Category Archives: Animals

Help Me Name My Snake!

We added to our zoo last Monday!

I’ve been wanting a snake for quite some time, but I’d never gotten around to getting one. Honestly, what stopped me the most was the idea of feeding mice (ew.) But my husband got a corn snake last fall, so I’m getting a little more used to the idea. I mean, I already feed big ugly bugs to my bearded dragon, so why not?


This guy showed up on a sale group on Facebook. We talked about it as a semi-joke for about a week until I finally decided I wanted him.

He’s a banana California king snake, and my immediate nickname for him was Bob Dole. (Cause, you know, Dole…bananas…). But I’d like a permanent name for him, so I’m asking for your help! Mr. Dole is about 2.5 – 3 feet long and just over a year old.

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Not a good pic since I hadn’t put a light on top of his tank yet, but here he is showing off his length and his beautiful markings.

I’d love to have something literary, Star Trek related, artsy, or vintage-y. I’m considering Lore and Mr. Rogers. Flood me with your suggestions!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.



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Author Interview: Carlos LoPopolo

There’s nothing better than a good children’s book, unless it’s one that is based on real life.  That’s the case with Zobo:  The First Mustang, the first in a series of books that follows the real history of the mustang in America.

              Zobo with his mother, Rain

I see you’ve established two wild horse preserves in New Mexico, and you’re working on starting another one in Texas.  Where did your passion for horses come from?

I’ve always been around horses since I was seven, but in ‘99 when I found out what was happening to the mustang it became important to understand their plight and help to preserve them for future generations.  It was on their back this country this country was built.

It’s quite a process to produce a picture book.  What’s the toughest part?

Finding an artist that understands your concept.

                    Zobo’s father, Sombrillo

What does the future hold for Zobo?  Will there be more books coming?

Zobo is the first generation. The series brings the lineage forward from the area of present day Vera Cruz, Mexico to the government preserve they graze on today.  I am presently working on the eighth book in the series and the tenth line of Zobo’s descendants.

How long have you been writing?

Since I was in a kid but didn’t get serious until I was in high school.


Who are your favorite authors?

Thurber, Diaz, Castaneda. I like this quote from Castaneda: The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.

The path Zobo and his family would have taken.

What are you reading right now?

Historical documents from New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico.

Bio:  Pam and Carlos live in Bastrop Texas on a little parcel of land with their friends; three dogs, Bob, Mindy, and Trish, two cats Molly and Terry, three chickens (the chickens all look alike so they are hard to name), two donkeys, Bella and Storm, and two horses, Bliss, and Crackers. They all live together in harmony most of the time but, sometimes in chaos.  When they are not enjoying the bright sunshine of Central Texas or the fantastic sunsets they are thinking about where Zobo’s descendants are going next.   Since 1999 Carlos has been rounding up and preserving wild horses.  He has established two wild horse preserves in New Mexico.   Together with his wife Pam they are trying to raise enough money to purchase land here in Texas to open up another wild horse preserve. They are not asking for donations, which is why they are writing the Zobo series.  Through the sale of the books and the development of the movie project,  they hope to raise enough money to purchase land for a new preserve.


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Please Help the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary

auctionHave you ever come across one of those Facebook pages that just constantly provides you with warm fuzzies?  Maybe one that you know you can pull up on your phone before you go to bed at night and find a post that instantly makes you feel better about the world?  For me, Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary is one of them.


Is there anything better than a bucket of pugs?  No, I didn’t think so either.  Old Friends routinely shares “goodnight” photos from their residents.  (Photo courtesy of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary.)


Located in Mt. Joliet, Tennessee, Old Friends is dedicated to assisting senior dogs through their golden years.  While some stay at the sanctuary, dogs are also fostered out to homes in their local area.  While many animal rescue organizations are out there doing wonderful things for dogs and cats, I think it’s wonderful that Old Friends concentrates on the dogs that are usually skipped over due to their health problems or the fact that they don’t have many years left.

If you are a pet owner or lover of any kind, you know how expensive it can be to provide everything an animal needs.  These costs are only increased when the pets are disabled or sickly and require a more constant veterinary routine than others.  Now, the expenses of Old Friends have been increased exponentially by a change in zoning laws in their community that is requiring them suddenly to move.  This will mean a disruption in the lives of numerous dogs–many of whom are deaf or blind–as well as the cost of setting up new living quarters that are suitable for these aging canines.


