Ask Anna: Book review and giveaway!

Howdy, folks! John here. When Maggie received a copy of Dean Koontz’s new book Ask Anna (co-written by his adorable golden retriever, Anna) I snatched it from her. I’m a HUGE Dean Koontz fan. I love all of his books. Every. Single. One. He’s such a fantastic story-teller. He writes suspenseful books with interesting, relatable characters. Most of the time, though, the best characters are the dogs. He wrote a book several years ago about his dog Trixie who was a retired service dog, from whom he learned a lot about humanity and the inherent goodness of dogs.

Ask Anna book review and giveaway

Anyway, the book is a collection of letters written by dogs to Anna asking for advice. I’m not typically one who enjoys reading things written from the dog’s perspective. It tends to be too cutesy for me. However, the letters written to Anna, and her responses, are exactly how I imagine dogs conversing. For all of their nobility, gentleness, understanding, forgiving, and unconditional compassion, dogs are incredibly goofy creatures. The eat, smell, roll in, and just overall enjoy some very odd things. Regardless of the question, Anna has very sage, dog-like advice.

For example:

Charmin: “I love to shred these rolls of paper. I love to unravel one through the house and then follow it back, pretending I’m Hansel and Gretel, escaping along our marked trail through the woods, the evil witch close behind us. I love to sneak out at night to decorate the neighbors’ trees and shrubbery with one. Is this wrong?”

Anna: “It is so right that I don’t have the words to express how right it is. But please tell me you never drink from the toilet.”

How great is that? She tells Huckleberry, the beagle who steps on his ears when he’s sniffing, to act like a cat falling off a window sill and “pretend the dumb move was intentional.” She suggests that Cutie in Cleveland, who wants to get a job, to audition for the next Star Wars movie because Yoda has poor syntax, no fur, and “looks like a wrinkled turnip.”

This book is whimsical, entertaining, and will make think more about some of the things your pup does. The pictures are great, the advice sound, and the message clear. Dogs are silly and thoughtful, and that’s why we love them so much.

Koontz_ASK ANNA_author photo HI-RES

One last amazing note about this book is that 100% of what Dean Koontz receives from the sale of this book will be donated to Canine Companions for Independence, the nonprofit group that trains service dogs for individuals with disabilities. Also, Anna states up front that she is being paid in sausages.

And now you have a chance to win a copy! (Sorry, international folks, this one is U.S. only.)

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On the ground: What it’s like to volunteer at Villalobos

**This is a guest post from hubby, the man behind the blog. 


Maggie and I like to volunteer whenever we get the chance. It feels good to help causes that are important to us. Simply due to our schedules, Maggie was often more active than I was, but it was something I still liked to do. When I first got to Louisiana and Maggie was still in Indiana, I took the opportunity to put in as much time as possible at work. I wanted to make a name for myself, and I figured that since we weren’t in the best situation, I’d try and make the most of it so that it would pay off in the future. That meant that I didn’t have much time to do anything else.

After I’d been here for about 10 months, we were well into winter and things slow down for us, meaning I had more time on my hands. I told Maggie that I wanted to look into volunteering somewhere around here, and she immediately suggested that I get in touch with Villalobos, the pit bull rescue organization from Animal Planet’s Pit Bulls and Parolees. I went to their website, filled out their forms, and heard back a few weeks later. I got to volunteer at the rescue facility early on a Saturday morning in February. There were already people walking dogs when I got there, and I quickly figured out they were employees. There were only about 6 or 7 volunteers there, and there were too many dogs for all of us to walk. We had additional forms to fill out, and we had to write our name on a piece of paper and hold it in front of our face while a production assistant took our picture. We were told not to approach any of the cast members unless we had a real reason because they were filming the whole time. It was weird having cameras all over the place, but I got used to them quickly and was so busy I ended up not noticing them.


