I’m happy to welcome Julie Lence to the blog to share her wonderful rescue dog, Nova, and her western historical romance No Luck At All.
Hi Beth. Thank you for having me as your guest today. To give your readers a little background about me, I’m a stay-at-home mom enjoying a career writing western historical romance. I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for 34 years and we have one son who is now in college. Ever since I was young, I have always loved animals. Dogs and horses are my favorites. While I don’t own horses, writing western romance enables me to incorporate them into my work. As for dogs, my family had several throughout my childhood years, and the hubby and I have had 3 of our own. Our current dog, who rules the home, is a German shepherd.
Nova is a rescue dog. She came to live with us about 11 years ago. Our male shepherd had passed away, and though I swore after him I didn’t want any more pets, being alone in the house all day, I couldn’t stand the quiet. I made a call to our vet and asked him to find us another shepherd. He telephoned back about a week later stating he had found 2 shepherds. One was a male who was very high strung and most likely a pet I wouldn’t be able to handle. Nova, on the other hand, was a sweetheart and desperately in need of a home before she was sent back to the shelter. Excited, the kiddo and I went to see her at the vet’s office. She was quite a shock, as I was expecting her coloring to be all black, as our male was. Tan, with a bit of black fur, it took a moment to wrap my brain around the change, but as soon as Nova was released from her kennel, she came running to me and the kiddo, excited and happy to see us, as though she knew she belonged to us. Fifteen minutes later, she was in the car and going home with us.
That first afternoon everything was right in my world. We had a dog in the house again! Nova loved her new home and backyard. She played with the kiddo, who was about 6 at the time, and she welcomed the hubby when he came home from work. She also claimed the spot on the landing where our other shepherd liked to nap. At around 2 years old, she was gentle, house broken, friendly, and had manners. The story went she had had several owners, one of which was an army man who had been training her. He was shipped overseas and Nova stayed behind with his wife. Sadly, he was injured and sent home. His wife couldn’t take care of him and Nova, too, hence the reason Nova eventually came to live with us.
About a year after having her, Nova began to have health issues. Our vet recommended she see an internal specialist, who was fairly certain she had cancer and didn’t have long to live. I never prayed so hard in one weekend, with my stomach in knots and hiding tears from the kiddo while we waited for her test results. Those prayers were answered in that she didn’t have cancer, but a mass that could be reduced and controlled with medication. She has since been on meds, and continues to develop problems as she ages. But no matter how many curve balls life throws at her, she is a real trooper and maintains her zest for life… and treats, and potato chips, and veges and fruits, and her tennis ball.
Nova loves Christmas and knows her Christmas stocking. As soon as she sees me fill it Christmas Eve, she guards it until Christmas morning. She also knows Thanksgiving and gets excited when I bring the turkey into the house, usually spending Thanksgiving Day in the kitchen waiting for the bird to cook. She is smart in that she knows everyone’s routine, the sound of not only our vehicles but our neighbor’s, and that the answering machine will pick up on 4th the ring. (Actually, if I don’t answer the phone by the 2nd ring, she starts whining.) Some of the things she doesn’t like is going to the vet, even though both of them spoil her, and the Fed Ex and UPS trucks. She barks as soon as she hears them coming up the street and doesn’t stop until they’re gone. Getting a bath or playing in the sprinklers are also not favorites, but she does like to be brushed and roll in the grass. And she likes riding in the car. Her 1st summer with us, we took her to Durango, up and over several 14,000ft mountains. She was green going over the last one and I thought she was going to be sick, but she held on. She also likes going on walks, but that has come to an end as she suffers from arthritis and cannot walk too far.
Having Nova has been a blessing. She is good company for me, as I tend to talk to her as if she’s a human. Funny thing is she understands most of what I’m saying. We’ve taken her camping, on more drives in the mountains and to the park. She’s loyal and protective, barking at anyone who comes to the door, even those she knows. One of the best memories I have stems from a few years ago.
