It’s a Dog’s Life


The reason this seemingly endless pandemic has not thrown my wellbeing completely asunder is due to the love of my dogs. I’m thinking of this because our puppy, Sorcha, is one year old today, and in looking back over the past year, much of which seems shrouded in the dark unknown hasn’t been so dark after all because raising a puppy, while the world’s been on pause, has been a bright light at the center of everything.

Here is Sorcha on August 22, 2019, the day she was born.

GSD Puppy

Here is Sorcha’s first photoshoot at 31/2 weeks old.


So much of my downtime has been devoted to raising a puppy that it’s been a delightful distraction.

Sorcha is the fifth German shepherd we’ve had over the past 20 years. The thing about shepherds is once you have one, no other dog breed will suffice. GSD’s verge on having human intelligence, surpass it, if you factor in devotional, emotional intelligence, and in many respects, raising a German shepherd is like raising a kid. Their combined energy and curiosity coupled with their need to please has caused many a shepherd owner to remark, “If you don’t give them a job, they’ll find one,” and I believe this is true. It, therefore, makes a German shepherd easy to train; all that’s necessary is militant consistency.  Shepherds delight in rules and boundaries. They flourish when they perceive a schedule. When shown an activity, the time piece in their constitution calibrates forever. Shepherds are sticklers for time, and get animated should you veer from their schedule, especially when it involves something they deem rewarding— a walk, playing with a ball, their dinner. This makes them conveniently predictable. If you need nothing else from your dog, you need them predictable.

We had two German shepherds, when we brought Sorcha home: Ceili and Ronin, who were well into their sixth year when I got puppy fever. In rationalizing, I told my husband that we wouldn’t want what happened with our first two shepherds to recur, meaning when our beloved nine year old, Shadow, went to heaven,

WP_20130405_010 our eleven year old shepherd, Secret, was, for the first time, a disillusioned, solitary canine.

(Above is Shadow, on the Mission Trail in Carmel, California. Below, is our gorgeous female, Secret, whose name came from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)

Secret GSD


The void was so apparent for all of us when Shadow died, that soon thereafter, we acquired Ceili at 11 weeks old.  ( Here is Ceili fully grown.)

Ceili CFF Sofa


Four months later, when Secret unexpectedly died, it broke my heart all over again, and once again, we were a one dog household. So, we brought our first German shepherd male home and named him Ronin, which meant we now had two shepherds roughly the same age.

(Here is Ronin in all his male magnificence.)

L1000230 Ronin

All this leads to how we came to include Sorcha. I waged a puppy campaign this time last year, rationalizing that our lifestyle is unthinkable in a shepherdless world, and stating the obvious, which is to say that when the sad inevitable comes to Ceili and Ronin, we’ll still have a shepherd who loves them, and is six years behind them. Now, Sorcha completes the triage of three German shepherds, each with an Irish name.

trio of gsd

It’s been a focal point every day, raising Sorcha, and let it be known that Ceili and Ronin have had an integral part in her rearing. Being, as it is, that dogs are pack animals, from the second Sorcha entered the fray, Ceili and Ronin took charge. They led the schedule, accepted no shenanigans, were clear with boundaries, and were touchingly magnanimous in sharing their lives. As it turns out, mature shepherds will raise a puppy for you!

the pack

This dynamic has fostered a secure, confident, fearless German shepherd. Sorcha’s seamless inclusion into an existing pack immediately spawned playful competition.

Case in point: here is Sorcha at 9 weeks, commandeering what was once Ronin’s frisbee. The look on Ronin’s face says it all!

sorcha ronin frisbee

At times, Sorcha wants to be helpful. Here she is at four months, as we were out in the yard, replacing some of the pine trees that burned during the Malibu, 2018 fires.

6 month sorcha carrying bucket

Here is Sorcha at six months old


Today, Ceili, Ronin, and Sorcha do everything as a pack




Ronin Ceili Sorcha

Today, I’m thanking my lucky stars for our canine companions. They seem to me heaven-sent during these unusual times!

Here is Sorcha today, on her one year birthday!.

one year old sorcha

Happy Birthday, Sorcha. Let us eat cake!




Here on the west end of Malibu, I spend most of my days writing. I’ve been at a particular pitch for twelve years or so, and what I’ve come to realize is, if a writer stays with it consistently, they’ll realize they’ve created a lifestyle that feels like a spinning wheel whose spokes include the writing of a book, the book’s pre-release promotion,  post-release promotion, oftentimes travel to book events, and all the while, a work-in-progress that perpetuates the cycle.

I discovered long ago that balance is key to being a writer. I don’t think it’s healthy to spend too much time at my desk. I’m in the habit of stringing three or four hours in front of my computer then going outside to walk around, see if the sun is shining, put Groove Music on my headphones, and walk to the beach to watch the surfers. A little air and movement always does me good.


But it’s amazing what can happen from the simple act of walking outside while taking a break from my desk. Last week, it was this: WP_20200524_10_12_55_Pro

An egret walked around our backyard. It’s been seven days since this majestic bird appeared, and it shows no enthusiasm toward leaving. The Malibu terrain this time of year is hot and dry, and that means the prevalence of lizards, which, I suspect, is the egret’s draw.


Egret Front Door

As you can see from the above photograph, the egret has made itself quite at home. Even our female, German shepherd, Ceili has grown used to it, though this isn’t always the case, especially when our other two shepherds are involved.

Here are Ceili, Ronin, and our 9-month-old puppy, Sorcha: three German shepherds with Irish names.


When it comes to seeking balance in my writing life, the environment I live in, and those that populate it give me a sense of balance.

I’m like may writers. I live on a wheel that constantly spins. It suits me, this combination of creativity, dedication, and purpose. Being a novelist is a fulltime job with no “there” to get to, only the commitment and perseverance it takes to stay on the path. As for the outcome of each book, beyond doing the very best I can do, it’s not my business. My business is to enjoy the process. I am grateful beyond measure when anything comes from one of my books, but it’s enough to enjoy the quality of my days; that I am spending time the way I like to, building something that matters to me, then walking outside to see what’s happening.