Friday, January 27, 2017

Another paperback on the way

I've just received word that the hardcover and paperback rights to my 2013 Steve Martinez novel, Hang Fire, have reverted to me.

This means I'm free to produce a new paperback of Hang Fire, and will get right to work on it. Expect it to show up on and very soon.

The publisher, Five Star, will hang on to ebook rights for three years more.

I'll just use the final Word text of Hang Fire for the paperback, with a few fixes. The hard work will be coming up with a new cover—Five Star holds the copyright to the original one.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


This morning Trooper leaped up against me and led me to the apartment front door. Someone knocking, I thought, and my shaggy little service dog's just doing his job.

But when I peeked through the spyhole, nobody was there. Instead, the condo building's fire alarm strobes were flashing up and down the hallway. (The system was being tested today and there was nothing to worry about.)

But Trooper's act impressed me. He hadn't forgotten the early training in alerting to fire alarms that Laura Burke had given him at Dogs for the Deaf in Central Point, Oregon. I had not continued that training, but had occasionally thought about refreshing it with some kind of device that mimicked the sound of such alarms. I hadn't got around to it yet.

Somehow Trooper has kept it together in his little doggy mind for more than a year without practicing: If there's an alarm in the hall, his job is to let me know about it.

Good boy.

(Jan. 18. In order to maintain Trooper's fire-alarm training, I bought a $6.95 Kidde mini-smoke alarm at the hardware store, loaded the battery and mashed the button. Trooper immediately ran to my office, leaped up on me and led me to the front door of our condo. Perfect. We'll run the exercise once a day or so.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Dog with Four Red Shoes

Evanston in winter can be very hard on a small dog's paws. The city—and our condo building's maintenance people—slather more salt on the sidewalks than can be mined from the Bonneville flats, and that and ice tend to get between a dog's toes painfully.

We've used Musher's Wax, which does seem to help with the salt, but it doesn't protect from the cold. Dogs hate heavy boots. What to do? We've tried carrying Trooper's 17 pounds from our front door to the nearest pee spot, but both Debby and I have bad backs and that isn't a good idea.

Yesterday we tried a product called Protek PawZ, little fat thickish rubber balloons that come in varying sizes. They're billed as being both disposable and biodegradable. And they're cheap—the Small size packs contain a dozen booties for $13. They're available at pet stores and, and even Bed, Bath & Beyond.

It does take two people to put the booties on—one to hold the dog and the other to stretch their openings and slip them over the paws—but the rubber is limber enough to make the job fairly easy.

To our surprise, Trooper took to the booties quickly. Initially he tried to shake them off, but after a few seconds of stalking indignantly around the living room, he began walking normally. Outside, he ambulated as if he wasn't wearing anything.

Nice solution to a vexing problem.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Six weeks since surgery

Yesterday the surgical vet removed the splint on Trooper's left hind leg, broken by a bite from a much larger dog a few days before Thanksgiving. The X-rays show that it's healing, the vet said, but it'll take four more weeks of limited activity before he's allowed to resume a normal life. Trooper will need to come back Feb. 4 for another X-ray.

If he doesn't put the surgical leg down and walk on it within four days, the vet said, call him.

Fortunately, as soon as we got home Trooper started walking on all fours—so long as it is at a slow march. His normal terrier gait is a fast trot, and when he hustles into one—we have to minimize that for a while—he canters on three legs, favoring the fourth.

We're confident that he'll soon gain strength and ambulate normally.

Unfortunately, he's still in the Cone of Shame. He wants to lick the leg, itchy from all that time in a covered splint, and his saliva would make the itch worse as well as the skin raw over the steel pins holding the bone together.

As soon as he stops trying to get at the leg, I think we'll be able to remove the cone—and he'll look more like his normal shaggy Wookiee self. We'll then be able to take him to the groomer for a long-needed bath and haircut.

Soon after that he ought to be able to resume his service-dog duties. He doesn't seem to have forgotten them, at least the phone alert. Whenever the phone rings he trots to me and puts his paws on my person. And whenever Debby comes in from outside, he lets me know in the same fashion. I think the retraining will not be difficult.