Around 4a.m., the C.O. detector went off. Hubbs tried everything to get it to shut up, but it wouldn’t. Fearing the alarm was real, we called the fire department. Kiddo and I put Nova into the car and backed out onto the street. As the fire truck pulled up, I expected her to start barking at the firemen, but she sat and calmly watched. Now when one of the smoke alarms goes off, she looks at us to see if we are leaving the house again. A second funny memory—my laundry room is upstairs. One day while the wash machine was running, it made this God-awful racket. Nova came running and met me at the door to the laundry room. We looked at the machine, she looked at me and I looked at her and we both had the same expression—what the heck? And then we walked away, deciding there was nothing we could do until the machine was done washing.
There are so many more memories, like when she snatched a hamburger off the counter, how she used to cuddle with me on the couch (she’s 85lbs.), how she chases the squirrels and birds out of the yard, that I could continue talking about her all day. She is my girl, and will continue to rule the house until she no longer can. As I mentioned above, the novels I write always include horses. I only have one story where I feature a pet, and Wiley isn’t a dog. He’s a wolf. Below is his initial meeting with Creel and Racine Weston in No Luck At All.
Excerpt from No Luck At All
Racine hurried across the yard to the springhouse. Collecting her pie, she made haste toward the back of the barn where hammers and saws could be heard. The ranch hands were steadfastly working on the bunkhouse, hoping to finish and move in by the end of the following week.
“Morning, Blade,” she called, approaching the building.
He paused from nailing trim around a window and touched his fingers to the brim of his hat. “Morning, Miz Racy. What brings you out here?”
“I’m going to town with Creel. There’s a kettle of soup on the stove for you and the others.”
“Appreciate it.” He nodded.
“There’s fresh bread, too.” She cast an uneasy glance toward the back of the house. “Blade, will you do me a favor?” She brought her gaze back to him.
“If I can.”
“Can you find Lucas or Royce and let one of them know I’ll be in town all day? Please? They’ll understand the message,” she added at his strained look.
“They ain’t gonna be happy to hear they’re not getting pan toast today.”
“‘Course, I know. We all do. Ain’t nothing those boys do we ranch hands don’t know about.”
“Then why the look just now?”
“‘Cause the others and me ain’t gonna get a good laugh today watching those two sneaking around the trees.”
“Oh?” She smiled. Then a thought struck. “Do Paige and Missy know?”
“I doubt it. They’d have taken those two to task for coming over here and botherin’ you, and nobody’s heard any yelling, that I know of.”
Racine sighed in relief. “Thank goodness. Creel found out yesterday and wasn’t happy. He bade them to eat at their own homes.”
Blade shook his head, tiredly. “You’d think by now he’d have learned his brothers will do anything they can to rile him. They don’t do it outta meanness. They do it–”
A sharp wail split the air.
“What in all creation…?” Racine’s heart hammered beneath her breast.
“Wolf! Only he don’t sound too good.” Blade grabbed her arm and set her back against the bunkhouse. “You stay here.” He took off for the edge of the woods, as fast as his injured leg would carry him.
The horses in the corral began to whinny. Racine drew a sharp breath. From the corner of her eye, she saw Davey and Joe drop their tools and run.
“The heck I will,” she murmured, lifting her skirts the same time a door slammed. She guessed Creel had heard and come to investigate, but she didn’t take the time to find out. She ran after the men, and nearly skidded in her tracks when she came to a halt beside Blade.
“Mother of Mercy,” she panted in awe. Standing between two thick trees, blood dripping from his heaving side, drool dangling at the corner of his mouth, a big, gray wolf stared at them, pain in his eyes.
Racine made to step forward only Blade grabbed her arm.
“He’s got company.” He pointed to something blocking the wolf’s path—a rattlesnake, tail sticking up and hissing.
“Sonofabitch!” Creel grasped her other arm. “Go back to the house and–”
“He’s bleeding, Creel.” Racine grabbed his upper arms, imploring, “You’ve got to help him. Please?”
No sooner were her words out then a knife sailed through the air and pinned the snake’s head to the ground. Racine whirled in the direction from which the knife had come and saw Davey jab Joe in the shoulder. “Got it!”
