The Tragedy of Puppy Mills in the U.S. and How You Can Help

If you love animals, you have probably stopped at a pet store to pet the adorable puppies and kittens. Sadly, very often these are the progeny of puppy mill parents that live in appalling conditions, where the owners are only concerned with making money and have no empathy for the dogs they use for breeding.

So what exactly is a puppy mill?
It is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where the welfare of the breeding animals is not taken into consideration. One or more of the following are common:
1.       The animals are kept in small wire cages, often stacked on top of one another, and are never taken out for exercise. They are forced to urinate and defecate in their cages and it is rarely or never cleaned up.
2.       The cages are located outdoors or under a roof where heating or cooling is not provided, no matter how hot or cold the weather conditions.
3.       The animals are not given adequate food and water.
4.       The bitches are bred as often as possible until they are physically unable to reproduce, at which time they are killed.
5.       No veterinary treatment is given to the animals.
6.       The dogs are not protected from parasites.
The Federal Animal Welfare Act requires breeders with more than three breeding female dogs, and who sell puppies to pet stores or middlemen, called puppy-brokers, are required to be licensed and inspected by the US Department of Agriculture.
You may be disgusted to hear federal law allows a dog to be kept in a cage only six inches longer than the dog in each direction, with a wire floor and stacked on top of another cage. Fortunately additional animal anti-cruelty laws are administered on a state-by-state basis, and many states have imposed stricter guidelines for dog breeding operations, plus greater penalties for cruelty to animals. Sadly, others only offer the bare minimum of protection as dictated by the federal government.
I would never have found out about puppy mills if I hadn’t adopted a dog from a rescue society.
My little Yorkshire Terrier, Purdy was rescued together with more than 100 other dogs from a puppy mill in Arkansas.
When the number of dogs rescued is too great to be accommodated by local rescue facilities, a wonderful organization called Pilots n’ Paws flies them to rescue societies in other parts of the country.
Most members of the public have no knowledge of puppy mills and the extent of the suffering these poor dogs go through. I certainly didn’t until I went online and searched for ‘puppy mills’.  You can do your own search but I’ve placed some links at the end of this article. Be warned, if you love dogs this information will bring tears to your eyes.
My beautiful little Purdy was emaciated, suffering from heartworm, filthy, and almost dead when they saved her. Her teeth were falling out because of malnutrition and calcium deficiency. She was also terrified of everything and everyone. The rescuers and their dedicated staff of veterinarians treated her for heartworm and other parasites, spayed her, and pulled the loose teeth. They guessed her age was around 10 to 12, but she was so debilitated she looked more like 14. Now we know she was probably actually only six.
Her health problems, caused by the way she was abused, will never totally end.  She’s been diagnosed with a mass on her pancreas, and can never eat fat. We’ve fed her all sorts of supplements and a special organic diet and her immune system, once non-existent, has slowly begun to recover. It’s been a hard seven years; emotionally draining for us, and physically tough for her, but finally, things seem to be turning around for her. She has picked up a half pound in weight, which is a lot for a dog under 10 lbs, and she sometimes goes for long spells without throwing up. I had never heard her bark until a few months ago—she was too timid. She is certainly the most loving dog I’ve ever owned. She expresses her love by pressing her head into me or by just gazing into my face.
It’s hard to imagine how many more Purdy’s are out there.  
The Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA are doing all they can to spread the word and educate people not to purchase puppies from pet stores.
The great thing is, every single person, including you, can make a difference. Here’s how:
1.       Spread the word about puppy mills – start by sharing this article on the social networks and with everyone on your mailing list. Even if you don’t really care for dogs, great satisfaction often comes from knowing you’ve done a good deed.
2.       Go to the Humane Society website and sign the pledge.
3.       Educate people –  tell your friends why they shouldn’t buy puppies from pet stores. Make sure they are aware that puppies bred in puppy mills are a bad investment because they are often inbred and unhealthy. Suggest to them that before making a commitment, they ask for the name and address of the breeders who supply the puppies, and make a point of checking up on them.
4.       If you live in a rural area and hear a large number of dogs barking from a single location, make it your mission to find out if the owner of the property is licensed to keep dogs and that they have been inspected by the local US Department of Agriculture inspector. While anti-cruelty agencies and organizations work to ferret out illegal puppy mills and close them down, others are brought to justice by the diligent efforts of animal lovers, many of whom place themselves in danger by posing as buyers or puppy brokers so they can gain access to the breeding facilities. (Please do not take this risk. Go to your local authorities.)
5.       Consider getting your next pet from your local animal shelter or a rescue organization. They offer hundreds of pets that may otherwise lose their lives if nobody claims them. If you particularly want a pedigreed dog with papers, look to bona-fide breeders and visit their premises before making a purchase.
6.       Give a donation. No matter how small, it will be put to good use. The veterinary treatment for dogs rescued from puppy mills runs into the hundreds of thousands.
7.       Consider being a dog foster parent. You’ll be asked to keep one or more rescued dogs at your home and socialize them to ready them for adoption.
I love all animals, and I try to always incorporate some sort of animal in my writing. In Backwoods Boogie, the third book in my Redneck Series, which is still in the draft stages, redneck P.I. Twila Taunton rescues several dogs from an illegal puppy mill. I’m thrilled to have come up with a way to bring to people’s attention the appalling conditions these dogs have to endure.
The book will be published in the fall of 2014, but you can contact me to sign up to pre-order it or ask to be notified when it’s available on my website:

