. I miss her to this day.

Trudy’s husband, David, is an editor on Life with McDuff. He is the first person who read the completed manuscript. I know she is aware of the success of the book and looking down with a smile on her lips saying, “Only Judy.”

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Spirit Dog McDuff

McDuff was a spirit dog. Native Americans and other cultures believe in spirit animals, or totems, possessing special powers. An animal that comes to an individual and acts as a spiritual guide in the physical and spiritual worlds. It offers power and wisdom to that individual throughout a lifetime and beyond. McDuff certainly fit that description.

I felt a strange connection when I went to the kennel to bring the eight-week old Scottish terrier puppy home. Something eerie happened when I picked him up and looked into his eyes. Throughout our nine years together, I witnessed unusual occurrences among McDuff, people, and animals time after time.

A fifth grader struggling with reading went from a D average to the honor roll after reading to McDuff for twelve weeks. Five individuals with horrendous mental and physical disabilities responded to him in amazing ways.

A repeated pit bull attack that should have killed him left him totally unharmed. At the touch of his nose, I saw him calm a terrified out-of-its mind wild duckling. And, a small child’s hysterical fear of dogs evaporated after a brief exposure to him.

McDuff returned to me in the wee hours of the morning to snap me out of the debilitating grief I experienced after putting him down in 2003. Two years after his death I received a Christmas card from a close friend who loved him dearly. She was dying of terminal lung cancer and wrote, “I keep McDuff’s picture in front of me, and just know he is in my arms comforting me and tears fall. Maybe I will see him soon.”

I write about Spirit Dog McDuff and how he miraculously touched my life and the lives of many others in the book, Life with McDuff: Lessons Learned from a Therapy Dog.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Life with McDuff and the Henderson Writers' Group

I sat in a chair placed against the wall to accommodate the overflow crowd in the too small conference room at the Las Vegas-Clark County Library. As I listened to the members of the Henderson Writers’ Group (HWG) seated around the center table, thoughts flashed through my mind. You’re in way over your head. These people are writers and published authors. You’ll never belong with this group. But I didn’t stop attending the weekly meetings held in Henderson and Las Vegas.

Each week I listened to the gentle and informative critiques of writers who read from their works and soaked it up like a sponge. Most of it was over my head, but I didn’t get discouraged. Even though the thought of reading something I wrote in front of a group of writers terrified me. When I asked for comments from a friend about the chapter I intended to read at my first critique, he said, “It sounds like an essay.” I still tease him about that.

I encourage every fledgling writer like me to find and join a writers group. Without the guidance and encouragement of the HWG, my first book, Life with McDuff: Lessons Learned from a Therapy Dog, would probably still be in the incubator. The expertise and experience of fellow writers will benefit you in many ways. My eternal gratitude to the HWG members who took me under their wings and hatched out a published author.