Jerking her attention back to the wolf, she locked her gaze with his and spoke in a soft voice. “It’s all right, boy. No one’s going to hurt you.” To Creel, she said, “How in heavens did Davey do that?” and saw the wolf’s ears prick to the sound of her voice.
“He’s good with knives is all you need to know,” Creel whispered back.
Racine nodded. She’d question him later and wouldn’t allow him to be so evasive, but right now the wolf needed help. “Easy, boy.” She took a cautious step forward, and then another, her basket banging against her hip. The wolf growled a warning.
Ahh, an idea came to her.
“Racine!” Creel hissed.
“Shush,” she whispered. “We have to help him.” She knelt down, slipped the basket off her arm and opened it. Withdrawing the pie, she held it out so the wolf could see and sniff it.
Holding her breath, she waited patiently, hearing the sounds of guns being cocked behind her. Please Lord, don’t let them shoot the wolf, she prayed.
The hair on animal’s neck rose. He growled low and pawed the remains of the snake.
“C’mon boy, come get the pie,” she coaxed. “You don’t want that snake. He tried to bite you.”
The wolf’s ears pricked again. He looked at her and growled louder.
“C’mon boy, you can do it.” She shoved the pie closer toward him. “Come here and get a piece.”
Creel hissed another warning to her. She shushed him a second time and extended the pie even farther. “I know you’re hungry,” she pressed
Then the unbelievable happened.
The wolf dropped down on the dry, brittle leaves and whined, pitifully and painfully.
Keeping her gaze on him, Racine sucked in a breath and slowly crawled forward on her knees.
The wolf panted heavily. Spittle dripped from his mouth and he whined again.
Finally, after a long, heart-stopping minute, she was inches from him, and cautiously set the pie beneath his nose. He eyed it, then her, and then began to gobble it as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks.
“Get me more food,” she whispered to Creel. She heard him curse under his breath before he ran toward the house.
“It’s good, huh?” She smiled and reached a tentative hand forward. While he licked the plate, she touched his head with her fingers.
He lifted his eyes and growled again, but it wasn’t one of conviction.
“Don’t bite the hand feeding you,” she instructed. “You want more, you be nice.” And again, he surprised her. He actually let her pet his head. “Good boy.”
“I ain’t never seen nothin’ like it.” Davey expelled a long, astounded breath. “He’s lettin’ her pet ’em.”
“How’d you do that, Miz Racy?” Joe wanted to know.
She shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Wolves aren’t known to take to humans,” Blade said. “He senses something good in you.”
“He likes my cooking, same as all the men on this ranch,” she said softly before taking in the extent of the wolf’s wounds. “He’s got a long gash on his side. And plenty of scratches to go with it.”
“Must have gotten into a fight with another animal.” Blade sheathed his gun.
“We’ll patch him up,” Creel said, halting a few feet behind her. “Soon as he eats this and falls asleep. I put some laudanum on the toast.” He passed the plate to her.
“Thank you.” She took the plate and gave it to the wolf, her hand still patting his head.
He gobbled it up and looked to her as though to ask for more.
“Later,” she said softly. “Right now you need to sleep so I can help you.”
“Soon as he’s out, we’ll move him to the barn,” Creel said. “Be easier to treat him in there.”
She nodded and continued to stroke his mangy fur. “He needs a bath, and a good brushing.”
“Don’t think you’re gonna keep him, darlin’. He’s wild and could take a notion to lunge for your pretty little neck at any time.”
“He won’t,” she said matter-of-factly, and was rewarded a short time later when the wolf fell asleep to her hand caressing his ears.
She stood up and moved out of the way while Creel lifted him and carried him toward the barn.
“Put him in one of the stalls,” she instructed, “while I heat some water. And be careful.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Creel grinned.
“Blade,” she called, mounting the porch steps, “please find me a brush. I want to get the snarls out of his fur.”
“Yes, Miz Racy.”
“Thank you,” she said and hurried inside.
No Luck At All is available at Amazon: www.amazon.com/dp/B0064R6NVI
Thank you for taking the time to read about Nova. If you would like to connect with me, I can be reached here:
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