Molly and I are excited to be hosting an interview today with author Donna Winters. She’s recently published a new book, Adventures with Vinnie, the story of her adopted Black Lab/Doberman. As if a good read about a dog weren’t good enough–Donna is also donating 100% of the profits from this book to help animals in shelters. (Snoopy dance!)
Stick around after the interview–Donna is giving away a copy of the book to one reader! Details below, but for now, let’s welcome Donna to our blog.
Donna, I’m so pleased to have you here at Embark on Adventure. Can you tell us a little about your new book, Adventures with Vinnie, and about your writing in general?
Danielle, thanks for having me here! My newest book, Adventures with Vinnie follows the escapades of our black lab mix, Vinnie, a dog we adopted from a shelter in March 2012 and cherished until his demise in March 2013. He was far different from all our other dogs and seemed to demand his own story. Since I am a writer, I couldn’t resist documenting his crazy ways. I think we’d had him for about six weeks when I told my husband, “I’m going to write a book about Vinnie.” And so I did.
Writing a nonfiction book about a shelter dog is quite a departure from the fiction writing I have been doing since 1982. Normally, I write historical romances set in the Great Lakes region, thus my trademark series, Great Lakes Romances ®.
You and your husband Fred have been adopting shelter dogs since 1973. (What a track record!) Why did you decide to try adopting?
My husband grew up with a wonderful English setter mix named Tippy, who was adopted as a puppy from the county dog pound sometime during the early 1950s. Fred had such fond memories of Tippy that when we were ready to add a dog to our family, he insisted on checking out all the available dogs in the Humane Society and dog pound shelters.
We adopted our first shelter dog from the Humane Society and from then on decided to adopt rescues. All but two were mixed breed dogs from shelters. The other two were rescued racing greyhounds, one from a veterinarian rescue shelter and the other from a greyhound rescue group who had placed the dog with a foster family.
When you adopted Vinnie, you said you specifically wanted a senior dog, one that was unlikely to be adopted because of its age. What attracts you to senior dogs? What do you think other adopters are missing out on by passing the seniors by?
Since we are seniors ourselves and not up for the energy of young dogs anymore, the older shelter dogs are a better fit for our lifestyle.
Senior rescue dogs are incredibly grateful to have a new home, possibly more so than younger rescues. Many times the senior dogs have already had a long time with a family and suddenly their lives are in upheaval due to their person’s ill health, death, or a move to a place not tolerant of pets. My heart really goes out to dogs in such circumstances.
Senior dogs are quite good house pets because they already know the ropes. They are often housebroken, eager to go on walks, and ready to chill out on the couch or their dog bed when they get home from their walk. These traits work well for us!
You talk about traveling with Vinnie and your other dog Babe. Why do you like traveling with your dogs?
We would miss our dogs too much if we didn’t take them with us. Besides, we don’t acclimate our dogs to being with pet sitters or living at a kennel. If we were to do either of those things, they would think we had abandoned them, and we just can’t put them through that. I know that if you accustom your dog to being with a dog sitter, or going to a kennel, they learn the routine and know that you are coming back to them. We just haven’t been able to separate ourselves from our dogs that way, with very minor exceptions during our first two adoptions.
When it comes to deciding when to let a pet go, many pet parents will support their pet in every way until it’s clear he or she no longer wants to stay. The decision when to let go is never easy. Can you talk about how you decided when was the appropriate time to let a pet go?
The time to let our dogs go has been specific to the circumstances and health condition of each animal. Our first dog had kidney failure. Our vet tried to clear his system of toxins with a saline IV drip. After two days, when that wasn’t working, I asked him if we should put the dog to sleep, and he said he was just about to suggest that.
Our second dog had a fatty tumor that was cancerous. I went to the vet a couple of times and asked when we should put him to sleep and the vet said, “Soon. You’ll know when it’s time.” We finally did it after the dog kept us awake all night whimpering in pain. In retrospect, we wished we had acted sooner.
A couple of our dogs suffered strokes in their elderly years and could no longer stand up and walk. Fred and I were in agreement that if our dog were so disabled he or she couldn’t go outside to toilet under his/her own power, we would put the dog to sleep. Physically, neither of us is fit for the lifting and hauling of a disabled 70-pound dog, but together, that was exactly what we had to do to get each of those dogs to the vet for the very last time.
With Vinnie, many factors impinged upon our decision to euthanize him when we did. He was already old, and his tumor was almost certainly cancerous. The tumor alone couldn’t be removed successfully because such surgery would leave Vinnie’s wrist too weak to bear his weight.
Even if his tumor had not been malignant, he would have ended up needing an amputation at the elbow. In the case of cancer, the operation would not have cured his disease.
We are well aware that dogs adjust quickly to amputations. In Vinnie’s case, it just seemed pointless for all of us to suffer through that when we had only a five percent chance of curing the problem. In addition, two of our dogs had suffered from cancer (one of them I described above) and in both cases, we felt we had allowed their suffering to continue too long before euthanizing. We had subsequently agreed to act more quickly to euthanize if a cancer diagnosis was made on any of our dogs.
As a writer, I assume your dogs are with you while you work. Do your dogs understand “work hours”? What’s it like having your dogs around while you work?
The dogs are simply not a factor during my work hours which begin between five and six in the morning and end at breakfast time between eight and nine o’clock. Babe usually starts whining for her breakfast at about five AM, so I get up, feed both dogs, and take them outside. (Fred sleeps until eight.) After the dogs come inside, they go back to sleep and I go to work in complete silence and isolation, which is the only way I get any writing done.
Can I ask? How exactly DID you end up with a limousine?
Good question! The limo Vinnie rode home in was actually the second limo we’ve had as a personal vehicle. We chose that vehicle when my mother, who was 91 years old at the time, was living with us. She couldn’t step up into an SUV or any vehicle that rode higher than a luxury sedan.
We’d had a Fleetwood Cadillac prior to the limo, and when we had to take Mom to the hospital on an emergency run, I was stuffed into the back seat with two large dogs. One of them was 70 pounds and was on top of me, pressing against my chest so hard I could barely breathe during the 35-mile trip to the hospital.
We couldn’t leave the dogs home alone because we knew we’d be gone for hours and hours and they would need to go outside and toilet before we could get back home (that’s the way it is with older dogs). After that trip, I asked Fred to look online for something roomier and he found the limo.
We recently traded that vehicle for an antique car. Now that Mom has passed away and we’ve had our motor home for four years, we’ve noticed that we just don’t need the limo anymore.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers before I let you go?
I’d like to thank your readers for their interest in learning about Vinnie and his adventures, and I’d like to thank you for inviting me to appear on your wonderful blog! Your questions have been thought-provoking and well-focused on shelter dogs and the decisions they require of their families.
Where can readers get a copy of Adventures with Vinnie? And where can they learn more about your books?
Find Adventures with Vinnie, on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HK1ZU5C
Learn more about my books at www.GreatLakesRomances.com.
Thank you, Donna, for chatting with us!
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And now … the giveaway! Donna will be giving one of you readers a free copy of Adventures with Vinnie. (Don’t forget to tell your friends to drop by and enter the competition.) A paperback copy is available to anyone living in the contiguous 48 states, but anyone can choose a copy in Kindle format. I’ll keep the contest open until Sunday, February 9, 2014, at 11:59 p.m. CST.
All you have to do to enter the drawing for a free copy of Adventures with Vinnie is leave a comment below. Donna wants you to complete this sentence: The best thing about a dog (or cat) is…