Furbidden Fatality by Deborah Blake

Furbidden Fatality book In true cozy mystery fashion, this story follows a single, unlucky-in-love gal who is at a crossroads in her young, 30-something life. Now for the twist! She just won the lotto and has millions of dolla dolla bills to spare! When an adorable homeless kitten crosses her path, she discovers a rundown animal rescue in the midst of closing down furever—oh no! So of course she has to buy it and save all the homeless doggies and kitties that have nowhere else to go—not even the city pound, which is underfunded and over capacity. This is sadly the case in the real world, and I speak from 12 years of experience as a seasoned dog rescue volunteer who got chewed up and spit out by the F****D-up system. I’ll stop right here before I get up on my soapbox. Trust me, you don’t want that!

The mystery: This is a fun little whodunnit involving nefarious vandals, shady townsfolk and one sadistic animal control officer who seems to have it in for one particular dog (a pit bull, of course). Kari’s efforts to spruce up the rescue gets thwarted when she stumbles across his dead body on her property—making her suspect No. 1! Why was he shoveling a hole in her dog yard? Who’s smashing her windows and leaving misspelled threats on her doorstep? Why is the police department so pitifully useless? Well you’ll have to read the book to find out!

What I liked: The protagonist Kari Stuart is living my dream of running my very own animal rescue/sanctuary, providing a safe place for all the sweet doggies that get turned away from the so-called “No Kill” (aka Slow Kill) rescues. Might I just add that the term “No Kill” is a misnomer because these shelters are indeed killing dogs. It’s a numbers game and no dog is safe—especially at the most beloved shelters (*cough* Austin Pets Alive *cough*) where dirty, dirty politics are at work. A dog’s chances hinge upon their level of popularity with politically-savvy volunteers and the “dog behaviorists,” whom by the way have zero dog-training certification credentials and just use a one-size-fits-all method of punishment-based methods—including shock collars that they like to call “remote collars.”

Oops…did I just get on my soapbox a bit? Sorry y’all! Ok, back to the book. So Kari is a girl after my own heart, and I appreciate her willingness to eschew a luxurious life in Tuscany with her riches to answer the call of duty—hoorah! I especially love her cute little black kitty sidekick who magically knows how to warn her when danger is near.

What didn’t work: Kari is clearly a passionate cat lover, but I didn’t really sense much of a connection with dogs. I’m not sure how much research was put into the making of this book, but I think it would have behooved the author to watch an entire season of Pit Bulls and Parolees. If anyone can embody the passion—the spirituality even—that goes into a dog rescue operation, it’s Tia Torres and her two daughters. I think this may have been more believable if Kari was running a cat rescue, but dogs…not so much. I really hope this develops further in the next book, and I have faith that it will because I’m rooting for Kari!

This review is in honor of Brindle, Goldman and Dennis (aka Denny Bear). All three died at the shelter this year. 

Overall: This is a fun little mystery that is sure to please animal lovers—especially us crazy cat ladies! I applaud the author for bringing more attention to our nation’s overburdened and underfunded animal centers. It seems like you’d have to be a lotto winner in order to start a new rescue facility in a society that places very little priority on animal welfare. Sorry—had to throw in one last soapbox zinger.

Shoutout to NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Dog Rescue—Not for the Faint of Heart

12310553_769685853160217_3841760361102584602_nToday I received some heartbreaking news. One of my most favorite shelter dogs is no longer with us. This afternoon he was euthanized, hopefully in the arms of his loving foster parents. I wouldn’t know because I wasn’t strong enough to be there to say my final goodbyes.

I’d like to think of myself as strong, as someone who can tamp down the sadness and keep moving forward with a big smile on my face. But sometimes those emotional blinders aren’t airtight.

You see, I’m the cheerful one. I’m the girl who’s always cracking jokes and dressing the poor dogs up in tutus and boas. Nothing gets me down! Well that’s what people see anyway. Today is a different story.

I'm reading this book in Derek's honor.
I’m reading this book in Derek’s honor.

I guess there’s a reason why they call crazy dog people like me “bleeding hearts.” Right now it feels like my heart has been squeezed, resulting in sporadic crying jags and a daylong headache.

It’s a reminder that this work that I do is not easy.

It’s not easy when I say goodnight to my BFF, Spanky, and he looks back at me in total confusion. Night after night, I put him back in his kennel and he offers me a fluffy toy with a look that says, “Where you going? I’m still ready to play!”

It’s not easy when I’m short on time and Miss Mary (a beautiful chocolate lab who has gone overlooked for months) whimpers when I walk by, begging me to take her out just for a quick dip in the lake. I drive home feeling like the biggest creep on earth for not giving in.

It’s not easy when I start to see the effects of shelter life on the dogs that have been there for months—even years.

It’s not easy taking a day off from the shelter knowing that my little buddies are expecting to see me promptly at 7 p.m.

It’s not easy when I’m hustling to get home for dinner and I see a restless dog bouncing and spinning like Tigger on speed.

It’s not easy when it’s 100-plus degrees outside and there’s still a dozen more dogs that need to be walked.

And selflishly, it’s not easy when they get adopted. It’s both wonderful and heartbreaking to say my final goodbyes. This, of course, is the ultimate goal. I want my babies to get adopted, believe me! But it’s still hard letting them go and not having any control over their lives. What if they get left outside in the pouring rain? What if their adopters don’t follow the rules and put them in a dangerous situation? I can drive myself bonkers ruminating about the worst-case scenario, or I can just move on. So that’s what I do.

People outside of my amazing circle of APA friends often ask me how I can spend so much time in such a depressing place. I’m often perplexed when I see visitors with tears in their eyes and then realize that I’ve been desensitized to it all.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t see it as depressing. I think of it as a sleep-away camp for dogs. They’re just here for a short while to make some new friends, learn some skills and play games.

Compared to most other shelters, these dogs are getting out a lot more—on field trips, sleepovers and runs around the lake. They’re even working on their behavioral skills so they’ll be good to go when their adopters come. Derek was my “Behavioral Buddy,” meaning we worked together on some of his problem areas –all stemming from his silliness and ADD. Luckily he was obsessed with treats, so it didn’t take a lot of convincing to get him to mind his manners. That little twerp figured out pretty fast that eye contact would get him treats. So while walking on the crowded trail, he would stare at me the entire time while I popped treats into his mouth. We were the two stooges of Town Lake, making random strangers smile and laugh at the sight of a doofy dog walking sideways.

I have so many good memories of this gorgeous hunk of a dog—costume contests, cuddling sessions, field trips to Sonic—that I will always keep close to my heart. I’m sad that his behavior took a drastic turn for the worst, and it’s frustrating knowing that it was completely out of my control—or the control of his foster parents. Sometimes they are their own worst enemies. There’s only so much we can do to keep them happy and safe. That feeling of powerlessness can be overwhelming.

While the blinders are temporarily down and I let myself give into the tears, I will acknowledge that I’m dealing with some heavy issues. The sadness is there, but it is almost totally eclipsed by the joy those dogs bring into my life. If anything, my mental health has vastly improved thanks to all those wonderful creatures who greet me with smiles and tail wags every night. That goes for my APA friends as well! They are the only ones who truly understand what I’m going through right now. Plus, they are totally cool with being seen with me in public while I’m wearing my crocs and dirty dog clothes…sometimes even a tutu. I love them. I love my APA dogs. And I love who I have become since I began my volunteer work in 2009.

Rest in peace, my sweet Derek. Run free!