Confessions of an Critteraholic

I am crazy about animals. I’ve had cats, rabbits, horses, cows, a snake, a baby armadillo, dogs, and more dogs. I’ve had pedigreed dogs, rescued dogs, mutts, curs, big dogs, bigger dogs, and 100+ pound dogs.  Of all the dogs I’ve been blessed to know, it has been two golden retrievers whose paws captured the biggest pieces of my heart.

The first golden girl of my heart came to me when I was twelve and stayed by my side until cancer took her thirteen years later. Some folks may tell you goldens are not good watch dogs. They would be wrong! Mae was just ten months old the first time she came to my rescue. She and I were sitting on the porch of an old, closed feed store when a tall, lanky fellow in his forties came up and tried to talk me into going with him. I said no and started to leave. That’s when he grabbed me, and that’s when Mae went from being a big tail-wagging pup to Cujo. She jumped off the porch and landed on his back and held on. When she finally let go of him, he took off in one direction and Mae and I ran the other way.

The local sheriff told my parents that the man had been in the state mental hospital twice for molesting children. Now my momma didn’t believe in letting any animal except a goldfish live in her house. But from that night on, Mae slept next to my bed. My mother dubbed her my protector, and Mae rose to that role numerous times. Through high school, college, marriage, and divorce, Mae was always by my side.

 The golden girl lying next to my chair tonight came to me as a puppy in 2004. In 2009, Jasmine and I decided to become a Pet Partner Therapy team (okay, I decided, but she liked the idea). After training for six months, we went to Billings to be tested. Jasmine made 100% on her tests and received the highest rating given to registered therapy dogs. We can go into mental hospitals and rehab centers, as well as hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. Jasmine loves getting her service vest on and heading out to bring comfort and cheer to those who need a little unconditional love. An added bonus for us is that our bond is stronger than ever. To be a good therapy dog, the dog must trust her human partner so much that she will obey her partner’s commands even when her animal instincts tell her to do something else. To have a friend that trusts you and loves you so unconditional is a rare and precious thing.

I’ve always lamented the fact that humans outlive our dogs. I read a great explanation from a six-year-old boy, Shane, who’d lost his dog to cancer. He said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life—like loving everybody all the time and being nice. Right?” He continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

Sounds about right to me, Shane.

Thanks for stopping by,


Breaking TWIG

Breaking TWIG

Fan Fiction regarding The Real Christian Grey


By Marlette Bess


When I finished reading the  Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James, I felt that Christian Grey, the man, needed to be fully fleshed out. I was compelled to write about his  personal journey of  growth and discovery.  In writing the novel, The Real Christian Grey, I was fully aware that getting published would be contingent upon receiving permission from E.L. James.  I contacted E.L. James’ publisher and no permission has been forthcoming.  While researching the ‘Fifty Shades’ author, I learned that her work grew out of the Twilight series and was, itself, originally published as fan fiction.

I then researched several fan fiction websites and found, an active website with everything from fantasy to mystery to syfy including a section dedicated to Fifty Shades of Grey. I decided to post the entire book two chapters at a time every two weeks.  The process of submitting work for publication was fairly straight forward from setting up a profile to downloading the chapters and then posting them. I also included my book cover as a thumbnail.

I’ve been very impressed with how gathers statistics related to your own work.  They report statistics both numerically and graphically on how your book is doing, including how many people have viewed it, how many have actually read it, as well as tracking where the readers are from around the world. The website also allows followers to comment on your work and contact you.  I have received very positive feedback.

In September, my novel,  Into the Bush Under African Skies will be published on Kindle.  At that time, I will send the followers of The Real Christian Grey a link to my novel on Kindle and will encourage them to read this exciting new work of contemporary fiction.

My perspective on the process of publishing on a fanfiction site has been positive. I’ve learned a great deal from the process of publishing this book and  I’ve also gained confidence knowing that people are interested in my work and are responding favorably.



Excerpt from The Real Christian Grey

During the day, he called Dear Doctor Flynn. Christian understood how precious Flynn’s vacation time was with his family. Thank God, it was a phone conversation, and Flynn didn’t have to see Christian’s face.

“John, you’re yelling at me; I wouldn’t take that shit from any man.”

