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  • Writer's pictureMaximilian Sam

Soundtrack Of My Life - Alyson Sheldrake

Alyson Sheldrake is the multi-award-winning author of non-fiction for animal lovers and a series of travel memoirs. 

In her bestseller, Kat the Dog, she beautifully captures the bond between humans and animals, leaving you with an overwhelming desire to hug your own pet more tightly or even adopt a rescue dog of your own. This multi-award-winning book has been described as a must read for animal lovers.

Kat the Dog is a true story of hope and redemption. It gives a glimpse into the life of a rescued animal and the universal message that we should never give up, no matter how hard things might seem. True love and a forever home can be just around the corner.

A Facebook review sums up this enchanting book so well: “Kat the Dog, while only little, touches on the big topics of determination, love, and kindness, so this is much more than just another dog story.”

The Small Dog Rules’ Karen Lena Izzo has depicted it as follows:

“Kat the Dog is a wonderful read for any dog lover. It offers a perfect blend of entertainment and education, and Kat’s story is one that readers won’t forget. Highly recommended.”

If you are a dog lover… this is the one for you.

Needless to say, Kat has been given honourary status as a part of the Stray Army.

Alyson also produces an amazing magazine every month called Snapshot! It's a really great read. Obviously, Tinker felt her interview was the best ever!

First up, congratulations. The Tractor Boys are back in the big time! How long did the celebrations in your part of Portugal last?

I knew a fellow football fan would understand! Back-to-back promotions for Ipswich Town and we’re back in the Premier League!! It’s been an amazing ride since the new owners took over and Kieron McKenna took charge and we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to watch all the games live here in Portugal via the new Town TV International Subscription package. Both husband Dave and I have refused to do any work on Saturday afternoons this year! And we’re still celebrating the season finale and probably will for a good while yet!

We read your monthly newsletter, although to us it’s a magazine. There’s so much content. How do you find the time to put it together and get so many interesting interviews and topics to keep it going?

Thank you – yes, it’s a real labour of love. It started off as a tiny 4-page A4 PDF sent to a few friends about 12 years ago, and it has grown into a 120+ page a month online magazine, reaching about 17,000 readers every month. I love bringing it all together and don’t really see it as ‘work’ as such. I’ve got people booked in for the main features for several months ahead in my planner … so it’s definitely here to stay!

Kat The Dog, obviously a book that resonates with us, is wonderful. Can you tell us how it came about?

This is the true story of our rescued Spanish water dog called Kat. She was found in a terrible state, wandering along the road near a remote village in Spain. Aged about 5, she was very underweight, full of ticks and fleas with a dreadfully matted coat. She was starving and distraught, having recently given birth. A friend who runs an animal charity here in the Algarve rescued Kat; and I knew the moment I saw her photo on FB that she was the girl for us. We had 8 wonderful years with her, and the book is her story – in her own words.

I had already written two travel memoirs about our life here in the Algarve in Portugal, and Kat’s story is told there. But I wanted Kat the Dog to be a much more personal account, and the moment I sat down to start writing, it came out as if Kat herself was speaking. Also, we knew nothing about her life before she was rescued, but we knew how ill she was and all the things that she was frightened of or reacted to. So I took all of those things and wove them into the first few chapters of the book to create a fictional account of her early days – but based upon her reactions and sadly, how we know so many homeless and stray dogs have to live in order to survive.

I think Kat came along at just the right time in my life and she was a one-in-a-million girl. I wanted to honour that and share her story, and now she has passed, it has become her legacy to help other animals in a similar position too, as I am donating 15% of the profits from the sale of Kat the Dog to local animal rescue charities.

What plans do you have that we can look forward to seeing?

I’m playing around with some ideas for a fictional story – that will have a dog as a central theme – so watch this space!

You can find out all about Alyson on her website You can also sign-up to receive th amazing Snapshot! magazine at

As always, you can find Alyson's playlist on Spotify by clicking the link below.

Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks

1973 and this is the first song I remember hearing on the radio at home. Mom always had Radio 2 playing in our house every day, and I used to love singing along … although sadly it was about this time (aged about 5) that I also realised that I cannot sing in tune for toffee. 

I was too young to realise how sad the lyrics were, although the original version, the Belgian song “Le Moribond” (”The Dying Man”) which was written by Belgian poet-composer Jacques Brel in 1961, was apparently even sadder. A dying man’s farewell to his loved ones. Terry Jacks changed some of the words, prompted by the news that his close friend had been diagnosed with leukaemia and given a mere six months to live. His friend died four months later.

