SHELTER ME Countdown – Dedication & Acknowledgements (& Contest) 

Thanks

I have a lot of people to thank for helping me bring Shelter Me to print. For today’s countdown to the August 5 publication of Shelter Me, I’m posting the book’s dedication and acknowledgements, along with another chance to enter the grand prize contest…. Dedication: To Rob – my hero, my friend, my love. Always. […]

Shelter Me – New excerpt 

Shelter Me

The countdown continues for Shelter Me to land on shelves Tuesday, August 8. Not much longer…. Today’s post is an all new excerpt. The prologue has been on my website for a few months. And now, here’s the opening to Chapter One. 🙂 SHELTER ME by Catherine Mann “Second Chance Ranch” book 1 Berkley Sensation, […]

Rescue Me 

RescueMeCoverFinal

A Second Chance Ranch Romance…
RESCUE ME
By
Catherine Mann
Prologue

For twenty-eight years I had three names – Bitch, Fat Mama and Dumbass.

I didn’t dare ignore the voice that growled more fiercely than any animal. I didn’t question if I deserved to have a single name of my own. My existence followed a pattern. Hungry, not hungry. Hurt, healed. Pregnant, nursing. And above all, obey or pay.

Looking back, the contrast from then to my life now is staggering. Some people have said they wonder how I survived so long in that cabin with limited human contact, only the drone of game shows on television and the bubbling mix in the kitchen to break the tedium. How I kept my spirit intact. How I didn’t turn into a mirror image of the voice that both fed me and hurt me. I have to confess I came close to becoming like the soulless monsters that drifted in and out during those early years.

Until I was saved from crawling into the dark hole of hurt and misery forever. I was given a hint of hope beyond the rank four walls of my home.

I smelled honeysuckle.

Just a whiff of the perfume drifted through an open window one summer Tennessee day. At first, I thought I’d imagined it. I tipped my nose into that gentle breeze curling through the half cracked pane, each puff parting the despair one ripple at a time. Overriding even the constant hum of quiz shows.

Then there it was again. Honeysuckle. Sweet. Soft. Light. Everything opposite of what I’d known from birth.

Desperate for more, I crawled to the window, slowly, praying no one would see me. Life was easier if I stayed hidden, because otherwise I feared I would one day have to fight back. Still I was willing to risk detection to breathe more of that flowery perfume.

I have a particularly keen sense of smell, so living in a filthy meth house for twenty-eight years took a toll on me. And just to clarify, twenty-eight human years equates to four dog years for me. As a dog, that explains why the stench hit me hard.

Did you know that canines can identify smells up to ten thousand times better than a human? Well, we can. I learned that about sniffers on Jeopardy. My brain has forty percent more capacity devoted to smell than yours. Not that I mean to sound condescending or call you inferior. Facts are facts. I have over two million olfactory sensors in my nose. You have opposable thumbs. Truly, aromatherapy is wasted on you people.

I like facts. The endless television programs offered that much at least, game show after game show. Back then, I embraced those quizzes, soaking up data, anything to prove I wasn’t a dumbass at all. If I’d been a human and hadn’t started having babies so early, I’ve often thought I would have become a professor with thick black glasses. I would have sequestered myself in an office lined with books, solitude. Peace.

But back to my sniffer.

Back to the honeysuckle.

And how all that relates to the day I found freedom in a splintered door.

To be clear, I spent my life watching methamphetamine being cooked, smoked, shot, sold. The rancid odor of the drug left me groggy. Sometimes even made me snarl, when that’s not my nature. The smell of it saturated the walls, peeling the paper down in strips I chewed in moments of frenzied boredom. It permeated the saggy sofa I never sat on. Even clung to the mattresses on the floor in both bedrooms where junkies had sex. Worst of all, the toxic clouds hung in the kitchen, counters packed with everything from drain cleaner to funnels to my bowl full of scraps.

But that afternoon during my fourth summer, when I discovered honeysuckle, I considered that maybe, just maybe there was something better for me, if only I could wait long enough to escape farther than the chain in the yard allowed.

