I got to know Guilie online a couple of years ago when we were both participating in the A to Z blog challenge. We admired each other's blogs and became online friends. Then I quit blogging for a year, and just when I had decided to start back up again, I heard from Guilie. She had a new book coming out and was inviting me to participate in her blog hop to publicize it! The timing was perfect.
Guilie is not only a dog rescuer but also, as I just learned when I asked her my interview questions, a second-generation rescuer. Let me begin by saying that animal rescuers are heroes in my eyes. They're not the people who go to the shelter and adopt pets, who are pretty great also; they're the people who go out on the street, find homeless animals, patiently overcome the animals' fear and distrust, and coax them into a place of safety. And they often do so at their own personal risk and expense, and then they do it again and again and again, because it's their mission. It's not easy by any stretch, and it's not for everyone, but anyone who wants to know exactly what the experience is like need look no further than "It's About the Dog: the A-to-Z Guide for Wannabe Dog Rescuers."
Guilie is not only a beautiful person, but luckily for the rest of us, she's a beautiful writer too. Here's what some of her fans have to say:
IT’S ABOUT THE DOG
The A-to-Z Guide for Wannabe Dog Rescuers
Everytime Press, April 2018
A hands-on, less-tears-more-action, 100% practical how-to introduction to help you—yes, you!—get a dog off the street and to safety. From the gear you’ll need to how to know whether a dog needs help(and how urgently);from an ode to veterinarians to a crash course on how to gain the trust of a wary dog. In short, everything you ever wanted to ask your friendly (or maybe not so friendly) neighborhood rescuer and never quite dared.
“This is a must-have book on every would-be, could-be, and veteran dog rescuer’s shelf. [P]acked with invaluable information gleaned from experts and experience, on how to put good intentions into successful practice so you can provide real help for four-legged friends in need.” ~ Lynne M. Hinkey, author of Ye Gods! A Tale of Dogs and Demons
“Not only an incredibly thorough and brilliant How-To, but a pull-at-your-heartstrings look at the selfless world of dog rescuing—and a must-read for anyone who loves dogs. This book will renew your faith in humanity.” ~ Robin Cain, author of The Secret Miss Rabbit Kept
The author, Guilie Castillo Oriard, is a Mexican writer and dog rescuer living in Curaçao with eight extraordinary rescue dogs and an even more extraordinary man who puts up with them all. Her short fiction has been published both online and in print. The Miracle of Small Things, a novel in stories, was published by Truth Serum Press in 2015.It’s About the Dog: The A-to-Z Guide for Wannabe Dog Rescuers is her first non-fiction foray.She blogs about dogs at Life In Dogs, and about everything else at Quiet Laughter.
The book will be [was] released by Everytime Press on April 20th, 2018, in paperback and e-book. (Available at major online retailers and, later this year, with select booksellers in Curaçao.) To celebrate, starting on the day of release and until May 21st, author and book will be on the Dog Book Blog Tour, making the rounds in the blogosphere to talk dogs and rescue, even a little about writing. Come by and share your insights and questions, and enter the Dog Book Blog Tour Giveaway!
Find out more about the Dog Book Blog Tour and the Giveaway at Life In Dogs, and about the book at the publisher’s website. You can also follow It’s About the Dog on Facebook.
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Here is Guilie herself,
and here's the crew she has at her house, because some rescue dogs aren't easy to place in adoptive homes and so their rescuers end up as their parents.
Somehow amidst the madness of her book release, Guilie ended up finding the time to answer a few questions for me. Voila!
1. When was the first time you rescued a dog? Was it an impulse rescue or had some training/ planning gone into it? Details, please.
My first rescue happened when I was 8. Though, really, it was my mother’s rescue, so maybe it doesn’t count as mine-mine. And it probably wasn’t the first—certainly not hers; my parents fell in love while rescuing a dog from a freeway in Mexico City. But it’s the first one I was involved with in any serious, meaningful way, and it’s the one, I think, that definitively gave me a rescuer’s heart.
She was an Irish setter, in need of a good bath and a brushing but apparently not too skinny. “She must be lost,” was my mom’s conclusion. So we took her in, but left her in the carport, in full view of the street. “Her family’s probably looking for her. This way they’ll see her if they drive by.”
The dog wolfed down as much food as we put in front of her, drank from the water bowl we set out for her like there was no tomorrow. She was mild-mannered, the sweetest doe eyes you’ve ever seen. I wanted to keep her, but my mom was convinced she belonged to someone, somewhere.
