Enter [here] for your chance to win this #Giveaway! New York Times, USA Today and Amazon bestselling authors have come together for a once in a lifetime book giveaway of signed copies PLUS a $100 Amazon Gift Card to the lucky winner. Authors include Catherine Ryan Hyde, Carolyn Brown, Heather Burch, Judy Keim, Bette Lee Crosby, Patricia Sands, Grace Greene, Christine Nolfi, and me, of course!
How many times have you thought to yourself that you’d like to just sell everything and leave the country? Over the years, the temptation has touched many Americans and some have even had the courage to take the plunge. Take Nadine and Rob, for example. A couple who were trying to live the American dream but finding out that to have it took a little more of their soul than they were willing to give. Eventually, they decided to tempt fate and see what life in Costa Rica held for their future. Nadine’s book, Happier Than a Billionaire, was one of the first books I read when I got the ‘let’s get the heck out of here’ bug. The book is not a how-to book on moving to Costa Rica, but it chronicles the ups and downs (and hilarious moments) that Nadine and Rob go through as they follow their hearts to find a new normal. Nadine’s journey is simply incredible and she’s now working on book four in the series, but each book can be read as a standalone.
Reading Happier Than Billionaire lit a fire inside me to know more about moving overseas. And which country? Costa Rica or Panama? Nadine also addresses this a little bit in her blog post, Panama vs. Costa Rica. Soon, with more research, we decided that while Costa Rica sounded heavenly, Panama might be the better choice for us. Of course the idea made us nervous, but we were still curious. Could we find a better life there? Could we overcome the culture shock and language of yet another country?
One thing we knew for sure, we weren’t going to get it out of our system until we went and saw Panama for ourselves. After much discussion, we booked a trip and for the first part of it, signed on with Panama Relocation Tours.
What came next was two weeks of exploring a new country and the possibility of a new life there. The Pursuit of Panama is my short memoir/travelogue that details that tour and the days that followed, as we determined if moving to Panama was to be our next dream. Between the pages of my book, you won’t find a list of what to do in order to move to Panama, but you’ll find some helpful tips to get you started on that process as well as learn firsthand what two weeks in Panama can be like to a gringo like me. You’ll also get a peek at some deep soul-searching as I try to figure out just what it is that will bring me the peace I yearn for.
Amazon Reviewer says: If I was planning a trip or a move to Panama, The Pursuit of Panama would definitely have helped in my decision. I love how she added her own personal story along with describing the many attributes of Panama, including describing the food, hotels or resorts, activities, and transportation along with the costs of each. Most importantly I love how she described the beauty of Panama. Definitely somewhere I would love to travel.
In Love and In Panama
The Banana Trucks are Everywhere
A Boquete Rainbow
A Hostel in Bocas Town
A Sweet Girl Selling Bracelets to Feed her Family
From the Balcony of a Condo in Coronado
From our Hotel in Panama City
Hotel in Bocas Del Toro
A Bookstore for Kay!
A Bar for Ben!
Still not convinced? Then you’d better read it for yourself…
A Bargain Alert! If you want to see what all the fuss is about and why my series, The Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters, has hit many best-selling lists and sold nearly half a million copies, then you might want to grab it now. For a limited time, it’s FREE for US Amazon Prime members to either read or listen to!
“The Scavenger’s Daughters is the kind of novel I’d love to write, but never could. Simply told but beautifully rendered, the reader is swiftly transported into the hearts and lives of a Chinese family after the Cultural Revolution. Powerful and poignant, this story captures the heart of humanity. This is the kind of book that will get shared by friends and chosen by book clubs. A phenomenal story of life and love.”
—Karen McQuestion, bestselling author of The Long Way Home
And I hope many of you have already grabbed my brand new novel, Wish Me Home. It’s getting rave reviews and I can’t wait for you to sample something new in a different genre from me.
[I hope if you’ve read it that you’ll do me the favor of posting a review on Amazon/Goodreads!]
“With its resilient protagonist, secret that kept me guessing, dog I wish I could adopt in real life, and story that tugged at my heart, Kay Bratt’s Wish Me Home grabbed me and held me all the way to its heartfelt resolution. Readers who enjoy novels like Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers will find it a delight!” —Nancy Star, bestselling author of Sisters One, Two, Three
As always, Happy Reading!
Enter to win prizes!
Who doesn’t love prizes, right?
The authors of Lake Union Publishing have teamed together for a night dedicated to you – our readers!
To celebrate our first #LakeUnionAuthors Twitter Chat- I’m giving away a few prizes.
All you need to do is enter and comment below the prize you’d like to receive!