“Look, Christian, you don’t get the point that Anastasia needs space and time to comprehend what is happening to her or what you have done to her. Do you think of this as a game where you will get what you want? She is a woman with wants and needs that you have not even recognized as you steamroll yourself over her.”

“John, calm down. I’m not the evil incarnate that you think I am. I just want her to become my submissive and I’m not asking for a lifetime commitment.”

“That could be the problem, Christian; maybe she is looking for a lifetime commitment.”

“NO…how could that be possible?”

“You have given her – let me list – rare books, a new laptop, a new car, and now a BlackBerry, all to control her. She may be thinking, he really likes me, and she may want more than just the submissive shit.”

“Why do you always take her side? I’m trying not to become a stalker, and that is how you make me sound when you list all the gifts. But you’re right; I do want to control her, especially her orgasms”

John frowned, “I know you are trying to be witty, but you’re not amusing me, and I don’t think Ana would think that comment amusing either. Christian, I know with your wealth that buying her things has no significant consequence to you, but to her you are buying her into submission. It may give you the results you want in the short term, but not necessarily the result you need. Other than sex, tell me what qualities you like in her.”

“You’re hardnosed today; I thought vacations were supposed to make people relax. I don’t know what you want.”

“Think, Christian, does she make you laugh? Does she challenge you intellectually? Does she confront you as a person, or is she just another one of your submissive Barbie dolls?”

“She challenges me all the time with her questions about my past. Ana has a good sense of humor. She is well read. I guess you’re right; I know more about her body than her intellect. I think she is practical and has common sense.”

“Do you understand that you’re not valuing her as a human being?”

“Yes, but I still want her.”

“That is fine, Christian; but you must appreciate what is above the waistline as well as what is below it. I have got to go; the family is ready and waiting for me. Christian, please, try to take things slowly.”

“Bye, John, talking to you is always fun, but now I think I’m demoralized. I’ll see you next week.”


The Cat in the Book Club

RoughBy Leslie Budewitz

We owe our cat to Book Club.

I first met Ruff and his brother Reddy when my book club met at Joanne’s house. “The boys”—then about two—left dead mice on the back doorstep, leapt over tall buildings in a single bound, and raced around her house like NASCAR drivers.

Then Joanne died. The boys went to live with a friend, but after an owl killed Reddy, the friend’s old cat began sharpening his claws on Ruff, so he came to live with us.

And boy, are we glad.IMGP2185 Ruff is a sable Burmese, meaning dark chocolate with black pointing—black on the face, tips of his ears, feet, and tale. He’s also got a bit of “locketing”—white flecks in his fur that are not signs of age, but typical of the breed. (In some Burmese—though not Ruff—the white flecks take on a locket-shaped patch at the throats.) Burmese have small heads with a distinctive profile. And like their Siamese cousins, they are big talkers. The breed is known for a combination of athleticism and cuddliness. We live in the country in northwest Montana, and Ruff is an avid mouse-hunter. He’s also an avid bird watcher—our bird feeders hang empty much of the year, as he can catch any songbird. Happily, he leaves the hummingbirds and wild turkeys alone.

But he’s no aloof “hands-off” cat. My husband is a doctor of natural medicine with a clinic in our home. Shortly after Ruff moved in, a new patient came to the house. Ruff met her at the door. “Oh,” she said, bending down to pet him and tearing up, “he looks just like my friend Joanne’s cat.” Turns out he’d been a sort of therapy cat, sitting on the bed and comforting Joanne in her last days. He often comes to the clinic waiting area—aka the library—and sits with a patient waiting to be seen.

And of course, when Book Club visits, he’s the star of the night.

So how did Mr. Sandburg come into the Food Lover’s Village Mysteries? In much the same way.

CrimeRib_CV.inddMy protagonist, Erin Murphy, is a Montana girl who moved to Seattle after college to work for an international warehouse chain. On her walks around her Capitol Hill neighborhood, Erin met a retired English teacher named Roxy Turner. They became fast friends. When Roxy became ill and was hospitalized, Erin dropped by her apartment to check on Roxy’s Burmese cat, Mr. Sandburg. (Named for his yowl, which does not come in on little cat feet.) Earlier this year, Roxy died, leaving Erin her library of poetry and her cat. Which Erin’s lease prohibited.