Days passed, then weeks, and no one claimed her. My father wasn’t thrilled about the new carport lodger (we already had a dog), but she was quiet enough, made no messes, destroyed nothing. Mostly she spent her days in the shade of the bougainvillea, not too far from her food and water bowls, which we kept always stocked. She was still eating enormous amounts.
And then, one morning, we discovered the reason: eight puppies. She was so malnourished that the pregnancy hadn’t even shown. And she had no milk.
The vet was called. He took one look, and told my mom the best thing was to put them all down. “The puppies will never make it,” he said. The mom probably had all sorts of diseases; now that her belly was gone, she was all bones. And those big, big eyes.
But my mom wouldn’t hear of it. We bottle-fed those puppies, she and I. She took the graveyard shift and the morning shift, while I was at school. As soon as I came home, I headed to the laundry room (now the new family’s home) and sat there, surrounded by puppies and one desperately grateful mom, and endless supplies of milk.
They all lived. All eight. The vet couldn’t believe it when we called him two months later to come vaccinate them. And all eight found excellent, excellent homes. The mom, however, we couldn’t bear to part with. My mother named her Cindy, short for Cinderella—appropriate, I guess. She moved to the yard once her puppies were gone and became best friends with our Boxer. They both slept in my room at night. During the day, they chased squirrels (Cindy was a much better hunter than Cookie, the Boxer) and slept in the shade of the jacarandas or on the sunny terrace. She never wanted for anything, ever again. And she was loved. By me, certainly, but for my mom she held a special significance. A special place.
2. Did you grow up in a house full of dogs?
Yes. And of cats. And of birds. I had turtles and a couple of Beta fish. We had two rabbits at one point. And a lot of these ‘lodgers’ happened because they were rescued, straight off the street, by my mom and me. Almost all of them were meant to be temporary; “Just until we find a home for them.” Famous last words. We did, however, manage to find homes for a few, and even managed to keep them close by: an Alaska Malamute puppy we rescued from a flooding yard lived a long and incredibly fulfilling life with my piano teacher.
3. Do you have a “day job,” or does dog rescue take up most of your time? Or maybe both?
Back in 2011, I quit my job (in the financial industry here in Curaçao) and became a full-time writer—and rescuer, though that part wasn’t part of the plan. For a couple of years now I’ve been considering going back to work; I even tried a part-time gig last year—writing does not the big bucks make, or even the little ones. But a side effect of rescuing is a houseful of dogs, and they’re not exactly the friendliest of packs, or the most stable. Being out of the house for more than, say, four hours at a stretch is asking for trouble (last year we lost a member of the pack like this).
I’m the luckiest girl, though. I have an extraordinary man as a partner, who not only is the best cheerleader I have but also puts up with the houseful of dogs… He didn’t even like dogs when we met. And now he’s become an amazing dog dad: he insists on doing the morning feeding because he feels it helps him bond with them; he keeps track (much better than I do) of when their Heartgard is due; he’s even helped on several rescues when we needed extra hands. A few years ago, when we fostered a litter of newborn puppies who needed to be bottle-fed, he even volunteered to do feedings so I could snatch an hour or two of sleep.
Like I said: extraordinary man.
4. In 50 words or less, convince anyone who reads this interview why he/she should buy your new book.
I don’t think this book is for everyone. It was specifically written for people new to rescue who want to help stray or homeless dogs, and—as I kept telling the publisher back when the project began—there aren’t a lot of those. Maybe someone who’s curious about rescue and wants to know more about it, even if they’re not going to do much (or any) rescuing themselves would also enjoy it. [Ooops—that was 72 words.]
5. Now convince that same person in 50 words or less why he/she should become a dog rescuer.
In my (admittedly not always humble) opinion, rescue is a bit of a calling. Kind of like being an artist, or a surgeon. You need to want to be these things, and even before you get any sort of training you need to have a feel for it, an affinity with it. (And there’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t have it; there are plenty of ways to help, to make the world a better place, without rescuing.)
That said, rescue comes with all sorts of positive consequences: a houseful of dogs, yes, but also an enlargement of whatever organ it is that deals with compassion. One of my favorite quotes (which I couldn’t resist using in the book) is from Prince:
‘Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.”
If you do decide to rescue, I can guarantee this: you will become a better person. It won’t be pretty, it won’t be easy, and there will be plenty of heartbreak involved—but humans are, made of carbon, after all, and like carbon it takes the harshest of conditions to turn us into diamonds.
