Thursday, 22 August 2013 00:00
The dog days of August are here. Perfect time for kids to read Piper Gets a New Home, a book for children ages seven to 12, penned by local author Mariah Leal.
A devastating head-on collision left Leal unable to work. But when life throws you a curveball, sometimes it’s a dog that catches that ball—and your heart—and you run with it. And that is exactly what happened to Leal and her dog, Piper.
A conversation with the author follows about her favorite place in Glen Cove to find inspiration, the game-changing advice her doctor gave her, and the message that she wants to communicate in her books.
I have worked for many years with dogs as a vet tech, a professional groomer and a trainer. I also used to show my own dogs and did some limited breeding. But, a head-on collision in 2002 left me with many injuries. I had hoped after surgeries and physical therapy that I could go back to working hands-on with dogs, but the doctors told me it was not possible. I was devastated. I had recently lost my Great Dane. I needed an inspiration to keep going. My doctor advised me to get a new puppy. So, I got a new puppy, my Bull Mastiff, Piper.
I turned my focus to Piper, socializing, training, and logging her progress. One night, as I was reading over the log, I was inspired to turn it into a book.
This is book one in a series of five, “The Adventures of Piper.” Each book is told through Piper’s eyes. The books take you from Piper arriving at the airport to her new home with me through her puppyhood and ending with her first birthday in book five.
The statistics of dog bites and dogs relinquished to shelters in this country are astounding. Of the 4.7 million dog bites last year, half of them involved children. Ninety percent of dogs in shelters have had no training at all. Having worked with dogs, I have always tried to educate people that dogs are like babies: they are a blank slate. They need to be taught in order to become civilized and socialized. Piper and I hope to educate children and their families so that we can help lower the dog bite statistics.
I grew up locally. I lived in seven places by the age of 14. Then, I lived in Locust Valley, but always spent a lot of time in Glen Cove. For the past 20 years, I have lived in Glen Cove.
Glen Cove in your writing? What do you like best about living there?
I love to go to Morgan Park. Nature relaxes me and gets the creative juices flowing. I like living in Glen Cove because it’s a little bit city and a little bit country combined. Shopping is close and convenient, and yet the park and beaches are places to get away to. Also I enjoy the Downtown Sounds and concerts in Morgan Park.
I do have plans for speaking about the book to children and their families. There is something in the works at Locust Valley Library for the fall. A dog should not be purchased or adopted on impulse. Research needs to be done to find out the size, activity level, coat length and care of the dog.
Are they good with children? Are they easy to train? Will you have the time to exercise a high energy dog? If not you may need to look for a more laid-back breed. Training and socializing are the keys to bringing up a puppy to be a good canine citizen.
Writing for me has always just come on its own. I very rarely sit in front of the keyboard and say I am going to write now. It gets be difficult when I am not by a keyboard or a pen and pad. I have written a lot of poetry and have had a poem come to me at 2 a.m. Generally, I do my best writing in the evening. I have always been a night owl.
I did. I self-published. It is very difficult to get into an in-house publisher, and many companies that offer self-publishing are very expensive.
I have always chosen unique names for my pets. When Piper came to me, she did not fit any of the names I had picked out as possibilities. I used to watch the TV show “Charmed” and one of the sisters was named Piper. They were three good witches who helped people. The name is a match to Piper’s personality.
For more on Leal, or to purchase the book, visit www.mariahleal.com.