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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

HEALTHY LIVING--GUEST AUTHOR AMY SHOJAI, SERVICE DOGS & #PTSD

Photo Used With Permission: Service dog training for German Shepherd, image by domaco/DepositPhotos.com 
Amy Shojai is a nationally known authority on pet care and behavior, a certified animal behavior consultant, and the award-winning author of 30 nonfiction pet books. She also writes thrillers with bite!—including the dog-viewpoint thrillers Lost and Found, Hide and Seek, and Show and Tell. Learn more about Amy and her books at her website and blog.

(Note from Anastasia: For information on keeping your small dogs healthy, click here.)
Show and Tell, PTSD, & Pet-centric Characters
I’m a longtime reader and lover of all-things-pets and knew that dogs (and cats) would be part of my thriller series. But as a “pet journalist,” I also wanted to enlighten readers, not only entertain them. In Show and Tell, my two main characters share this burden and are a reflection of people and pets that I know.

Animal behaviorist September Day continues to suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder.) Many of us are very aware that military personnel face challenges from the experiences they’ve encountered in service to their country. In fact, anyone can develop debilitating stress from a past or ongoing traumatic experience. September’s flashbacks and panic attacks arise from an abusive relationship in her past. Since then, she’s been stalked, kidnapped by the abuser, and nearly burned to death when he tried to kill her.

In response, September turned her house into a fortress, shut herself off from the world, and became frozen by fear and unwilling to risk new relationships. September only begins to heal through working with animals and falls in love with Shadow, a German Shepherd who becomes her service dog.

Through Shadow’s viewpoint chapters, I wanted to showcase the fact that service dogs also suffer emotional challenges and even burnout. In real life, military dogs can also suffer from PTSD, and Shadow has been through so much, he’s also emotionally damaged. He feels responsible for keeping September safe. It’s “a good-dog’s job” to search through the house to be sure it’s safe, to become an 80-pound weight to hold September down until her panic fades, and to recognize and alert September prior to a flashback. But Shadow worries all the time that he might fail and lose his person forever—and be alone.

September’s mother is embarrassed by the panic attacks, and believes September just needs to toughen up. Outsiders raise eyebrows when Shadow acts like a dog rather than their pooch-perfect ideal, and are surprised there is no “service dog test/license” or tag/harness identification requirement. When September’s autistic nephew reappears, Shadow worries he’ll lose September and be returned to “his-boy.”

Shadow’s presence reduces September’s PTSD to manageable levels, and his early warnings of imminent episodes or danger boost her confidence. In turn, Shadow relies on September for the love and family he’s always craved. They are each other’s support, chosen family, and share an almost mystical connection. September refers to Shadow as her “heart.”

And then an intruder breaks into September’s house . . .

Show and Tell
An animal behaviorist and her service dog race a deadly storm to expose a treacherous secret others will kill to protect.

A blackmailer returns to sell a deadly cure.
A mother’s denial dooms millions of children.
And a dog shows true loyalty…when he runs away.

With her stalker finally caught, animal behaviorist September Day’s PTSD has abated and she’s begun to trust again. She dares to hope Detective Jeff Combs might become more than a friend, until his investigation into a dogfighting ring leaves her reeling.

Shadow wrestles his own demons. A German Shepherd autism service dog before losing his-boy to a health crises, Shadow found love and his true purpose working with September. Now his-boy is back—but changed—and Shadow fears he’ll be forced to choose.

When a desperate mom demands help, and Combs’s son disappears with his dog, September and Shadow must find the children before a devastating storm hits. But the children have a secret plan of their own. Only when September shows true courage, and a good-dog tells the truth, can they find their way home again.

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2 comments:

AmyShojai said...

Thanks so much for hosting me on your wonderful blog! my own pets (Magical-Dawg, Karma-Kat and Seren-Kitty) send woofs & purrs, too. Happy New Year!

Angela Adams said...

I was so excited to click on my email and see this post. Service dogs are invaluable! Thank you for the post and best wishes for 2016!