Leo (Photo courtesy of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary)

I ask that you consider helping out this worthwhile enterprise.  There is a shop on their website with several items available, as well as a link to donate directly through Paypal.  They also have t-shirts available on a limited time basis.  Their current one, celebrating Gracie’s birthday, can be found here.  There’s even a dog art auction going on through September 14th.  I’m sure that even a few dollars here and there will make a difference in these sweet pooches’ lives.


Frankie.  Yes, I just adore the pugs!  (Photo courtesy of Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary)

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Shelter Snobs, or The Many Ways to Save a Life


Adopting a pet from a shelter is the popular thing to do these days.  I’m not saying that makes it a bad thing, not by any means, but it’s becoming compulsory.

“Hey, check out this picture of our new dog!” is immediately met with “Did you get him from a shelter?”

They say that adopting from a shelter saves the lives of two animals:  the one you adopted and the one that can take his/her place at the shelter.  There’s no denying that logic, but it seems that people are becoming so skewed towards shelters that they don’t realize there are numerous ways to save an animal.  The brief conversation cited above is one I’ve had before, and it’s amazing how hateful people can get when they ask if your animal is from a shelter.  I understand the passion, folks, I really do, but you don’t have to make me feel like I did the wrong thing because my pet didn’t come from a rescue.

Nermal was found trying to cross four lanes of rush hour traffic when she was only three weeks old.

Porkchop was left at a foreclosed home in an outdoor pen so covered in weeds it was barely visible.

Porkchop was left at a foreclosed home in an outdoor pen so covered in weeds it was barely visible.

Annie was shuffled through five different homes before she was four months old, a series of people who didn't want her because she wasn't the 'right kind' of dog or who couldn't keep her.  I don't have her original Craigslist photo anymore, but she looked absolutely terrified and miserable.

Annie was shuffled through five different homes before she was four months old, a series of people who didn’t want her because she wasn’t the ‘right kind’ of dog or who couldn’t keep her. I don’t have her original Craigslist photo anymore, but she looked absolutely terrified and miserable.

You can’t tell me these animals weren’t rescued.  When we found them they were frightened, undernourished, and homeless.  I shouldn’t have to justify having them simply because they didn’t spend any time at a shelter.

There are many ways to save a life.


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Home, a new short story by Ashley O’Melia

I’m very pleased to announce that my short story “Home” is featured on The Penmen Review today.  Please go take a peek and let me know what you think!

This story was inspired by very true events.  I have to think my dear sweet Porkchop, without whom this story and this opportunity would not have been possible.


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Filed under Animals, On Writing, Writing Excerpts

Why Senior Shelter Dogs Piss Me Off

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This is Leo. He’s eleven years old and very much feeling his age. He has arthritis so bad that you can hear his hips cracking and popping when he walks. He only has three legs, so when you throw in the fact that we have hardwood floors the poor guy moves at a pretty tortoiselike pace. The other day he lost his balance and fell off the porch into the gladiolas (he was fine). Yesterday evening he fell out of the front door and face planted into the concrete porch (again, he was fine).  He has horrible skin allergies that make him greasy and stinky. I have to lift him in and out of the bathtub when it’s time for a wash.  Leo can’t stay in the same room with my other dog, Porkchop, because they are both extremely territorial. He’s going deaf, so he randomly barks at the cats when they walk through his room and scare him.  Or, we think sometimes he’s barking at his own foot.  He’s old; he’s allowed to do that.

Recently, Leo had to have surgery. He’s at that point in his life where he’s covered in tumors. Most of them really don’t bother him, but he developed one that was hanging off his lip. The vet determined he was healthy enough to undergo surgery and removed the one from his lip, one by his ear, and one from his leg while I waited. Half an hour and several hundred dollars later I hefted all 54 pounds of him into the back of my Subaru and headed home.