The whole process was a well-oiled machine. In their main parking lot/courtyard, they set up folding chairs with water bowls next to them. A leash was handed to us with a dog at the other end, and they had us all walk a pre-determined route. We were told to keep all of the dogs away from one another, just in case we had one that wasn’t comfortable around other dogs. But, we were allowed to give them as many treats as we wanted, we could take a little extra cuddle time. We could run if they wanted, and they had photographers snapping pics of everyone.  When we were done walking and made it back to the courtyard, another employee would direct us to a chair and we had to wait until someone came and took the dog from us. Then, someone else would bring another and we’d do it again. Throughout the day, I probably walked 10 or 11 dogs in total, all of them wonderful. There was Tiger, Marsha, and my favorite, Gilbert. Right before we got started, the volunteer coordinator said that since I was the biggest volunteer there, I would probably get the stronger dogs, the ones that liked to pull.  Seeing as how I had about 5 inches and 60 pounds on everyone else, I said, “Sure! Not a problem!”

Then came Gilbert. No one wanted to walk Gilbert. The same coordinator said to me, “You sure you can handle a puller? He’s big and he goes where he wants to go.” I told her that as long as he’s friendly it wouldn’t be a problem. If he weren’t friendly, I’d like to know so I could be sure to be extra careful. She said, “Oh, no! He’s happy as crap!”


Apparently, “happy as crap” means 120-lbs bulldog that goes wherever he wants. He was the sweetest giant I had ever met, but I had never felt so helpless on the other end of a leash before. By the time we were done, my wrist, ankles, shoulder, and back all hurt. When we made it back to the courtyard, the coordinator had everyone else move because she knew exactly where Gilbert was going.

The rest of the day went by quickly. At the end, we were given a tour of the facility, and we got to see some of the dogs that were rescued during last season’s episodes. They had on displays the chains that were used to secure dogs in yards, chains that looked too heavy for me to hold. They had dogs that were terrified of everyone but a few of the employees.


But, the important thing to remember, regardless of how sad any of their stories were, was that these dogs all were getting a second chance. Even though I was just walking a few dogs for one day, that day was better for those dogs than any day before they got there. What those people do every single day is nothing short of amazing. That goes for any rescue organization. And yes, I did get to briefly meet Tia Torres. And yes, she’s just as bad-ass in person as she is on TV.

It’s official: We have a cat!

Greetings from the bayou! A few months ago, Maggie did a post about a stray cat that I found. I had come back from happy hour and was sitting on balcony enjoying the night. I don’t live in the nicest part of Houma, LA (go ahead and look it up, chances are you’ve never heard of it). I don’t mean to say that I live in a dump; it’s just an older part of town without the fancy shopping centers and typical chain restaurants. More importantly, people don’t tend to value their pets the way I do. I see stray dogs and cats all over the place, and there are about four or five resident stray cats around the apartment complex.


That night sitting on my balcony, I hear a cat. I see a little black cat that definitely wasn’t one of the regular strays. When she saw me, she flopped onto her back. Figuring it was someone’s lost pet, I went outside and she came right over to me. This sort of freaked me out because I am NOT typically a fan of cats. Anyway, I brought her inside, went and got her some food and a litter box, and started putting up ads and posters around the neighborhood hoping someone would claim her. A few weeks went by with no one claiming her.


Despite the horrible suggestions given to me from others (I’ll save that for later), I got her checked out by the vet, I signed her up for the low-cost spay and vaccination program, and decided I would hang on to her until I could find a good home for her. A few more weeks went by and still no one called to claim a lost cat. I couldn’t find anyone who wanted her, and she settled right on in. So, now I have a cat. Her name is Newt. I’m not so scared of her anymore. She hasn’t tried to claw my eyeballs out. I haven’t seen her plotting my demise, and she’s pretty much content to lay around and be my buddy. It definitely took a while for me to get used to her and for the two of us to get into a good routine, but I guess I finally did find her a good home.

She loves playing inside this beer box.
She loves playing inside this beer box.