HOW TO ENTER:
1) First, sign up to my author newsletter by clicking the newsletter graphic below:
2) Leave a Comment at the bottom of this blog post with which prize you’d like to be entered for
Prize B: Signed paperback of Wish Me Home
Prize C: I Kissed A Dog and I Liked It (t-shirt)
Prize D: Audio CD set of 8 discs of Wish Me Home
3) Then watch your inbox for my newsletter this week to see if you’ve won!
That’s it! And if you are a dog-lover as well as someone who likes a good read, I hope you’ll check out my new book, Wish Me Home. In it, you’ll meet Hemi but below is a picture of my grand-dog, Griffin, who was the inspiration for Hemi.
Just like Griffin has stolen our hearts, Hemi will be sure to steal yours.
Want WISH ME HOME to automatically be delivered or hit your Kindle the day it’s available?
Here’s the link!
Real simple rules. MUST be signed up for my newsletter to be entered as this is how I will announce the winners. Open worldwide. You have 30 days to claim your gift and then I promise to mail the item within 30 days of you supplying your address. Once it’s mailed…there are no replacements. If it gets lost in the mail, I’m sincerely sorry but I will not be able to replace those gifts.
If you’ve ever heard the term #FosterFail, then you know exactly what’s coming. Last July (2016) Ben and I were on our way back from Nashville when I checked my messages and saw that the director of the rescue group I volunteer for was asking if anyone of us were near Asheville and could pick up a dog and keep him until they could find alternate foster care. As we were the nearest to him, we agreed and a few hours later we met a woman in the parking lot of Cracker Barrel and she handed off her son’s dog, Kaiser.
From the first minute I met Kaiser, I was overwhelmed. Approximately four years old, he was extremely anxious and unruly, jumping around and whining, almost hysterical in his fright. I asked for a run down of his history and the woman proceeded to tell me that Kaiser had no manners, was misbehaved, not housebroken, and acted like a junkyard dog. (not sure what that means) For a moment, I second-guessed our decision to pick him up. We said our goodbyes and with no visible love loss, the woman walked away.
The rest of the trip home was memorable, to say the least. I kept Kaiser on my lap, perched on a pillow as I tried to calm him. A few times I thought he was going to bite me in the midst of his meltdown. It took nearly an hour of talking to him and petting him, but he finally settled down except for a long sigh every now and then. When he calmed, I got a good look at his eye and was disgusted at how bad it looked, all crusty and red. Kaiser turned his head to look around as though blind in that eye and my heart broke for him.
“You call them and get someone else to take him first thing tomorrow,” Ben said when we could breathe again. “He’s going to be too much for us.”
At home we introduced him to Riley, who wanted no part of it. I also still had Lola, my first foster dog and she turned her nose up as well. I set Kaiser up a small area behind a gate in my dressing room, and that is where he slept and spent a lot of time for the first few days. I gave him as much attention as I could, but it was disheartening. Kaiser was a sad little fellow. Truly, he seemed heartbroken. Or just broken.
At the vet’s office, I was the drama of the day. Kaiser was like a bucking bronco in the waiting room and I could barely control him. Inside the exam room, he climbed me like a monkey, wrapping himself around my neck, completely terrified. The doctor informed me that the eye issue appeared to be from a very old injury and was most likely very painful. I asked if Kaiser could see from it and the doctor said we wouldn’t know for a while. The plan was to treat it aggressively for two weeks, which would require multiple sessions of meds and cleaning each day. We also discovered that Kaiser hadn’t seen a vet in over two years and needed all his shots.
After talking to Ben, we decided to keep Kaiser with us until we could get the eye injury under control.
Obviously, the poor pup came with some issues. If we’d give all the dogs a treat or toy, he’d bully them and hoard the treats. He had to be taught he wasn’t their boss. To be groomed, he had to be sedated and even then, he tried to bite the groomer. One of his ‘behaviors’ was he wanted to hump everything all the time. I spoke to a specialist and they informed me that the humping was not connected to dominance, and instead was Kaiser’s way of coping with anxiety. She suggested I give Kaiser his own special stuffy and make him keep the action to one designated room. She advised if we didn’t allow him his own self-soothing methods, he could do things that were much more damaging, like eating our drywall. So we gave him a stuffed elephant. And wow– did he love that elephant. He loved her all the time. All. The. Time.