There is an amazing amount of room back here!  (Don't judge me on my dirty car, just look at his cute tractor bandage instead. :) )

There is an amazing amount of room back here! (Don’t judge me on my dirty car, just look at his cute tractor bandage instead. 🙂 )

I had to give him his antibiotic every day (as well as his allergy pill and arthritis medicine), wrapped in a slice of American cheese. I checked over his stitches on a constant basis to make sure he wasn’t picking them open.  I ran to PetCo and got him this super cool (and expensive) collar to help keep him from scratching at his wounds, and apparently to humiliate him.   I once woke up in the middle of the night with this panicky feeling that I just had to check on him (once more, he was fine).  In short, I fussed.

I must be the meanest dog mommy ever to make him wear this awful thing.

I must be the meanest dog mommy ever to make him wear this awful thing.

Are you exhausted yet?  Cause I’m pretty worn out just thinking about it, and I live it. I absolutely adore my animals, but I’ll still admit that they wear me out sometimes.

But you know what? I’m not going to give them up. I’m not going to dump Leo off at some shelter and tell them I “just can’t take care of him anymore.” He might take up lot of my time, but he needs us. He needs to have my youngest daughter curl up in his bed with him even though he stinks. He needs to know that once the kids have gone to bed, I’ll let his grumpy butt come into the living room and lay in front of the couch while I watch reruns of Doctor Who (he’s not allowed on the couch for safety purposes; see above notes about falling all the time). He needs someone to tell him he’s a good boy just for being there, and to give him a treat just because.

He wouldn’t get that in a shelter. We have some great shelters here in Southern Illinois, and they do their best, but there just isn’t enough time for all that.  How could there be?

So if you’re one of those people that “just can’t handle” your dog when he gets old, don’t be surprised if I tell you just what I think about you.

He’s been part of your family since puppyhood. He’s guarded your house, laid his head on your lap when you were sad, and been a playmate to your children. He not only needs love, but deserves it.

Leo with one of his favorite girls!

Leo with one of his favorite girls!


Filed under Animals, Family, Uncategorized

An Open Letter to the Woman in the Vet’s Office

Dear Stranger,

I saw you in the vet’s office the other day.  I was pretty distracted trying to keep my 35-pound ‘lap dog’ in check, but I knew immediately there was something different about you.  I should have recognized what it was even before the receptionist told you how sorry she was.  You didn’t have an animal with you.  Not anymore.

I wasn’t trying to be nosey, but in a small office like that you can’t help but overhear everything.  I heard you say that you had no regrets, other than the fact that nobody came with you.  I heard you say you would wait in your car for them to bring the body out.  Once I’d paid, I saw you sitting there in your car, alone, with the hatchback open and a blanket spread out in the back.

I just want to tell you how very sorry I am.  I’m sorry for the loss of your sweet pet, whose species or gender I don’t even know but I am certain meant the world to you.  I am so sorry that nobody came with you for this terrible moment.  I’m sorry that I didn’t just run right up to you and hug you, but I didn’t want to bother you in your moment of grief.  I feel now like I should have bothered you anyway.

I also want you to know that I’m hopeful for you.  I know how much it hurts, because losing a pet is truly losing a part of your family.  But I know that eventually that hole in your heart will heal just enough that you can open your arms to a new fur baby, one that needs you just as much as you need it.



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National Dog Day – Porkchop and Leo

It’s National Dog Day, and since even I have to take an occasional break from Dragon Month, I’ve teamed up with the good folks at Dropcam to talk about what kind of PUPtectors I have.


First up is Porkchop.  You’ve seen him here before.

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Porky is my fuzzy shadow.  When I’m working, he’s under my desk chair.  When I’m cooking, he squeezes himself between my feet and the stove.  You can always count on Porkchop to be in the middle of the action.

When you have dogs and daughters, a puggle with fairy wings is inevitable.

When you have dogs and daughters, a puggle with fairy wings is inevitable.

Porkchop’s PUPtector personality is the Barking Buzzer.  He will bark any time he has the opportunity.  There’s the obvious stuff, of course, like barking at the mailman or when someone knocks on the door.  But there’s also a bark for every car that goes down our road, a doorbell on TV, the evil yellow school bus that picks up the kids in the morning, or random noises from the mischievous cats.  Yesterday morning the garbage truck came by, and he actually barked with his mouth full.  Too cute.

My other sweet pooch is Leo.

Leo loves his girl!

Leo loves his girl!