More info about puppy mills: (Get the tissues ready – the first one is really graphic).

(This story first appeared on The Write Room Blog in August, 2013)

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

The results of the first round picks for the ABNA were posted today and I’m totally thrilled that my novel, Aquarius Addiction,  has qualified.

This portion of the competition was judged solely on the pitch. The judges didn’t read any part of the manuscript. Here’s mine:

Aquarius Addiction
Anyone who thinks God doesn’t have a macabre sense of humor answer this—why did he bring Andre Rossouw into Arlette’s life on the same day her doctor told her she was about to die?
Attractive FBI Psychic Arlette Xylander displays all the character traits of her star sign, Aquarius, being feisty, eccentric, freedom-loving, flirtatious, rebellious and unpredictable. She may be only five feet tall, but she epitomizes the old adage that dynamite comes in small packages.
Her emotions rage between denial, anger and tears when her doctor tells her she is suffering from a rare terminal disease.  When hunky Andre Rossouw asks her to help find his sister who has been missing for four years, Arlette makes two decisions. To beat the disease and find a cure, and to have wild and passionate sex with him.
Then she finds out he has a fiancée.
Arlette’s country home on the banks of Bayou LeGue was left to her by her mysterious aunt Lucie, whom she never met, and whom her dysfunctional parents have never been willing to discuss. She often wakes in the dark hours of the night to hear ghostly voices downstairs, and wishes she could find out who they are and what they want.
A mysterious letter arrives from her aunt, hinting at a secret in the house, and her friend, Reay, agrees to research her home’s recorded archives, while Arlette plans to dig into her family history. She starts by visiting her aunt’s grave, where she finds a mysterious woman wearing a hooded cloak, who leaves in a hurry.  Arlette’s instincts tell her the woman holds the answers to all her questions, but how can she find her?

 There are five categories and my book is one of 400 finalists in the romance category. In the next round they’ll take a look at the synopsis. I have my fingers and toes crossed. I know my book is well-written and different, but luck does come into the mix, because judges are all human and they have their own opinions, likes and dislikes.


The second round is judged on 5,000 word excerpt, specifically 
a) Overall Strength of Excerpt, b) Prose/Style,

c) Plot/Hook, d) Originality of Idea. 
The top 100 from each genre will advance to the quarter finals. These excerpts will be posted where Amazon customers can download them, read them, and write a review on them.

