The winter months mean there are more strays to look after.
Happy New Year!
I know I'm a little late, but I've taken a month away from writing to reset and formulate plans for this year. I also needed to focus on the day job to bring some cash in to cover the cost of dog and cat food. It's amazing how much 7 strays can eat.
They're all amazing and, somehow, get on like one big family. We have had the addition of Tinker. She was so nervous and scared of everything last summer. It was heartbreaking. The months of constant love paid off over Christmas and New Year, thankfully. She's now a totally different dog. She follows me everywhere. Stopping her jumping on the bus every time I go into town has led to much hilarity. She's always waiting for me when I get back, although that may be because she knows I'll have been to the butcher and there'll be a treat for her.
She's become a cross between Princess and Buster in so many ways. Tummy tickles are her favourite thing in the world. She loves curling up by the back door, but also knows where the gaps in the fence she can get through are whenever she wants to go for a wander. It took her a little while to work out how to get back in without having to bark for my help. She seems to have worked it out now.
She's going for her first trip to the vet in the next couple of weeks so she can have a tag put in her ear, get micro-chipped, and a few other things little dogs need. I'm sure it will be a shock to her system, but I have a bed lined up for her so she can have a few days recovering. If she's anything like Jasper, she'll make the most of it and stay for far longer than she strictly needs. Not that I will encourage her to leave. I think another stray had adopted me!
She has the capacity to make me laugh like a crazy man. Yesterday, she entertained herself by running incircles on the beach as she ploughed through the sea before sprinting back on the sand. Even the other strays were watching her as though she were crazy. I'm pretty certain Smokey the cat sees the craziness too, but is happy to curl up next to her when the opportunity arises. Another positive result of a stray dog and cat getting on well together.
Tinker's transformation hasn't been my only surprise. In the past, I've mentioned a friend who has a big, enclosed field with shelter for the stray dogs he takes in. Well, we have another new addition there too. My friend was approached by someone who had spent a lot of money on a new puppy. The puppy hadn't settled in its new home at all. It could so easily have become another stray having to fend for itself, but my friend is a good man and gave Elsa a new home in the field with Mumsy, Toby, and Kiko. The others have become really protective of her in record time. The only danger she poses is, when I see her to give her a cuddle, she tries to lick me to death. It's easy to calm her down. It just takes a tickle behind her ears. Her eyes close and the smile appears. She's going to be an amazing dog, because she's growing up surrounded by love.
I wish I could help all the stray animals, but I can't. There are many amazing animal charities around the world who do a much better job than me. Even if you can't donate money, an hour or two of your time taking a dog for a walk, or playing with the animals, makes the world of difference. So, if you have the chance, please contact them and offer to help. I can promise it will help you as much as it will the strays and the charities.
A Hidden Problem
Several friends in the UK have contacted me since November. They've all had an issue with online payments. I had the same at the start of January when renewing payments for the website. I spoke to my bank who were very helpful. The most important message is, "Don't worry, it isn't you." There has been a major switch from Visa to Mastercard in the past year after Visa increased its payment rates. This has led to an issue with 3D authentication. Effectively, the bank receiving the money doesn't recognise the bank sending it, so the payment is refused. It also doesn't register as an order as payment hasn't gone through. Sadly, this isn't something that has been shared with the wider public (although my bank has given me verbal permission to raise the issue).
I know it has affected my book sales in the UK, which is hugely frustrating. All I can suggest is calling your bank when it happens and the pressure of numbers having an issue may help it be resolved quicker. Thankfully, from my perspective, it has only affected those in the UK. Otherwise I can only suggest using alternative payment methods, including different card, which don't seem to be affected.
Please keep trying, as both my books are available on Amazon and elsewhere, including Kindle Unlimited.
That nicely leads me on to what's coming up in the next few months.
I am working hard on putting together a members' area on the website. It will have everything from downloads to special offers. It will also be free for the first few months and remain so for life for those who sign up early. Eventually, there will be a small charge to cover admin costs. I'll let you all know more details nearer the time. I promise I have a few surprises up my sleeve. If there is something you'd like to see in the members area, please get in touch. It would be especially interesting to hear from teachers in that regard.
We're also getting close to the next book coming out. All I'll say, at this juncture, is this one is for Mummy and Daddy to read. There will be further adventures of the strays later in the year, but I felt the grown-ups deserved a book of their own. I'm just putting the finishing touches to it and then it'll hit the bookshelves. It should have something for everyone.
MaxS and The Strays