Saturday, November 30, 2019

Old Town Albuquerque Christmas 2014

What Do 135 Christmas Trees Look Like?

The weekend before Thanksgiving I went to Albuquerque for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards banquet. As an aside my book Heads in the Clouds did win the Romance category. But even without that thrill spending a weekend in Old Town Albuquerque at the elegant Hotel Albuquerque was a delight.

Shops, museums, art, lots of jewelry. And chilies – hanging from rafters and mixed into luscious New Mexico dishes.
While visiting the historic old San Felipe de Neri church on the Old Plaza, I noticed a tall pole with skeleton-like protrusions in the Plaza Don Luis. Left over from the Day of the Dead celebration? I didn't think so.

When a bucket truck arrived and placed a pine tree on the top, I asked the clerk at the gift shop, located in the Sister Blandina Company that once housed the Sisters of Charity, what was happening. Then I saw a flatbed truck pull up with a lot more, really a lot more, trees. And workers began inserting trees into the skeleton from the top down.
As the day progressed, so did the tree, until one hundred and thirty-five (135) trees merged into one gigantic tree.

Workers continued to decorate the the tree with lights, white snowflakes, and red bows until the glorious tree was complete!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

New and Gift-Worthy Books

“A Dog’s Promise” by W. Bruce Cameron (October 15, 2019)
“A Dog’s Promise” is Cameron’s newest Dog’s Purpose novel. Like the original “A Dog’s Purpose” it stars Bailey whose lives began in “A Dog’s Purpose” and continued in “A Dog’s Journey “(both books and movies). Now old soul Bailey’s back and ready to experience more purpose-driven lives. Cameron’s heartfelt style merges tenderness, humor, and wisdom as Bailey is helped by Lacey, a new dog.  W. Bruce Cameron is the top-selling author of dog books globally! And, of course, there will be another movie.

“Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein
Any dog lover that missed seeing the recent movie debut of “Racing in the Rain” needs to reread the book before  the movie is available for streaming and on DVD. For a special treat, listen to the audiobook. Note: there are 2 audio versions: the original (the same as the book) and a shorter family version. Since the entire book is from Enzo’s point of view, listening to a dog think and complain about not having thumbs takes readers into the mind of a smart and loyal dog. 

“Heart of Barkness” (A Chet and Bernie mystery, 2019) by Spenser Quinn
Chet, as philosophical as Enzo in his own way, and funnier, narrates another mystery though canine eyes. Chet and his (human) partner private investigator Bernie Little. Since both are music lovers, the partners take on a case in the country music world.

David Rosenfelt has two new Andy Carpenter mysteries: “Bark of Night” and “Dachshund through the Snow.”
Rosenfelt is the author of the Andy Carpenter mysteries, with nine books in the series. Dog lovers and mystery lovers alike follow Andy’s work to help clients and help dogs through his Tara Foundation. The Rosenfelts’ real life Tara Foundation has placed over 4,000 dogs in loving homes and continues to be active in the rescue community. He is also the author of two non-fiction books: “Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure” and “Lessons from Tara; Life Advice from the World’s Most Brilliant Dog.” 

“Katt vs. Dogg” by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein. 

A book written for middle grade kids but too much fun not to be shared with the entire family. Oscar is a happy go lucky dogg who (along with his dogg family) thinks katts are good for nothing but chasing up trees. Molly is an aspiring-actress katt who, like her dogg hating family, despises drooly disgusting doggs. A laugh-out-loud story of cooperation over prejudice. With brilliant cartoon illustrations.

“Fearless Felines: 30 True Tales of Courageous Cats” by Kimberlie Hamilton (Scholastic, November 5, 2019)  Delightful cat stories like the Scottish cat Pyro who flew with RAF pilots in WWII. Plus amazing cat facts that will make cat lovers purr and dog lovers laugh. “It a cat sneezes, rain is on the way.” “Put a cat whisker in your wallet to attract money.” Charming illustrations by 17 artists. For ages 8 and up (and up).

Previously published in the Oct.-Nov. issue of The Flagstaff-Sedona Dog magazine. Print and online.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Guide Dog Book Reviews

Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust by Michael Hingson. Thomas Nelson, 2012.

On September 11, 2001, a guide dog led a blind man down 78 flights of stairs and safely out of the World Trade Center's North Tower.

Roselle, Mike Hingson’s guide dog, was raised in California at Guide Dogs for the Blind away from storms. Now living on the East Coast, thunder frightened her - but not much else.

Mike tells the story of that September day from the morning thunder, to their taxi ride to the train station, and trip to his office. Preparing a sales presentation, he felt the building sway. He shut down computers until it was clear he and Roselle must leave with his colleague David. Mike was prepared, had taken training, and knew how to exit the building in an emergency. From Room 7827 down 1,463 stairs.

Burn victims pass them. Mike jokes that if the lights go out a blind man and his dog with help them, His humor calms the fearful . Roselle breaks her training and kisses a firefighter’s hand. Perhaps his last touch. Sightless, Mike describes the chaos around him. And trusts Roselle to do her job and lead him to safety. Outside he describes the smoke, falling glass, and ash.
An inspirational story, showing the trust and courage of the man and the dog and that saved them both. Truly an heroic team.

Running with Roselle: How a Blind Boy and a Puppy Grew Up, Became Best Friends, and Together Survived One of America’s Darkest Days by Michael Hingson with Jeanette Hanscome. Roselle's Dream Foundation, 2013.

Written for children age 8 and up, Running with Roselle is the story of Mike Hingson and his guide dog Roselle and their 9/11 escape from the World Trade Center. The book does not talk down to kids and adult dog lovers might like it even more than Thunder Dog, for it contains more information on the training of a guide dog.

Told alternately, by man and dog, the story begins with a boy growing up with parents who worked hard to ignore their son's disability. He never let his disability hold him back and shares what blindness is like. As a boy he rode a bicycle and later drove a car (with a sighted friend’s assistance). He went to public schools, received his first guide dog at 14, attended college, and earned a graduate degree in Physics.

Roselle tells her story through the imagined eyes of a soon-to-be guide dog at GDB headquarters. From birth as a Guide Dogs for the Blind yellow Labrador Retriever puppy, through meeting her puppy raisers, her rigorous training, graduation and being matched with Mike. They become a team.
The issues of 9/11 and their escape is presented in a thoughtful manner and teaches appreciation of what service dogs can do.

Guide Dogs for the Blind retired the name “Roselle” as a guide dog name in 2007. Roselle lived until the age of 14.

Michael Hingson lives in Novato, California with his wife, Karen, his guide dog Africa, and Africa's mother Fantasia. When he isn't traveling the world with Africa speaking and teaching, he enjoys playing with his dogs and cooking.

In 2011 Hingson started Roselle's Dream Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to help society understand that blindness is not the characteristic that holds anyone back from achieving all they wish to be. It provides scholarships to assist blind students, especially elementary and high school, to secure needed assistive technology to help them further their education.