Slowly, over the next few weeks, we found another side of Kaiser emerging. Under the fright that made him act out and look grumpy, he had bursts of happiness. It only took something small for his little tail to bob. He was grateful for each and every gesture. He still had issues, though. When we brought out the leash to begin including him in our nightly walks, he would freak out and attack it as though it were a rattlesnake. It would take some time to get the leash on him and sometimes we’d have to carry him out the door, he was so anxious. At times Kaiser would also seem upset over nothing and run hide under the bed. But we worked with him, showing him that we would never hurt him. Lola began to tolerate him and we also noticed that Riley took a special interest in him, going to touch noses throughout the day as if to say, “You okay there, buddy? We got ya, man. Calm down…”
One week turned into two, then three, and soon was four. Kaiser was no longer put behind the gate except at bedtime or when we left the house. Curiously, he began to follow Ben whenever he was home. Despite Ben’s initial reluctance, he worked hard to help me rehabilitate Kaiser, showing him what a human pack leader should be like. Firm, but gentle. Confident. Trustworthy.
Kaiser stopped being a bully to the other dogs. With diligent corrections, he learned that he would get his share of food, toys, and treats and didn’t have to be so dominant. He also stopped loving his elephant so much. What started out as more than a dozen love sessions a day soon dwindled to a few times and then just once a day. We discovered that he absolutely loved going for a walk. We found a different groomer after interviewing several, and luckily Kaiser was fine with him, no sedation needed. He started behaving somewhat normal and while we were busy with life, we neglected to notice that Kaiser was finding his place in the pack.
Finally, the director messaged to let me know it was time to start interviewing prospective adoptive families for Kaiser. Verbally, I agreed, but inside I felt sick. Kaiser had a lot of special needs and would require someone to be very understanding. I didn’t know his photo had been added to the website and we had four interested families. As a foster, it was my job to screen them and try to find a good fit.
I made contact with the first couple and began to send them photos and even a video. It was a retired couple without dogs or children, and at first I thought they might be the ones. Then we had a call and he asked me, “he doesn’t beg, does he? Because I won’t put up with begging at my table.. ”
I marked him off the list. If a little begging was that big of a deal, then he couldn’t even begin to handle a dog with Kaiser’s issues. The next family was marked off because they had small children and I’d come to learn that Kaiser was nervous around the kids we passed on our walks. Could he get over it? Possibly, but I just felt in my gut that he needed a quieter home.
Next on the list was a lady that seemed to be perfect. Her children were older (two boys, high school and college) and there were no other pets. We talked back and forth for a week and I felt so good about it that we set up an appointment for her to come meet Kaiser. A few days before the meeting, I took him to the vet and his eye was still not good. The vet said another few weeks, on a new rx this time. He would continue to need his eye cleaned multiple times a day, plus drops. How would his new mom do it when she worked full-time? And wouldn’t Kaiser be lonely during the day after having such a pack to hang with every minute? So I delayed the adopt-meeting. In the meantime, Kaiser was transforming into a new little dog that continuously made us laugh with his jolly ways. Everything to him was so exciting! Food. Walks. Belly rubs. He was so grateful! And watching him and Riley wrestle together, then lay next to each other, made my heart swell. It was as though they were long lost brothers.
The days kept ticking by until weeks turned into a few months. We took the boys with us to the beach and Kaiser was beyond thrilled. Everywhere we went, people thought he and Riley were the ‘cutest brothers’. And slowly his fear began to take a backseat to other emotions of hope and happiness. He no longer fought the leash and his anxiety fits came less and less frequently. He could walk into the animal hospital without making a spectacle of us. We’d done our job in readying him for the next steps in his life. Finally, when I could no longer find any excuse to continue to foster him, Ben came home from work and I told him that we would probably have to say goodbye to Kaiser by the end of the week.
Ben, (who let me remind you was never that excited about me fostering dogs and wanted Kaiser gone the first day) turned to me and said, “maybe we should keep him.”
And that, my friends, is the rest of the story.
Kaiser officially became part of the Bratt Pack and it hasn’t been a perfect journey. He still has some issues but don’t we all? His eye is much better though we still treat it daily and it can be costly with the vet visits and meds. Next steps is a possible vet ophthalmologist but at least he can see well out it now. I can tell you this, too. Kaiser is not a junk yard dog. He is housebroken. And he does have manners. She was wrong. And funny thing, until he came along, we didn’t even know we were unbalanced. Now I couldn’t imagine life without my little Kaisie-Bear. And the bond that he and Ben share is one that only a rescued dog and his person can know.
In closing, perhaps you are at a time in your life that you can volunteer for a rescue group? They really need foster families! Or if you cannot foster, then perhaps you could offer a donation to help cover the medical needs of the dogs taken in for care and a second chance? There are many rescues out there. NC Yorkie Rescue is the non-profit I volunteered for and they do a phenomenal job with such scarce resources. They and others could use your help. Also please consider adding to your pack from a rescue, you would not believe the gratitude the dog will have for the rest of it’s life. It’s so rewarding to see a dog’s personality transformed as he/she heals from the ordeal they have been through.
