Writing Old Friends into a New Story by Lisa Belcastro
I can’t imagine a life without pets. I’ve loved animals since I was old enough to understand the difference between a toy cat and the real deal. I’ve lived with cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits, fish, gerbils, guinea pigs, birds, and horses, though the horses lived in the barn – thank goodness. My life is better for sharing it with a variety of creatures, and since I can’t fathom a day without animals in it, my characters also share the pages with lovable critters.
In my upcoming release, Shenandoah Dreams, I couldn’t resist the chance to bring to back life, if only for the length of the story, a few of my former companions. Spike, the twenty-two pound cat with the sixth-sense and an appetite for grilled salmon, showed up on Melissa Smith’s doorstep six years earlier. In real life, Spike was a cat I adopted nearly thirty years ago. I was fresh out of college, working my first journalist job, and in need of a companion. I drove to the nearest animal shelter two towns over, and fell head over heels for a large white kitty.
My Spike was declawed, but he could hunt, climb trees and jump up on my horse’s back as well as any other farm feline. Both Spikes, mine and Melissa’s, were affectionate and voracious eaters, though I’ve never grilled salmon for any of my cats.
One of Spike’s best friends on our small farm in Virginia was my first dog, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Bandit. Those two would run and play together until they were both exhausted. Some nights I would be laughing so hard my stomach hurt as I watched them chase each other around the coffee table running what I called the “Corgi Circle.”
Bandit was my most special dog ever, maybe because he was my first, but most likely because he was a great dog. Though short in stature, Bandit was big in heart, spirit, and sense of adventure. I showed him in obedience, agility, and conformation classes. He won ribbons in them all, but what he really succeeded at was loving me. He was by my side day in and day out, and when my daughter was born, Bandit decided that guarding Kayla, playing with her, and always keeping her in his sight was his new job. Neither his joy, nor pride, ever faltered when Kayla dressed him up in pink skirts and baby doll clothes. Bandit was the dog of lifetime, and though we’ve had other dogs since, I doubt there will ever be another quite as special as Bandit.
When I began writing Shenandoah Dreams, I knew I was going to call Melissa’s cat Spike. Remembering what good friends Spike and Bandit had been, I wanted to somehow bring Bandit into the story too. The captain of my fictionalized Shenandoah has always sailed with his dogs, just as his real-life counterpart, Captain Robert Douglas, does aboard the modern-day Shenandoah that sails from Martha’s Vineyard. Captain Douglas has two Jack Russells that he brings onboard. (You can see pictures of them on my website.) In my story I changed the Jack Russells to Corgis. I ran a contest on my author Facebook page asking readers to help me name the dogs. Noah, is a red and white male, who is Bandit incarnate. Cassie, the black-headed tri, is based on my sweet Willow who delivered two litters from Bandit.
Visualizing the dogs and the children in the book interacting brought back wonderful memories of Bandit and Willow. Writing them into scenes they never lived during their lifetimes allowed me to experience my beloved puppies in a new setting, with new people, and gave me new impressions to remember them by. I’m so glad I could include three of my special friends in the final book in my Winds of Change trilogy.
What pets have you owned? Has one touched your heart more than others?
Here’s an Amazon link to buy: SHENANDOAH DREAMS: Shenandoah Dreams
by Lisa Belcastro
What if she met the man of her dreams…in another century? Tisbury, Massachusetts, Martha s Vineyard. It s just a dream, Melissa Smith whispers as she stares into the intense eyes of a man dressed in Colonial clothes, as though stepping out of an American Revolution movie set. A school chaperone with Holmes Hole Elementary, she d boarded the old schooner Shenandoah for a weeklong educational sail. But they are not visiting Plimoth Plantation, the Boston Tea Party Museum, or the Concord Bridge reenactment. They re sailing the waters around the island of Martha s Vineyard.
Yet, when she awakes in Cabin 8, the captain claims to be Isaiah Reed, who sailed the original Shenandoah in the eighteenth century. He cannot possibly be real, Melissa thinks. And traveling back in time is impossible. But days pass, and she s still in 1770. What if Isaiah, who is simply too handsome to be real, is real? What if the fire he ignites in her from barely a touch isn t in her imagination? Can a dream last for weeks on end? If so, how will she find her way home…to the twenty-first century? And can she bear to leave the one man who has captured her heart, when everything in her longs to stay? A Vineyard Romance Romance, history, adventure. Get swept into the exciting Winds of Change series.