Suddenly by Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard 

1980, from the soundtrack of the film Xanadu, and the first single I bought with my own pocket money. I can still see the colourful picture sleeve of the vinyl single I played to death on the family’s gramophone. I decided to choose the first single I bought instead of the first album, as I figured you probably wouldn’t want to include any tracks from The Wombles Christmas Album in this listing!

Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves

1990 and I was a newly graduated student embarking on a further year of study to gain my P.G.C.E. teaching certificate at Exeter University. They assigned me to teach at a private girls’ school in the city, and I have vivid memories of spending an entire term instructing a class of students to dance to this song for their end-of-term performance. Surprisingly, even now I can still enjoy the energy of this song, even though I must have heard it more than a hundred times that term.

From This Moment On by Shania Twain

Dave and I decided to get married on the 31st December 1999, little realising that we would become the last people to get married in the county of Devon in the last millennium! This was ‘our song’ for the big day, and I still get goosebumps when I hear it played. We got married in a Gothic folly, surrounded by close friends and family, then retired to the local pub for a champagne breakfast with smoked salmon and scrambled egg! 

Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Well, our concert tickets were really for Deep Purple, but Lynyrd Skynyrd came on stage as the main support act and blew the audience away. 2003 and the first act on stage was a band no-one had heard of – The Darkness! Deep Purple, in comparison, were pretty average, but Lynyrd Skynyrd were totally amazing and had the whole place rocking.

Gravity by John Mayer

John Mayer’s album Continuum came out in 2006 and it stayed in our car playing on repeat for about seven months! There was a record store in Exmouth, Devon, in the local market, and the lad behind the counter knew the type of music we liked. He was playing this album one morning when we popped in to see him, and we fell for it straight away. It was his only copy, and we literally wrestled it out of his arms to buy it. An epic album, and an iconic song with fabulous guitar playing and inspirational lyrics.

Mandolin Wind by Rod Stewart

2007 and the only time we have actually been able to stand on the pitch at Portman Road, home of Ipswich Town. A live concert with Rod Stewart, with a brilliant stage that stretched out into the audience and a great performance. Except for one thing – the rain! It absolutely poured down, Rod ending up singing holding a white umbrella, and we gave up and just enjoyed the music!

Come Away With Me by Norah Jones

When we moved here to live in the Algarve, Dave and I both wanted to see if our respective hobbies could become more for us. Dave had always held a camera in his hands, and I loved painting, but neither of us had time to indulge our creative passions whilst working full time in the UK. Fast forward to 2012 and we were ready to set up our very first ‘pop-up’ gallery in one of the nicest hotels in the Algarve. But what music should we play in the background? I set up a playlist on my iPod lasting eight hours, consisting solely of music by Norah Jones and Katie Melua. We ran 12 exhibitions over the next 8 years with the same playlist, and every time I hear this music, I am transported back to that moment, opening our event for the very first time.

Stuck Like Glue by Sugarland

I could have chosen any of their songs, I love their modern country music vibe, but I chose this one because the music video to accompany this song is hilarious! If you peep through the windows of my art studio when I’m working, you’ll probably spot me dancing (and singing (!) Sorry neighbours!!) to a modern country song like this one.

Country Music Made Me Do It by Carly Pearce

Another love of mine, Carly Pearce, has a magnificent voice, and her songs have excellent lyrics. This is a brand-new release from her next studio album, Hummingbird, that has been whizzing round my Amazon playlist in my studio all month. It has a great beat to paint to and mixes traditional and contemporary country-pop music so well.

Find out more about Alyson’s books and art on her website:

And sign up to her newsletter here:

You can find all of Alyson's links at:

See you all next time.

MaxS and The Stray Army


May 28

Yay, I can write a comment here with my laptop. Definitely a device thing, I imagine. Anyway, just to say I really enjoyed reading your soundtrack, Aly. Your music tastes align with mine quite often. I too love Lynyrd Skynyrd, Mandolin Wind and Norah Jones. A lovely post with the background to your-defining events as well.


May 27

I remember the Terry Jacks song from my childhood and always wondered what it was about.

I love your wedding story, and how amazing that Lynyrd Skynyrd outshone Deep Purple!

Now, I want to hear you sing and watch you dance...

Thanks for sharing, Alyson and Max, and if anyone hasn't read Kat The Dog yet, get it on your list. It is a wonderful, uplifting book and justifiably warrants its place in the Stray Army!

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