If you are a dog-lover that also likes a great story, please check out my upcoming novel, Wish Me Home, where you’ll fall in love with a dog named Hemi as he searches for a place to call home.
2017 is here and not a moment too soon! Can I get an amen?
Last year was brutal. Not just in politics (won’t go there) or in reference to the violence around the world, but also to me personally and I’m glad to see it gone. I can’t say nothing good happened, because through the trials and tribulations, towards the end of the year I finally found the courage to put on my big girl pants and say no.
I’m finding I’m stronger than I gave myself credit for and I could tell you all the things I’ve said no to in the last few months, but let’s suffice it to say that here in my 47th year on this earth, I am going to try something new and put my own well-being and path to peace on the top of the priority list.
Personally, that means I’m going to take more time to sit on the beach and enjoy the sun, maybe meet some more turtles out on Amelia Island.
I’ll use the bike I got for Christmas to get out and feel the breeze on my face. There’ll be more breaks, stretching, and back to yoga I go. I’ll take every opportunity to consider and be thankful for my blessings, especially for my Ben and our ongoing love story. #Almost23YearsStrong
I’ll try to bridge the distance with loved ones I’ve broken apart from, but if it doesn’t work I’ll be at peace with the decision to let it go.
I’ll find a new avenue for volunteer work. Something different than I’ve done in the past but something that will fill the never-ceasing need in me to be of service to others. I’ll play with my dogs more. Give them more walks. More snuggles. More trips to the park. I’ll put more emphasis on family relationships and friendships, old and new, and work to let each one of them know their worth to me.
I’ll release my search for the proper medication to treat my autoimmune disease, and instead focus on diet, breathing, and emotional well-being as treatment for the chronic pain. I’ll return to a place of spiritual content, relying on a higher power to fill my soul and shelter me from life’s pain.
I’ll stop obsessing about the future and focus on the present, squeezing every drop of joy I can out of my days before they are gone in a flash. I’ll continue my goals to find ways to scatter kindness in small ways throughout my days.
Professionally, I will release my first women’s contemporary fiction book where I rely on my love for dogs and my experiences as a child advocate to bring the reader a story of a young woman battling demons from her childhood as she journeys toward her own happily ever after.
WISH ME HOME is available for pre-order now and will hit your kindles on March 21.
In the fall, I’ll release a historical fiction trilogy titled Sworn Sisters. It is set in the late nineteenth century and chronicles the saga of three young Chinese women, bound by fate and determined to overcome oppression and heartache to find a better life in America. Be sure to join my newsletter to be notified when all the new books are ready to go!
So those are my goals for 2017 and I hope that you’ve set some too. As always, thank you so much for supporting my work. And by the way, what is your main focus or goal for the new year?
Much love to you and yours,
Most of you recognize Riley Radcliffe, my sidekick, shadow, and canine soul mate. Based on my posts and constant photo stream highlighting him and his antics, you know that I love dogs, but did you know that I’ve longed for more dogs in my life? On that note, I decided that the best way to fulfill that need as well as encourage others to do something for needy animals in their life, was to become a foster for dogs. My first thought was can I do this? Will it break my heart? Will it fulfill that hole and need to have more puppy love in my home? I didn’t take the decision lightly and I began to online stalk other fosters for dogs, as well as rescue groups. One of my Facebook friends, Luanne, was a great example to watch as she took in one or two dogs at a time, helping them heal physically and emotionally from whatever life had thrown them until they were ready to go to their furever homes. Each pup she posted I watched the updates and then waited to see if they were adopted. And they were. Every time.
I finally decided I could do it too.
That being decided, I began the process to be approved to be a foster for pups. (I say pups but that includes dogs of every age and I just find it an endearing term). I decided to apply with NC Yorkie Rescue because Riley is a Yorkie (albeit a huge one at 16 healthy lbs!) and I’m familiar with the breed. I completed the online application then waited to be contacted. First I received a call from one of their foster coordinator’s named Sharon. She was lovely but to the point, making our phone interview one that covered everything from how many people and what age lived in our household, to do we rent or buy, have fence or not, what animals we have, what veterinarian we use, and other questions to help them decide to approve my application or not. She then asked for permission to call my vet to question them. They would need to check to be sure Riley was up to date on all his vaccinations. After that call I waited another few weeks and then received an email that I was approved. I have a feeling the group also did their own online stalking to make sure I wasn’t some sort of nut or a creep wanting a dog to flip or use in dog fights. (Yes, that happens all the time because there are a lot of cruel humans out there)
Next, I was connected with another foster coordinator, Judy, who invited me to come out to her house to meet a couple of Yorkie dogs that were there and waiting for a new foster home. Once there, I was smitten by more than one Yorkie but the dog who caught my eye was a little frightened Shih Tzu who darted in and out, watching all of us interact as she kept her distance.