If anyone is interested, I got this from an ABNA discussion board.
TWITTER PITCH TO AGENTS – On May 25th, 2014, between 8am and 8pm (not sure if that is US Eastern or Pacific time) tweet a blurb for you novel and use #pitmad. Agents will be monitoring the tweets.

First Page – No Kiss Good-Night

The day of his thirty-ninth birthday, relationship counsellor Gus Adams was completely alone. He was supposed to have a birthday bash, surrounded by friends and coworkers, but everyone cancelled for this reason or that. Gus—left with a silly Staples birthday banner and chilled champagne, sans company—realized he had no one upon whom to depend, no one to love.
With sudden determination, Gus decided to find love—real, substantial love—before his dreaded fortieth birthday. After all, he knows how to make a relationship work. He spent his career listening to other people talk about their relationships. He knew what worked and what didn’t, but Gus hadn’t been in a romantic relationship in over ten years, since a heartless vixen tossed him out on the metaphorical curb.

Kevin Zdrill

Realizing I was perilously close to executing an Olympic-quality somersault, I stepped back from the fifteenth-floor railing. My second dismal thought was that no one would know if I had gone over. I was alone inside my Winnipeg apartment. On any other day of the year, the silence was an accepted normal, but today it was a defeat. Today I turned thirty-nine, and I’d had a plan to tackle the dreaded experience with a show of force. With focused determination, I’d gained the commitment of my most cherished friends, family and acquaintances to form a protective circle around me as we celebrated the end of my favourite decade, my thirties.

This morning my phone rang at 9:00 a.m., and I dashed toward it with a large grin, preparing to hear the well-wishes of a thoughtful friend. It was my sister, Julia Adams. She was flying in this afternoon from her home in Minneapolis, one of the guaranteed members of my protective birthday circle. Except today was my birthday and Julia’s plane ticket was one weekend off. Julia was calling from the airport—ticket, bag and gift in hand—mere hours away from joining my circle. In her zest for supporting her brother she’d given the airline the wrong date for her day of departure. Julia had a heart of gold but her pocketbook wasn’t lined with it. The airline wanted $900 to change her flight. End of the line. Julia asked if it would be okay for her to hang on to my gift until I saw her at Christmas when I came to visit. Yes, it would. Strike one from my protective circle.

I thanked Julia for calling. I still had confidence my remaining troops would take up the slack. I spent the rest of the morning getting silly from blowing up a few coloured balloons I’d bought at the Dollar Store. I chose a stack of CDs to play during the party, including my favourites by Streetheart, Loverboy Harlequin and Neil Young; I pulled out my wrinkled Twister mat in case the party got wild and stuck 39 candles into the vanilla cake I’d bought the day before at Safeway.

Lonny Wood rang my phone at 12:30 p.m. He was my best friend, my only friend, a part of my circle, and it looked like he was not going to show up. Lonny had intended to drive in from Brandon today after selling his cell phones to various farming communities. He explained that while he was having breakfast that morning at the Double Decker Restaurant in Brandon, he’d bumped into a “harem” of girls paying their bills at the same time he did. The girls were heading off to a Passion Party one of the women at Double Decker was hosting. Thirty women equaled thirty potential cell phone sales, maybe a phone number or two for Lonny and a free sex toy thrown in by the hostess. “Business is business,” he said. Lonny promised to drop off my birthday gift the next time we got together.

After Lonny bailed on my final thirties party, slight panic set in, but I pulled out the two bottles of Barefoot champagne that I had chilling in the fridge and left two champagne glasses in the cupboard. I set the bottles on the kitchen table alongside the remaining three glasses. I liked that odd number. It was lucky.

First Page – Only Love Twice

A Cross-Cultural Romance by Kat Canfield

In the aftermath of 9/11 Americans have largely become suspicious of persons of Saudi heritage. But a fifty-something retired police officer from South Florida takes a chance in meeting a man a bit younger than her who is a Saudi National. Being a businessman who grew up in England as the son of a diplomat, he is used to western ways.

