Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Truth can be stranger than fiction: the tragic saga of Lucky, my golden retriever

Today we are lucky to have a guest post by writer, Julie Lomoe. Enjoy!

Truth can be stranger than fiction: the tragic saga of Lucky, my golden retriever
By Julie Lomoe

Dogs have long played a central role in my life and my fiction but Lucky, the beautiful golden retriever in my author photo for /Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders, /may have been the last dog I’ll ever own. Six months after the photo was taken, he died of lymphoma, and in the years since then, I’ve switched to cats. Setting up this Blog Book Tour, reading my hosts’ reactions to the photo, I realized I’d never written about Lucky. Since Karen’s blog focuses on memoir and nonfiction, this seems like the perfect time.

But Rishi, the dog before Lucky, deserves pride of place. He’s a major character in "Mood Swing." In fact, his image is in my cover illustration, and his name is the first word in the first chapter:

"Rishi was halfway out the window and onto the fire escape when I tackled him. Arms around my dog’s massive shoulders, I groped for his choke chain and yanked hard. Half a dozen pigeons flapped skyward, squawking."

I described him on Page 2:

"He’s leaner and rangier than a German shepherd, stockier than a Doberman, bigger than a Rottweiler. Despite his forbidding looks, he’s a basically friendly beast, but sometimes it’s in my best interests not to let people know that."

That last sentence was literary license. Rishi was wonderfully affectionate and loving, but only to our immediate family, and he was never adequately trained. Despite a near-death experience with a neighbor’s hammer that left a permanent dent in his skull – a story for another time – Rishi lived nearly ten years, a good long life for a big dog. But his death threw me into a deep depression.

Enter Lucky, a year or so later. He came into our lives with what seemed at first to be joyous synchronicity. At a Woodstock party given by friends of my daughter Stacey, someone mentioned having a golden retriever who needed a new home. I was instantly intrigued – we’d owned a beautiful golden named Shawna when Stacey was a child, and except for her propensity to chew up the woodwork during thunderstorms, she’d been a wonderful member of the family.
Right after the party, I paid a home visit to meet Lucky, fell instantly in love, called my husband on my cell, and within a week we had a beautiful four-year-old male golden. He came with a tragic back story: he’d been the beloved companion of an 84-year-old man who lived alone in the Catskills, and when the man was hospitalized, one of the nurses befriended both him and Lucky. Shortly after the man’s discharge, he was brutally murdered by a neighbor he’d known and trusted for years, a handyman in search of money for drugs.

The nurse took Lucky in, and in turn passed him on to the folks who gave him to us for adoption. The poor dog was threatening the family’s togetherness. They already had a couple of young kids, a poodle and a cat, and a rambunctious young retriever sent them over the top. The husband’s job took him on the road a lot, but when he was home, he told us, he and Lucky slept together downstairs while the wife, kids, poodle and cat slept upstairs. Not exactly a prescription for marital bliss, so Lucky had to go.

Soon after the photo session with Lucky, his health began spiraling downward. He couldn’t seem to keep food down, and he was weakening and losing weight. After extensive testing, the vet diagnosed lymphoma. In a futile attempt to buy more time, we opted for extensive – and expensive – surgery. In retrospect, that was a mistake, but he’d been so young, so lovable, that we thought it was worth the gamble.

He died in early fall. We buried him in the garden out back, marked the spot with a marble plaque bearing an iris design my husband had carved years before. I planted dozens of bulbs – crocus, daffodil, and hyacinth – and they’ve bloomed luxuriously in the three years since.
Dogs play a major role in both my novels, but they never, ever come to a bad end. In fact the villain in my suspense novel /Eldercide /nearly refuses an assignment when he thinks it might mean harming the victim’s Jack Russell terrier. And I could probably never write that scene where the neighbor tries to murder Rishi with a ball peen hammer, with me coming between them, shrieking that he’ll have to kill me first, screaming bloody murder until the neighbors call 911 and the police arrive. On the other hand, maybe enough time has passed – and after all, the dog survived in the end.

As I write, my cat Lunesta is writhing around on the desk next to my computer, tempting me to rub her tummy and doing her best to bat the mouse out of my hand and onto the floor. Does she sense I’m writing about dogs? Is she demanding equal time? For now, she’ll have to wait.

Julie Lomoe has been named 2009 Author of the Year by the Friends of the Albany Public Library. She’ll be honored at a luncheon on November 14th, and she’s scheduled her first Blog Book Tour to help celebrate and spread the word about this achievement. Julie self-published her two mystery novels, Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders (2006) and Eldercide (2008). She tried the traditional route to publication for both books, but after a limited number of rejections, she found the process inordinately depressing and turned to print-on-demand technology instead, using the Texas publishing company Virtual Bookworm. She loves the control and involvement she’s had over the published product, including the fact that she was able to use her own cover illustrations for both books.