I asked her story and was told her name was Sasha and she was rescued from a breeder after she was deemed of no further use to them, meaning she’d had all the litters of pups to line their pockets that she could manage. I tried to get Sasha to come to me but it only happened once, very briefly. I could tell she didn’t like all the chaos and noise of the other dogs and though I’d come for the familiar breed of a Yorkie, I knew that my quiet and calm household was what Sasha needed to recover and prepare for her furever home. I discussed it with Judy and she agreed that I would be a good fit to foster Sasha, and we headed home.
First lesson I learned as a foster for dogs?
Bring a crate.
It was a long drive home (several hours) with Sasha crawling around, unable to sit still as she anxiously looked for a way out of the car and I kept up a litany of encouraging words. But we finally made it and that evening started our journey together, her learning to heal and act like a dog, and me learning how to be a good foster. First thing I did was change her name. I felt like the name the breeder called her might evoke bad memories so we began calling her Lola Mei. By day two, Lola Mei was still very sad but she liked sitting in my office with me and she was starting to let me pick her up, though it took a lot of courage for her not to cower and hide. I found that she was terrified of most everything, especially going through doors, grass, noises, and men. She trembled a lot, but I moved slowly around her and talked softly and little by little, she began to come around. It wasn’t easy, as Lola would wake up during the night and be afraid, and I would get up and hold/comfort her or take her outside at two or three in the morning just to be sure her needs were being met. For the first week I was exhausted, but committed that together, we would conquer. And I finally had to address her hygiene. I called the grooming shop and talked to the owner, explained Lola’s issues and made arrangements for her to be groomed by their most gentle groomer. She was matted and had to be shaved down, but they took a lot of time and effort to keep her calm and when she survived that experience, I moved to the next thing on the list. A few days later I was sad to leave her at the veterinarian hospital to be spayed. However, I thought I might get two full days of work done with her gone but just like a mom with her kids, I found that her absence made me too restless to accomplish much except worry.
I didn’t expect it, but when the vet assistant brought her out of the back a day later, she was thrilled to see me. From then on, she was my shadow and went everywhere in the house that I did, and especially enjoying being carried or comforted like a baby in a soft blanket. As for Riley, he’s a great foster dog brother to have for new dogs because he’s such a gentle boy. He approached Lola frequently and she accepted him, though the one time he tried to wrestle with her she turned on him like a rabid fox and he never tried that again. I think after years of being bred, she thought he wanted more than an innocent tumble and she had decided she’d never be mounted again! And there were other things that weren’t so easy. I feel like a man must have played a brutal or neglectful part in her life because her fear of Ben– my gentle giant of a husband– was palpable. As Lola bonded tighter with me, she became more resistant toward him, even lunging and snapping at him when he came near the bed if she was on it with me. I talked with the vet and got guidance from a dog behaviorist and learned that from the beginning I should have been allowing Ben to play as big a part as me in her recovery. But we began to do some of the things suggested to get her used to him. Ben was very understanding about it all, especially the part that my life was suddenly consumed by Lola.
I say Riley was a great foster dog brother, but in all honesty he had a few complaints about sharing my attention. Overall though he did wonderful in accepting that there was enough of me to go around. We had a lot of long talks and I let him vent his feelings, and he got a few extra snuggles and treats, but all in all I’m proud of him for sharing in the experience, however daunting it was.
The days went by and slowly, with a lot of patience from all of us, Lola started to recover. She spent a lot of time just staring outdoors and contemplating her new world, her face sad and drawn, and those were the times that I scooped her up and snuggled her close, telling her she was a beautiful girl who would have an amazing future and begging her to give humankind another chance. I took her for more vet appointments and was pleased when she gained a few pounds.