He might not look like it from this picture, but Leo is definitely The Bouncer.  He barks at the normal things, like the mailman, and howls mournfully when he hears a siren, but otherwise he’s the strong and silent type.  Leo lets me know what he thinks of people, and I’ve always trusted his opinion.  If Leo doesn’t like you, I don’t like you.  At one point, I was staying in an iffy section of town, and Leo scared off a would-be intruder with his massive bark.  He might be getting up there in his years, and only have three legs, but I always feel safe if Leo is around.

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Happy National Dog Day!  Remember there are many dogs waiting in shelters for your love and attention, so don’t contribute to puppy mills.  Those of you here in Southern Illinois, be sure to visit P.A.W.S. for your next furbaby, and to check out Leo’s modeling debut.

This post inspired by:



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Top Tips for Writing

It’s difficult to get all my work done sometimes.  There are so many distractions.  I need to be on my computer a significant part of the day if I’m actually going to have a successful freelancing business, but somehow I find myself outside weeding the garden or playing a rousing round of Go Fish with the kids.  I’m getting a little better at focusing, though, so here are my


6. Rig up some sort of system that will send you some nasty electric shocks every time you wander off to Facebook.

5. Encourage your spouse to play video games.  Then you won’t feel guilty about not spending time with him/her. Plus he/she will lose track of just how much time you’ve spent on that computer today.

4. Wear a hoodie, so you can put snacks and candy in the pockets.

3.  Wear earbuds.  These will deter people who may try talking to you, as well as drown out the sound of the kids watching the same episode of Phineas and Ferb for the umpteenth time.  Also very effective for pretending you didn’t hear, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”

2.  Get super comfortable.  My dad’s rule when I worked for him as a kid was to always get comfortable first, and I still abide by this.  The more comfortable you are, the less likely you’ll be to get up and run just one more load of laundry.

1.  Get a cat, and make sure it’s on your lap.  This kind of goes along with “get super comfortable”, because when you have a cat on your lap you can’t get up.  That’s the rule.  Really.  Just ask the cat.


And yes, I was supposed to be writing when I made this.


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Filed under Animals, Family, On Writing, Work

He Doesn’t Bite

My adorable puggle Porkchop is a pretty awesome little dog.  He was abandoned at a foreclosed home by his previous family, and has been ever so grateful that I rescued him.  He plays with the kids and snuggles with us on the couch.  He lays so close to the fireplace in the wintertime that his harness gets hot.  He once curled up on my client’s feet and fell asleep, snoring and all.  And he is also very protective of his territory.

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Like most dogs, he barks when someone knocks on the door.  He also barks anytime a car drives down the street we live on, when the neighbor’s cat stalks the field on the other side of the street, and when a doorbell rings on TV.  (This always cracks me up a little since we don’t have a doorbell.)  But he absolutely loses his mind when the mailman comes.  Our mailbox is out by the street, so he usually gets to go ballistic through the window at the mail truck, but the other day we had a package that wouldn’t fit in the mailbox.  And so the mailman came to the door.

Porkchop was insane with benign fury when he saw the postal worker at the storm door.  I tried to open the door to get the package with one hand  and keep him inside with the other hand, but to no avail.  He escaped onto the porch and attacked the mailman…by ferociously sniffing his pantleg.  The mailman, who surely dealt with angry mutts on a daily basis, just laughed, but my immediate reaction was to say, “He doesn’t bite.”

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And he didn’t.  But I found myself thinking about it later.  What an idiot I would make of myself if as those words left my lips just as Porkchop wrapped his around someone’s ankle?  I can’t even imagine what the series of events might be.  Would it be just like on the Wizard of Oz?  “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too!”  I can promise you I would gladly run off to Oz to save one of my pets, but I realized that at the very least I need to rephrase my repertoire of oh-crap-the-dog-got-out phrases:

“He hasn’t bitten anybody, yet.”

“He only bites people that are a threat.”

“He won’t bite…unless I tell him to.”

I jest, but seriously I’ve put so much trust in my four-legged friend who has no knowledge of how the American legal system works or what could happen to him if he decided to become the guard dog he thinks he is in his head.  So it’s just a little food for thought for my fellow dog lovers out there.


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Filed under Animals, Family