Although she still hopes to land a traditional agent and publisher, she intends to do so on her own terms when the time and the match feel right. The library’s selection committee for the Author of the Year award chose Julie especially for her novel Eldercide, because of its relevance to current issues surrounding health care reform and our nation’s treatment of the elderly and of end-of-life issues. The award has been given for decades, but this is the first time the committee has chosen a self-published rather than a traditionally published book.

Julie Lomoe knows home health care from the ground up. As President of ElderSource, Inc., a Licensed Home Care Services Agency in upstate New York, she became certified as a Personal Care Aide and filled in frequently for absent aides. The experience inspired Eldercide, the first in a mystery series featuring the staff and clients of Compassionate Care, an agency in the fictional town of Kooperskill, New York.

Julie’s first published novel, Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders is set in a social club for the mentally ill on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The work was inspired by her many years of mental health experience, both as a professional and as a consumer. Both books are available online from Virtual Bookworm, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Barnard College, Julie received an MFA from Columbia University and an MA in Art Therapy from New York University. She lived in SoHo for many years, exhibiting at the Museum of Modern Art, The Brooklyn Museum, and many Manhattan galleries. She showed her paintings and won a prize at the Woodstock Festival of Music and Art in 1969, an experience she blogged about in a three-part series this past August. Julie has published poetry as well as articles on home care, mental health, aging, and women’s issues.

Visit her blog, Julie Lomoe’s Musings Mysterioso (http://julielomoe.wordpress.com/) to learn more and read the first chapters of her novels.

Thank you, Julie, for such a lovely guest post and best of luck on your book blog tour!!



Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Dogs become a real member of the family, don't they? Cats too, but they're such independent thinkers that it's a different experience!

Best of luck with your book tour, Julie.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Crystal Clear Proofing said...

I really enjoy blog tours! It gives us such a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the person behind the book(s)!!

I just love how Julie has used her own experiences and written about these issues. Best of luck for the rest of your tour, Julie!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

The murder of the old man, the dog being struck by a hammer...sounds like the makings of a good novel. I am so sorry, however, that Lucky's story did not have a happily ever after ending.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Very nice (and poignant) post, Julie and Karen. I haven't had a dog or cat in many years, but as soon as I stop all this traveling, I think I'll have to adopt one. My brother's Scottie was rescued, and he's a treasure.

Julie Lomoe said...

Hi Elizabeth, "Crystal," Jane and Patricia. Thanks so much for the comments. Eldercide contains two major canine characters - the protagonist Claire's Labradoodle, Freia, and the Jack Russell she adopted after its owner was killed (in the scene that turned out to be my cover illustration.) And the agency owner, Paula Rhodes, has cats named Lunesta and Zoloft, who will figure more prominently in the next book. They snuck into the final draft at the last minute after Lucky died and we adopted two cats, Lunesta and Beep.

I could go on and on about cats and dogs, but I've got to write my next two blog posts STAT!

Oh and Karen, thanks so much for hosting me today! It's a thrill seeing my post in a new setting like this.

Maryann Miller said...

What a lovely tribute to your dogs, Julie. They do have a way of worming themselves into our lives and our hearts. And making us do foolish things like spending lots of money to keep them around a little longer. We have a thousand dollar cat that I wish would stay in the house and not venture out where he could become dinner for a coyote.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Glad you told us about Lucky! Our pets have always been family members, although like you, we are just cat peoples now.

Joanne said...

Hi Karen and Julie,
What a heartwarming story, Lucky seems as lucky to have found you as you were to find him. We rescued our cat after she spent 4 and a half months in a cage in the humane society. What a dimension of love she's brought to our family, and humor too! Her thing is to paw at the blinking cursor on my computer screen. Thanks for sharing your story here, and best wishes on your Blog Tour.

Shelby said...

That was a very heartwarming story.. love those.

Tabitha Bird said...

Great post. thank you Julie. I love furry people too :)

Julie Lomoe said...

Thanks to Diane and Maryann for hosting me earlier this week and for following me here. Joanne, Shelby and Tabitha, thanks for commenting here, and I hope you'll visit my blog as well.

Coincidentally, I just read a fascinating story in the new AARP magazine (the one with Natalie Cole on the cover) about our attachment to pets and the incredible things they can do for us. It cites recent research about how bonding with dogs raises the levels of oxytocin in both the humans and the dogs. This is the substance that helps mothers and infants bond, and it has a reassuring calming effect on both humans and canines. I'm guessing it applies to cats too - mine spend a lot of time on my lap, and Lunesta is sitting right next to me purring as I write.

Julie Lomoe's Musings Mysterioso

Enid Wilson said...

It's sad to hear about Lucky's fate. But you can always write another novel in memory of him. And congratulations of the award!

Steamy Darcy

Julie Lomoe said...

Thanks for your kind thoughts, Enid. Talk to you on Blog Book Tour Cafe.