Soon there began to be moments that we reveled in seeing her prance with her tail up and her feet dancing as she followed me around the yard, always keeping me in sight. We took in another foster dog named Kaiser (A follow-up post will be forthcoming) and she decided she liked Kaiser too. While she wasn’t used to a leash, or walks for that matter, she enjoyed going on our evening strolls, perched in the doggie stroller with a few stops to let her out to do her business. Then one day, a few weeks later we were out for a walk and suddenly, Lola jumped out of the stroller and decided she wanted to be a dog! That began a new phase of us getting her used to the leash and walking to enjoy all the wonderful and new scents a neighborhood had to offer. I believe it helped for her to see Riley and Kaiser and what they were doing, and in a way they showed her how to act like a dog and what the fun things to do were. We rounded a bend that evening and I could see a whole new Lola emerging. She ate with the other dogs, walked with them, and sometimes even played a little with them. Most of all though, she wanted my attention. She loved for me to hold her, snuggle her, brush her, or just walk with her around the yard as she stared up at the trees and down at the grass as though she’d never seen such magnificent things.
A month after I first met Lola the day came that the founder of the rescue group sent me a message that had 4-5 families names and phone numbers. They were all interested in adopting Lola Mei and it was time to start screening them to see if they were a fit. As I stared at the message, I felt my heart fall. I knew that being a foster would be difficult, but I never imagined getting to be a part of the recovery of such a sweet girl who’d been through such emotional neglect, and then feeling the possessiveness I felt for Lola. I wanted to continue protecting her! I couldn’t imagine anyone else being patient enough to carry her out the door, or better yet, stand there for five minutes as she got the courage to run out it herself, then praising her for it. I didn’t think there’d be that person who would understand when she lashed out, knowing it was fear and not temperament that made her cranky when she was facing something new and unfamiliar. I thought no one but me would prepare her for bed by snuggling her, kissing her, and whispering to her all the way to the crate and then bending down to tell her goodnight and it would be alright.
The first family I screened we decided wasn’t a good fit for Lola, but would be a possibility for Kaiser. I moved on to the next name on the list and after talking with her, with a heavy and unsure heart, I set up a time for her to come meet Lola. She came the next Saturday and brought her dog and her fiance. Lola did not cooperate. With new people in the house, she suddenly reverted to the frightened, snappy dog she was on day one. When the lady tried to hold Lola, the situation went bad and a bite was barely avoided. They left without Lola, thinking that her needs might be too much for them, as on my end I thought Lola wasn’t ready. That evening, I called the founder of the group and she not-so-gently told me everything I did wrong as the foster facilitating the meeting. The criticism was hard to hear but was exactly what I needed and together, we decided to try again. Of course I considered keeping her myself, but something kept keeping me from saying the words. I just wasn’t sure we were the right fit for her as a permanent solution and I began this journey to foster, not adopt.
I went back to my list and called the next family, which resulted in a long conversation with a lovely lady who has many years of experience with not only Shih Tzus but also with rescues. I gave her the entire rundown of Lola’s issues, being sure not to leave anything out for full disclosure. At the end of the call I asked her if I’d scared her away and she said certainly not. I was relieved because she and her husband, and their little girl Shih Tzu Buffy, sounded like they could be the right home for Lola. But I’d already been through one failed meeting so I was on guard and this time, I let the rescue founder walk me through exactly what to do to have the most successful outcome. We made an appointment for Lola and I to come meet them, at their address so that I could ensure their home/yard was appropriate for my girl. That next week I felt really sad and worried as first, I put her to bed for the last time, then the morning approached and we took our last walk around the yard.
The morning of Lola’s new journey arrived and I packed up all the things I’d bought for her. I’d typed up a long list of instructions and details about her likes, dislikes, feeding, and walking schedule. Her crate, complete with her favorite pink blanket and a shirt I’d slept in was to be her carriage and I packed her in, putting treats in with her to help keep her busy on the road. About halfway there we stopped at a truck stop for her to use the bathroom and as she pranced around on the end of the leash, I felt a lump in my throat that here I was probably the first human she trusted and I was probably delivering her to someone else. I almost turned around and went home but I decided that the couple at least deserved to meet her, as they’d planned their day around me. So we continued on and around noon we arrived in Stanley, North Carolina, to a quiet and quaint neighborhood that was pleasing to the eye. I found their home and pulled in, so nervous I could almost hear my own heartbeat.
“We don’t have to stay,” I whispered to Lola as she looked up at me with those huge dark eyes. “We’ll just see how they are.”
Both Jim and Sylvia, the prospective couple, met me on the porch and I can honestly say from the first moment I felt nothing but a calm kindness from both of them. Here they were a retired couple who had recently lost one of their beloved dogs but was still settled and complete, yet willing to open their hearts and homes to a rescue that they already understood had some fairly severe issues to get over. Lola and I went in and I was shocked to find that Lola wasn’t as nervous as I thought she’d be. She pranced around their house, then their yard, as though she already knew she’d be coming.