So Erin and Sandburg moved to Montana. And therein lies a tale. Or a tail. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Leslie-WEB-ColorLESLIE BUDEWITZ is the Agatha-Award winning author of the national bestsellers CRIME RIB and DEATH AL DENTE, the first two books in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, published by Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin Books. The town of Jewel Bay, Montana—known as the Food Lovers’ Village—is obsessed with homegrown and homemade Montana fare. So when Erin Murphy takes over her family’s century-old general store, she turns it into a boutique market filled with local delicacies. Turns out that along with her passions for food and retail, she’s got a talent for smoking out killers….

Leslie is also a lawyer. Her first book, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books) won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, making her the only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. Leslie’s second series, The Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, will debut in early 2015. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband and, of course, Ruff. Visit her online at or on Facebook at

Family Pets

Marie F Martin

Marie F Martin

Dogs, a cat, a cow, a salamander and a bat.



Katy Lou, my buddy.

Katy Lou, my buddy.



My family is animal nuts. Always, everyone has had an ongoing affair with an animal. I have four children, all with two or three dogs and ten grandchildren, all with two or three dogs. Lots of dogs when we get together.

My daughter and her husband bought a place they figured would be big enough to have a milk cow. Deanna fell madly in love with her milker. That is, until cold winter hit and milking had to be done in the dark freezing mornings before work, and until she had so much milk they bought pigs to feed the milk to. This lasted a couple of years, then the cow was sold to a lady with seven children and the pigs became bacon.

The cat I loved was named Sam. Black and shiny as midnight. He would lay on the back of my hubby Lazy Boy and swat the newspaper page every time my Hubby turned the page. Loved that cat.

The salamander I remember was one my little kids carted home from the pond a couple blocks away. We made a home for it in a big old fish bowl. Grass, weeds and small twigs made good hidey places for the slimy tiny thing. One day it disappeared from the bowl. Don’t know how it got out, but I picked up wet towels and soiled kid clothes very carefully for a few days.

When my youngest son moved into his first apartment out in the country, he worked night shift at a local sawmill. The first night he came home in the dark, fumbled around to unlock the door and a bat swooshed inside with him. Yikes! He spent his sleep time trying to catch a bat. I thought this was an excellent way to start life on your own.

Then there was the phone call from a lonesome granddaughter away at college and needing a pet. She got a white rat to come home to. Friends started giving her their rats they no longer wanted, which prompted  a call to ask if she was becoming the Weird Rodent Lady.  The list could go on forever, but you get the drift.



How We Met

Karen Wills
My last three pets chose me. The first two were dogs, but the third is too elegant to be anything but a cat. Each was a stray, common up here in the Canyon which some see as a pet dumping ground instead of the Gateway to Glacier.
Buddy, a Blue Heeler and the smartest, most intuitive dog I ever knew, appeared first. His only flaw, certainly a minor one, was a compulsion to herd every living thing including houseguests. Buddy had been treated badly by someone. At first, he hovered in the trees near our property. Then the neighbor across the road started feeding him. Eventually, Doc asked if Mom and I would take over as he’d seen Buddy stick with me every time I went for a walk. In short order, Mom and Buddy bonded to the degree that he would have died protecting her. They loved and understood each other, finally even suffered Alzheimer’s together. In the end, Buddy could only appropriately be laid to rest near our house where he’d shared so much love.
Maya and Buddy overlapped. One day, a Samoyed-husky cross, the cutest puppy I’d ever seen, ran up to make friends. This happened daily. Then her owner left her at the pound. When I heard, I called and obtained a stay of execution by four hours. Then she was ours, the most social, self confident, and dazzling of creatures. A neighbor and I once discussed all the dogs we knew and where they would be in the categories of a high school class. Maya was the uncontested choice for homecoming queen. She was so gorgeous people used to stop their cars to ask me about her.
We had Maya cremated after she succumbed to Cushing’s disease. One day afterwards, I took a walk to our usual haunts, including an overlook above the Flathead River, and scattered her ashes in all our favorite places. In my best imaginings, she still joyfully chases but never catches gophers in a field of multicolored wildflowers.
Strays are a gift from the universe.020