GUESTS

04-29 Laurie Alice Eakes - Writing Blind Characters

Monday, March 28, 2016

Pogo the Therapy Dog

By Courtney Pierce

This month’s theme is near and dear to my heart. Service dogs are among those quiet heroes that deserve the highest accolades. They save lives with seemingly small gestures: a whine to signal the onset of a seizure, a mouth-grip to deliver a bottle of water, or a sudden halt to prevent its owner from taking a dangerous step. For my new novel, Indigo Lake, I did extensive research about service dogs, specifically those in training programs that operate within the prison system.

Several partnerships exist between non-profit organizations and federal prisons to train service dogs, including Mission Pawsible, Dawgs in Prison, and Patriot Paws. These programs are excellent and mutually beneficial. The dogs get the practice; the inmates feel productive and learn empathy toward others. Inmates prepare these dogs to go into service on the outside for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), individuals with physical disabilities, and for those with medical conditions that require monitoring from a sensitive nose.

But my research revealed a gap that I sought to fill in fiction. I dug deeper. What if prison inmates themselves suffer from disabilities that could benefit from the assistance of a service dog? Can they get one? What happens to inmates who are serving life terms and need the support of therapy dogs in their old age? I couldn’t get definitive answers. So I took on these questions by incorporating a subplot into my story. 

Writing about a fictitious service dog named Pogo, an enormous black standard poodle, became a joyous gift every day. Of course he steals the show. Three middle-age sisters turn this unruly poodleonce owned by an elderly ex-mobsterinto a certified therapy dog . . . with hilarious results.

Pogo is the trickster of my story. This dog is at the center of every tense moment, absorbing the emotions of the characters. He communicates with a shift of his eyes and a gaze into the invisible camera lens in response to outrageous comments. With a quick cock of his head to the left, the reader thinks of Pogo as the fourth sibling. He even paces around a prison warden’s desk to prevent the man from leaving his chair, stopping only to power up with copious head scratches. And he has a job to do when my characters are in pain, both physically and emotionally.

In the Dushane Sisters Trilogy, my characters form a charity to honor their familial therapy dog: the Pogo Charitable Trust. As it so happens, one of the sisters is a best-selling author who writes the memoir of a mobster. This gets them all, including the dog, into deep trouble with the mob. The solution? Pogo. Beneath the humor, though, lurks a more sober theme: service dogs don’t make judgments about who is worthy of assistance . . . and who is not.

The wise prison warden in Indigo Lake says: "Touch is a mighty powerful remedy." 

Animals have a way of leveling the playing field.

Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Oregon with her husband of thirty-seven years and bossy cat. She writes for baby boomers. Her novels are filled with heart, humor, and mystery. Active in the writing community, Courtney is a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and is a member of the Resource Council at the Independent Publishing Resource Center. Her books are published by Windtree Press. The Executrix received the Library Journal Self-E recommendation seal. Check out all of Courtney's books at courtney-pierce.com and windtreepress.com.

New Release!
The Dushane Sisters are back with Courtney's new release of Indigo LakeMore laughs, more tears . . . and more trouble. Protecting Mom's reputation might get the sisters killed―or give one of them the story she's been dying to live.

New York Times best-selling author Karen Karbo says, "Courtney Pierce spins a madcap tale of family grudges, sisterly love, unexpected romance, mysterious mobsters and dog love. Reading Indigo Lake is like drinking champagne with a chaser of Mountain Dew. Pure Delight."






5 comments:

Sarah Raplee said...

Must...read...Indigo Lake!

Diana McCollum said...

Great post!

Courtney Pierce said...

Hang on to your hat. INDIGO LAKE is a wild ride! The dog steals the show - literally - on national television. Infusing character into animals is harder than writing people. Everything is communicated through how they move and react. I had a blast writing about Pogo. He gets a buddy in the third book. His name is Beauregard. In other words, double trouble.

Sarah Raplee said...

Awesome!

Judith Ashley said...

Read "The Executrix" on the plane to and from AZ and really enjoyed it. Pogo is certainly a central character!!! Will have to continue his story - oh wait! it's about the Dushane sisters.