We moved back inside and she settled down, not showing any aggression or fear; another surprise to me as I almost expected her to stomp her little paw and snap her tiny jaws in defiance. But none of that happened and as we all talked, she almost looked at home! Jim sat in the floor, talking to Lola and offering her treats, getting to know her while letting her have her space. We discussed how to avoid the mistake I’d made with Lola in hoarding all her attention. They’d decided in the first days to get her used to Jim as much as Sylvia, he would do most of her feeding/walking, etc.. I had shielded her from Ben because I knew she was afraid of men, but I had unknowingly set the boundary and would never do that again. We discussed other ways to help Lola when it came to doors, etc.. As we talked, their Shih Tzu, Buffy, was calm and paid scant attention to either me or Lola, but their resemblance to one another was something special and I could see them bonding as sisters. Buffy spent most of her time in her mama’s arms, every once in awhile reaching up to kiss Sylvia sweetly on the neck or cheek, and I could barely imagine her as the needy rescue dog they said she’d come to them as so many years before.
I know I was there nearly three hours, picking the brains of Jim and Sylvia while they slowly interacted with Lola and I watched like a hawk, but by the time I finally stood up I knew that I’d found the perfect place for our sweet girl. Carefully, I put Lola in her crate and we talked some more, letting her watch from her known safe spot. Then eventually we moved our talk to the kitchen so that I could slip out without making a dramatic exit. I left there sad for myself, but satisfied in the realization that I had helped Lola recover enough to be able to accept a new family that I knew would have the capacity to love her through all her fear and sadness, and make the rest of her years on earth as comforting as every dog deserves. And I can’t wait to see and hear how Lola (with her sister, Buffy) is doing a year from now in her furever home. The photo below is from the second or third day in her new home and the sad look on her face brought me to tears. But the update was that though she looked sad, she was adjusting and had already accepted Buffy.
The photo below is two weeks after Lola Mei went to her new home. Her furever mom had this to say about her: Ms. Bossy is settling in. She and Buffy get along real well and she’s one of the gang. We came home from dinner today and Lola and Buffy came running to the door, barking and tails wagging as if we had been gone all day. Lola LOVES being outside, she goes out, sniff’s the air, runs from one end to the other (ears flying), looks up at the trees, she’s a special little being. Thank you for preparing this sweet little girl for a family.
Lola Mei, I will always love you and remember you as my first foster dog. I’ve learned that it’s not easy to be a foster to dogs, but it’s worth all the time, patience, and heartbreak to know that you accepted me to be your safe place to recover and heal from your invisible scars as we prepared to find you the perfect furever home. You taught me a lot and I hope I taught you that you are worthy of loyalty and lasting love.
I also hope that by making this journey so public, others will open their homes to foster needy dogs. Being that safe place as they heal and prepare for their furever home is a rewarding experience! Contact your local shelter or specific breed rescue groups to apply to foster or adopt. There are approximately 7.6 million companion animals entering animal shelters nationwide every year. and each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized. Many rescue groups pull dogs from shelters before they are destined to die, but they need our help to get them to a furever home. If you’d like to make a donation to help dogs in need, you can make one to Lola’s rescue [NC Yorkie Rescue] or find one in your area. All rescue dogs must be vaccinated, spayed/neutered, and all medical issues treated before being approved for adoption and that takes more funds than adoption fees bring in. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.
[stay tuned for my upcoming post about Kaiser, my second foster dog that on day one made me afraid and questioning if I was cut out to be a foster for dogs. What I learned from him is to never judge a dog the first day you meet them.]
The Life of Willow duology was inspired by the many emails and messages I’ve received from my readers asking if my books are suitable for their teenage children. With that in mind, I set out to write a story that would appeal to those going into their teenage years, as well as entertain my usual adult audience. The story of Willow began from the prologue in my memoir, Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. In the prologue, Mei Li is a young mother forced by her husband and his family to give up her less-than-perfect child. The act is devastating to her and the child, changing their lives forever. Then, the Life of Willow picks up sixteen years later, for she is the daughter of Mei Li from Silent Tears. It is also my hope that in writing these stories, readers will join me in realizing what my connections to the adoption community have taught me—that families are built in a variety of ways, and it only takes love and acceptance to begin a foundation that can result in a lifelong bond between individuals, whether they share the same blood or not. And for those adoptees who are still searching for answers, I wish them a measure of peace and a reminder that the struggle is part of your story, though it does not have to be the ending. Every person is in charge of their own happily ever after.