Note from Maggie: Neither one of us ever had a cat, so this experience has been all new! I’m glad she’s settled in to life with John… The trick will be introducing her to the boys when John’s done in LA! I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there!

On the mend


Howdy, folks. John here again. I figured it was about time for another update on Maggie, the dogs, and even me! Maggie finished her daily chemo treatment two weeks ago. Right now, it seems like that was all went by in a blur, but I know it wasn’t like that for Maggie, who felt completely miserable the entire time. She’s now on the second week of the 11-month portion of the treatment. She has to give herself a shot three days a week. Last week when she started, it was pretty bad. Migraine headaches, nausea, fatigue, all of the same stuff she’d been feeling for the past month. The side effects aren’t as bad now, mostly she’s just tired all the time. But, she’s able to work on some of the projects she put aside while all of this was going on. We had our weekly meeting with the oncologist today, and he seemed pleased with how everything was going, and told her that since the shots weren’t kicking her butt, he saw no need to lower the dose. Everyone reacts different to the chemo, so throughout the treatment, the oncologist will lower the dose as needed. Maggie made it the entire month without having her dose lowered until the last two days of her treatment. Most people need the dose lowered the first week. I tell you this so you’ll know how tough she is… Anyway, she’s doing well, and the dogs are of course keeping her perfect company.

During her month-long treatment, she was spending her time at her parents’ house in Indianapolis and Emmett, Lucas, and Cooper were her round-the-clock nursing staff. They had so much fun, but I think they’re glad to be home. We’re happy, because it means we can get Cooper back in doggie daycare, which means it’ll be quiet around here to get some work done! Trust me, we love him, but he is one loud (and sometimes annoying) little bugger. Since there aren’t any major dog-related revelations or happenings, here are some recent pics of our guys (I got an awesome new camera for Christmas…).


Emmett's so distinguished...


He looks tough, but he's so small!




More pasta!

He's guarding us from the children who dare ride their bikes in front of our house...



I take the pictures, but I don't edit them. He's still handsome!


Give us that treat and no one gets hurt....

A quick update

John here. I just wanted to give everyone a quick update on how Maggie is doing these days. Yesterday, she started her third of four weeks of daily chemo. Some days are better than others in terms of the side effects, and even though it’s a pretty rough process, we know it’s for the best in the long-run. However, knowing that doesn’t really help much, especially on the bad days.

We’ve had some amazing support from family and friends, and we couldn’t be luckier when it comes to the doctors and nurses we see every single day. Through all of the surgeries, blood draws, infusions, meetings, follow-ups, check-ups, and all of the other daily activities, we are constantly reminded of, despite everything, just how lucky we are. Seriously, if you’re a doctor or nurse, you should know how much you’re appreciated. If you’re not a doctor or nurse, thank any that you know.

Emmett, Lucas, and Cooper haven’t left Maggie’s side in the past months since all of this has been going on. Surprisingly, Cooper has actually stepped up to be Maggie’s protector. She’s been staying at her parents’ house during the week since she gets her treatments in Indianapolis, and I’ve been going back and forth from there and Bloomington, and the dogs have stayed with her. The first few nights, when things started getting bad, Cooper slept on Maggie’s feet the entire time and even growled at her parents when they came to bring her food, tea, medication, or even another blanket. He finally came around and realized they were there to help, but you’ve got to appreciate his level of concern for Maggie. Truly amazing that little guy is…

These next two weeks are going to feel like forever, but once they’re done, things should start to get a little better for her. Again, a big “thank you!” to everyone who has sent a kind word, had a positive though, sent a card, or even just posted something nice on her Facebook page. Your continued support means more to her than you can ever imagine, and I truly appreciate everyone keeping Maggie in your thoughts.

I apologize that I don’t have any cute dog pictures to go along with this post. Hopefully, we’ll have some good pictures of Maggie feeling better covered in a pile of dogs in no time!


*Maggie didn’t proof this post, so I apologize if there are any grammatical errors!