I had to put down my dog of 12 yes. He had cancer. I couldn’t bear watching him suffer any longer. It was the hardest decisions I ever made. I took three days off work to spend every hour with him and realized his pain was unbearable. I had to decide to love him more than the love I received from him and called the vet on the third day and said today or never. They arranged a private room at the end of the day and gave me some quite time with him. I held him close to my heart, while sitting in the floor with the vet by my side holding the needle with the lethal injection. He asked me if I was ready and I slowly nodded my head. As Moses went limp in my arms I cried and cried. I quickly turned to the vet and asked if he thought dogs went to heaven. With tears streaming down his face he nodded a yes. I have the urn with his ashes and I will carry them to heaven when I die.
Thank you for sharing that story Faye. I had nearly the same experience with my Bandit. A piece of me surely died with him. I buried Bandit next to my horse Zachary. They were buds, and I’m sure they are running around the fields of Heaven having a wonderful time together.
Thank you so much for having me back to visit. The blog looks awesome, as always! I love seeing the pictures of Spike, Bandit and Willow up on your page.
I lost my best friend Selena 4years ago she was 14 I knew she was getting old but just couldn’t bear to put her down so one nite as I lay on the couch with her at my feet she gently passed away though it was hard I know she died doing what she loved most laying at my feet
A beautiful story Sara. How blessed you were to be with her when she passed. I hope you’ve found a new companion to share your heart with.
When I was a freshman in college we took in a stray dag. He was part chow and part something. 😉 We named him Toro and all loved him. He was the first dog I actually loved and the first dog we had that was allowed in the house. He knew when someone was coming home even before the vehicle was in sight and he would run to the end of the driveway to wait. As soon as he saw the car he would take off running around the perimeter of the yard chasing any squirrel, bird or rabbit that dared step foot on the property, then dash in and out of the garage door–all as the car drove up the driveway. We always said he was checking to make sure everything was safe. 🙂
I was working one day and during a break checked my email. I had graduated from nursing school and moved from OH to SC. In the email, mom told me that Toro had disappeared and they hadn’t been able to find him anywhere. My dad and brother checked the woods, the roads, and the buildings on the property, no Toro. I was devastated and started crying right there at the nurse’s station. We never did find out what happened to Toro and my parents never got another dog.
I love that you wrote your pets into the story.
Oh, Carrie, how heartbreaking! I would have been crying too!! I don’t know that I’ll get another dog at this point. We’ve had two since Bandit, but I think he’s the one who stole my heart. We have cats now, and Ben is my best bud. Hoping he’s around for at least 20 years.
I had a cat that showed up at my house when I was 15. She stayed with me for another 14 years. She was one special kitty. She was so lovable and sweet. She followed me everywhere I went. She even thought she was a dog. She dug holes in the yard, she had to be let outside to potty (sometimes she could open the door herself and go out), she growled at people if they touched her food (except me of course), and came to a whistle. Her best friend was my lab who was also my baby boy. She passed when he was 6, 10 years ago and he passed 2 years ago. The lab was so special to me too. He knew how to do so many tricks. He was sweet and loved his mommy unconditionally. Such great love!
I love that story Amy! Your cat sounds like she thought she was a dog. It’s awesome when cats and dogs are best buds. Spike and Bandit were a fine duo, always goofing off, and constantly trying to sneak up on the other one.
Oh yes, the love of pets. 🙂 Growing up on a farm we had so many cats. I would always get attached to them and then cry when they died. Our indoor one was unique and special and finally passed away at a ripe old 19 years old. My heart breaks every time a pet passes. I almost refuse to get another one just so I don’t have to experience that again. Thank you for sharing with us!
It is so hard to experience the loss of a pet. We do become attached to them, and they are all unique and special. I’m praying Ben is with me for at least another fifteen years, hoping for 20. He writes with me, gardens with me, and curls up with me while I read. What’s not to love?!