Communicating through the Internet and smartphones, Madison and Saleem become friends and find they share much in common. Madison is a widow of two years whose driving passions are her horse showing and her business. She has no children so her horse is her child. Meanwhile Saleem is an oil company executive, divorced, with four children and a bit of a playboy reputation. To further complicate matters, Madison is Jewish. But she has a curiosity about the Muslim faith and a love of the Middle East in general. Can these two polar opposites find the second love of their lives in a post 9/11 world? 

Chapter 1

     How the world had changed in a few short years. No one could do anything without a computer, and everyone had a phone in his or her pocket. There was nothing you could not do with a computer and a smartphone. And the technology made it so easy to make money now. Who would have thought you could become a millionaire with a webcam and a domain name? The fifty-something
red-haired wonder had done just that. Madison made her millions selling sex to perverts on the Internet. Well, maybe not all of them were perverts. They were just faceless persons who watched
the women she employed perform for the camera. The girls enjoyed getting paid to perform as solo acts, and they did not have to see the people they performed for. It was a nice combination for them.

     Madison Kelly, though anonymous, made a few friends of the customers. No one saw her face or knew her true name. They just chatted online, told her things they would like to see, and she told the girls what someone wanted to see. They did the work; she did the selling. What was the old saying? A fool and his money are soon parted. That was how her business ran for the past few years.
     She had recently met a person online who captured her attention. The problem with anonymous Internet is you can’t tell about someone just by chatting, but she felt sure this was a man and he interested her. They had been chatting for about eight months. One of the short flicks she had posted showed an Arab woman pleasuring herself. The woman wore a veil so her face could not be seen. He seemed to think that would never happen as Arab men would never let a woman have needs of pleasure without him taking care of those needs. That conversation evolved to a friendship online. Now she thought she would like to take the next step and see the face behind the conversation. She…

Click here to Buy now from Amazon

The Audio Sense in Writing

As writers we try to use all the human senses to help make our words more real to our readers.

It is a known fact that the human race uses the sense of sight more than any other of the five (or six) senses. In fact, statistics show that around 83% of us use sight as our primary sense.  Next is hearing at around 11%, touch at 3.5%, smell at 1.5% and taste at 1%.

When we write, we primarily paint word pictures. We describe how people look, what they are wearing, and the scene around them. A good writer will also incorporate the other senses as much as possible. Let’s take the next most commonly used sense, hearing.

A good exercise is to always ask yourself, what are the typical sounds you hear when you step outside or stand at an open window? Do you hear the distant hum of traffic? The deafening roar of traffic? A train whistling? People yelling? Sirens? If you are way out in the country you may hear the wind whispering through the pines or a coyote yipping.

How about complete silence. Have you ever experienced a place where absolutely nothing is stirring? I’ve only felt it once, in the Namib desert in Africa, in a place called Sossusvlei (meaning dead end) where the highest sand dunes in the world rise from a sandy, dry salt pan. We were standing at the edge of the narrow Sesriem Canyon one morning and the cliche term “silence is deafening” came to mind. Absolute silence really is quite an awe inspiring experience.

Sesriem Canyon 

I now live in rural north Florida, so when I go into my yard on any given day, the most typical sounds are dogs barking, horses neighing, cattle lowing and roosters crowing. Our property is thickly treed so add birds singing or a woodpecker tapping on a rotting tree trunk, and leaves rustling in the breeze. We have a pond, and the frogs here make a whistling noise–they don’t croak or say “ribbid”. Crickets often chirp, and cicadas scream in summer when it’s hot.

Typical human sounds in my neighborhood include shouting, loud country music blaring from external speakers, and on most days, someone in the neighborhood fires a gun. Traffic is distant and intermittent, but may include the hum of a car or truck, the roar of an eighteen-wheeler, or the rumble of a motorcycle gang.

I’d love to hear your comments about the sounds where you live.