Susan, thank you so much for this lovely interview! It’s been a pleasure and an honor to become a part of The Art of Not Getting Published, and I look forward to chatting with you and your readers in the comments.
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And, as a grand finale, Guilie agreed to answer one more question for me: Can you share the story of one particularly memorable rescue? Her answer follows.
Every rescue leaves its mark on us, I think, but there’s one that became memorable not only for the happy ending but for the scale and the surprises it had in store for us.
Someone had reported two stray female dogs, one of whom had possibly given birth in an empty lot in Sun Valley, a residential neighborhood here in Curaçao. Both were skittish and very afraid of humans, and no one had been able to catch them. No one had seen the puppies, either, which meant they were still too small to wander around—but puppies grow fast, and if we didn’t do something about this, they’d end up run over by a car or—maybe worse—as a pack of ferals, distrusting of humans, always hungry, always unloved.
Five dark SUVs rolled into Sun Valley on a hotmorning, like something out of Men in Black. Instead of top-secret nuclear weapons, though, the cars were packed with transport crates, towels, leashes, water containers, Tupperware-fuls of sausage squares, bags of kibble, Frontline spray bottles, alcohol, leather garden gloves, shears… Alpha, this is Black Ops Rescue [static] — waiting for the go-ahead, over.
The empty lot was large, maybe half an acre, and totally overgrown. Weeds waist-high, trees dangling impenetrable nets of wild ivy (not poison, at least) that also covered the ground so our feet sank up to the ankle—and disguised dips and gullies. We found them nestled in a hole on the side of just such a gully, protected by roots and branches, way at the back of the lot. The most inaccessible place, in short. (Smart mom.)
Impossible to lower the crates to where the puppies were. Only one person at a time fit in the tiny space, and getting back up from there, carrying the precious cargo of a wiggly, fearful puppy, was no easy feat. So we established a puppy chain-gang. I perched at the top of the gully, straddling the remains of a brick wall there, and the person at the bottom handed the puppies to me, one by one. I swiveled and passed each puppy on to Cor, my partner, who was holding on to my legs so I didn’t fall head-first into the gully, and he passed the puppy on to the others, who were waiting to place them in the crates.
Seven puppies. Eight. Nine. That must be it, we thought. No, another puppy came up from the gully. And another. And another. Fourteen in total. All apparently healthy, no visible issues or defects. Maybe three weeks old, and all well within the weight for that age. No way this was a single litter. Later, when we caught the moms—which ended up being the next day, and required not-so-small amounts of human blood (mine, gladly given) to achieve, but that’s a much longer story—we found out that it was two litters. Both females, probably mom and daughter, had given birth at about the same time, and had kept their puppies together, which is something I’d never seen before, especially not out on the street.
The vet confirmed the puppies’ health. Aside from lice—they were covered in it; even now, just thinking about it makes me squirm—and the expected flea and tick population, they were in pretty good shape. Good weight, good energy, feisty even. But younger than we thought, so finding the moms became a top priority. In the meantime, an amazing woman named Karin stepped up to foster them—yes, all fourteen. She would eventually foster the two moms, too, so the whole family could stay together. And, from the first day, Karin fell in love with one of the puppies. She named him Bolo (for Bolo Pretu, the name of a cake made here in Curaçao for the most special occasions), and he is living a life of privilege and endless love with her.
The others found good homes eventually, too; even one of the moms. But one of the puppies, Harry, and one of the moms, Kristin, turned out to be too wild for most families. When adopter after adopter passed them over (or returned them), they were taken in by the DOG Foundation, run by a woman who has devoted her life to giving a home to the dogs no one wants: the elderly, the ones with health issues or behavior problems. She lives with upwards of 70 dogs at any one time, but that number is always changing: there are always more dogs than adopters.
For the last two years or so, I’ve been sponsoring Kristin and Harry. Every month I donate the equivalent of about USD 80 to cover their expenses, medical and food and whatever. There are others like me; DOG couldn’t function without what Djoeke calls ‘long-distance fosters’. (If you’re interested in sponsoring a DOG dog, or in contributing towards the creation of the DOG sanctuary—which will allow Djoeke to take in so many more dogs—you can find details on her website.) And here is a video of the sanctuary: https://www.youtube.com/
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Thank you, Guilie! I'm so glad there are people like you and Djoeke in this world!!