Download Somewhere Beautiful [at Amazon]
Download Where I Belong [at Amazon]
The Story Behind THE PALEST INK
By Kay Bratt
THE PALEST INK is a story that started in my heart and stayed there for three years before putting it to paper. As I wrote my previous books, I was storing thoughts and possibilities, even characters and plotlines to be used, but only when I felt ready to take it on and do the story the justice it deserved.
Let me tell you how it began.
After writing Silent Tears, a memoir detailing my five years working in orphanages in China, I came across a news article about an elderly person in China who worked near the train station for decades. During that time he found many abandoned babies. Rather than turn them in to the authorities and let them enter the broken child welfare system, he took them home, him and his wife raising them as their own. Soon another similar article followed, this time of an elderly woman dying of cancer and the many now-grown children at her bedside who were saved from the streets by her. Both of these stories were heart-warming and thought-provoking. As I navigated daily life in China, I’d passed many elderly people. With simple conversation using the conversational and sometimes comical mandarin I’d learned, I knew they held nuggets of wisdom and well-guarded memories of a past gone by—history that was mostly unrecorded because in China, the media is controlled by the government and twisted to fit the picture they want to present to the rest of the world.
So I decided to write my own story about a man, his wife, and the family they build by rescuing abandoned girls. Though they were a poor and struggling family, they were rich with love and loyalty.
I began the story with a prologue of the man—Benfu—as a teenager, escaping from a commune during the Cultural Revolution after being persecuted and tortured. By the acts of a country gone mad, he was torn from his family and forced to hide, but found acceptance with a girl who became his wife. Chapter one opens with Benfu in his golden years, together with the love of his life, having built their garden of flowers consisting of the many daughters they had rescued. The book did well enough to evolve into a series called The Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters, and readers let me know that they’d like to know more about the time that Benfu was in the commune and the events that transpired which set his life on the path it took.
I agreed that despite the popularity of the modern-day series, perhaps I’d missed the real story, which was Benfu’s early and tumultuous introduction to adulthood by way of the Cultural Revolution. I began to add to my knowledge by researching that time period in China. The real life accounts of people who’d survived—and some who had not—were intriguing yet harrowing, and THE PALEST INK began to take form. As I wrote outlines and took notes from many sources, I decided to weave in real-life accounts of innocent people who were persecuted; beaten and imprisoned, their families torn apart for nothing more than leading the honest life they’d led in which Chairman Mao decided was against loyalty of country. The truth I dug up in my research was startling—that just for being an artist, musician, writer or teacher, one could be deemed a traitor and discarded like a piece of trash. I also discovered that for decades, the truth of what really happened during what they informally called “The Ten Years of Chaos” that was the Cultural Revolution was all but forgotten.
Why was this so? Because in Mao’s attempt to re-write history, most accounts of abuse of power were hidden from the world. To be caught with uncensored photographs or reports could mean death. Unapproved media articles or reports rarely slipped out. All over China, others had no idea of the path of death, starvation, and destruction that was happening around them. Thousands upon thousands of people were misled and fell into the trap of blindly following their leader, allowing him to reshape their thoughts to a point that many turned on their own families in an attempt to show their loyalty to Chairman Mao and the Communist Party.
With months of research under my belt, I finally came to understand the fear that I’d noticed the elderly Chinese people held for anyone in a position of authority. Everything began to make sense, and the reasoning for why Benfu was the way he was began to fall into place.
In THE PALEST INK, Benfu comes from an upper class family of scholars, which during the revolution was a source of shame. His best friend, Pony Boy, is from a poor class which is suddenly the favored class. Together they decide the people need to know the truth of what is happening to their country. There is an old proverb that says the palest ink is better than the best memory, and it is fitting considering the ban against recording of history that happened for so many years in China.
In the book, the idea of an underground newsletter called The Palest Ink is formed and is the catalyst for either the path to freedom, or the first steps to destruction of every bit of stability they’ve ever known. Benfu and Pony Boy must decide between being courageous and following what they believe in, or conforming like others around them to protect their families and themselves.
In closing, I think it’s important to mention that THE PALEST INK is more than another novel to me. It is written in dedication to the many who lost their lives, or were torn from their families and persecuted, for nothing more than the name they carried, the career they held, or any artistic talents they were unlucky enough to be born with. With this book, I want to convey to the people of China that every life is worth living, and not a single one should ever be considered anything but precious. With THE PALEST INK, I hope that they or at the least, their descendants, know they are not forgotten.
THE PALEST INK is available in print and Ebook on Amazon at [this link].
For those who prefer to listen to a story unfold, THE PALEST INK is available in Audio.
….and don’t forget that now that THE PALEST INK has launched, there are five books in the Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters, so get them all to be totally engrossed in the story of a family who puts love and loyalty above all.