Easier said than done, because I was a money maker, just like that steaming meth cooker. My litters of boxer pups were worth a lot, so I ate well, periodically. No one kicked me for a while. Until my babies were taken away so I could breed again. They always took them too early, and then I was alone.

You may already be thinking “puppy mill,” but that’s not one hundred percent accurate. The woman who owned me – I won’t bother to distinguish her with a name – would be more appropriately labeled a backyard breeder who used me and other dogs to supplement her meth income. Up until that honeysuckle moment in my fourth summer, I thought my mission in life was to have babies for people to love even if I never got to experience that feeling myself, other than for the few brief weeks I was allowed to keep each litter, their warm tiny bodies snuggled up against me.

By the fourth winter, I wondered if I’d imagined a honeysuckle world just to survive. I began to lose hope, drawing in nothing but the fumes that made me mean.

Then, on the bitterest, coldest morning my world changed on a larger scale with another beautiful scent. Peppermint. It’s still my favorite perfume, even above honeysuckle. Those two beautiful smells outnumbered the one evil stench of this cabin. There was more out there past my chain. So much more.

And I thank the Big Master who made us that the peppermint-scented lady understood I was not at my best the day she and the sad-eyed policeman broke down the meth house door to rescue me…..

Shelter Me 

5 August 2014

PROLOGUE:

I was born in the land of Babylon.

Thousands of years ago people spoke the same language there, before the Big Master scattered them. Maybe that’s why I understand what humans mean even when they can’t understand each other. Or possibly that’s why they can’t understand me, because they left.

But then perhaps they can’t understand me because I’m a dog.

No. Really. I’m not putting myself down. I’m seriously a D-O-G. Yep, I can spell, too, but I can’t tell people that, either, because . . . Come on, you know the reason. Say it with me. Because I’m a . . .

Dog.

And while I was born in Babylon—a.k.a. Southern Iraq—my life changed forever the day I left that home with Sergeant Mike Kowalski. The morning I went away was tricky, because the Sergeant had to sneak me out of the forward operating base on one of those monster big cargo planes they call a C-17. I was going for the ride to end all rides.

Back then they didn’t have lots of cool puppy rescue organizations to bring dogs back from a war zone. In my day, the Department of Defense law stood more often than not. No pets on military installations. And bringing them home? Huge negative on that.

So rules were bent, twisted and broken to rescue me, but it was a must-do operation to complete my mission. To understand my mission fully, you need to know how I ended up with Sergeant Kowalski.

Back when I ran in a pack with my cousins, we scavenged for scraps. Best place to look? U.S. military installations. The guys in uniforms, the ones from across the ocean, fed us. Good stuff, too. So we howled out the locale of new troops setting up camp so our pack buddies would know.
I hit the mother lode with those guys.

“No MREs for you, Trooper. You get steak,” said a colonel with silver hair, dusty camos and creaky knees.

The first time I ate steak, I almost peed myself. Of course I peed myself for a lot of reasons in those days because I was still a puppy. Six months old then. Twelve months old when I left that place. Eleven years old now.

During my puppy days, the rest of my pack didn’t want to stay at that particular camp because it was busy and big, and they were ancient and wary. But I was the youngest, the only one of my litter to survive, and gut-deep hungry from only scraps of leftovers. I was way below being the alpha dog. Not even really a beta dog. More like a lowercase zeta.

After we ate our fill for a week, it was a tough choice sticking around by myself, because yeah, I would lose my pack, but hunger won out. Six months later when the time came to leave on that plane? I didn’t hesitate for a second. Sure I would miss this place where they tossed a tennis ball and seemed to think I was a rock star because I figured out fast they wanted me to bring it back. Like that was hard after tracking rats in the desert for dinner?

But I knew it was time to leave Babylon. Southern Iraq. Home.

I had a mission. That was what the Sergeant told me. I was needed. Magic words to a dog. We live for a job, a purpose. It’s what we were created for by the Big Master.

My mission: to heal a family, the family that had lost their person over here. I was supposed to be their link to him because he was the one who found me. The silver-haired Army colonel who fed me steak…