It All Started with Marmalade by guest blogger Donna Alward

Today I have author Donna Alward visiting, and she’s talking about one of my favorite causes, animal shelters. She’s also talking about her new release, Into the Fire!

It All Started With Marmalade….

When I started planning out the third FIRST RESPONDERS novella, I had an idea for an animal shelter.  I don’t always put pets in my books and I don’t know why, because pets are a huge part of our household! I figured out right away that Ally was the kind of woman who adored animals. They only wanted to be loved. They didn’t care if she was super-smart or had ambition or that she’d broken an engagement to a wonderful guy three years earlier. Animals don’t judge by silly stuff like that. Animals judge by looking into a person’s heart and seeing kindness or cruelty.

I really got into the idea so I looked into some independent shelters in Nova Scotia – by independent I mean not affiliated with the SPCA. The trouble with this kind of research? THE ANIMALS. Picture after picture of adorable kitties and doggies needing forever homes. I know my husband would KILL me if I brought home another pet, but it was soooo hard to resist. My heart was all melty and gooey and I spent a lot of time thinking about how much I love my furbabies, Dreamer and Boo.

But the clincher was a little orange and white cat on a website for a shelter in Digby. It was the name that did it. Marmalade. Isn’t that the cutest name EVER? It’s a good thing that Digby is a fair hike from here or I might have been tempted to go have a look in person…

I figured that Marmalade needed to have some siblings too, so I thought, what matches Marmalade for a name?

You got it. Triplets. Marmalade, Jelly, and Jam. J

Our babies are rescues – our cat Boo was rescued from the side of the road as a baby and fostered by my sister for a few months until we could take him. And Dreamer “retired” and her owners were looking for a good home for her, and she came here to live with us.  I’m so glad. I can’t imagine my life without them now!

How about you? Have you ever rescued an animal only to have it rescue you in return?


She expected commotion inside, but it was surprisingly quiet. She could hear Chris’s voice coming from somewhere—the bedroom, possibly—and went to investigate.

The outgoing dog of outside was gone. Instead, he was sitting, quite awkwardly, in the small space between Chris’s dresser and a chair.

“Come on,” Chris was coaxing, holding out a carrot, but this time Moose wasn’t budging. His head was lowered and he was parked in place.

Chris looked up at her. “I don’t get it. He was fine outside. As soon as we came inside he ran in here and hid.”

Ally looked up at Chris. He really did care, she realized. And he was being patient with him, at least for now. He could be the perfect owner for Moose. Time would tell, of course, but it was a good start.

“He was the same at the shelter. If I took him out on the leash, he wanted to run. It was all I could do to hold him. He had no manners, and we’ve been working on that. But inside, he cowered in his crate.” She swallowed thickly. “It’s so hard not knowing the exact past history. But if I were a betting woman, I’d say Moose doesn’t like closed in spaces with no escape route. He gets anxious when he’s in a confined space.”

“Wouldn’t he want to escape then?”

“Depends on what is waiting for him when he comes out, I suppose,” she replied. “I told you trust was a big thing.”

She considered for a minute. “Look, I’m smaller than you. I’m going to try getting in there with him.”

She worked her way into the small space and slid her bottom down the wall until she was sitting next to Moose, her knees tucked in close. She could feel his fur against her arm and she waited for him to relax, and then she put her hand on his back and stroked him gently. Long minutes passed. Chris sat on the edge of the bed and watched as Ally softly touched Moose’s ears, his shoulders and back. With a big doggie sigh, Moose finally submitted, first by laying down and then twisting, showing his belly.

She rubbed her fingers along his ribs. “What a good boy,” she murmured, then looked up at Chris. “He just needs time. He’s a good dog. Gentle and fun.”

“The only thing I really worry about is when I’m on shift.”

She shrugged. “We had to crate him at the shelter. If you have a room where he can stay, somewhere that he can’t make a lot of trouble, that would probably do. You could try it anyway.”

“The mudroom at the back would work. I can put his food and water in there and a bed. All that’s there is the closet. Nothing for him to get into.”

“Just don’t leave any shoes around for temptation.” She smiled, her hands never leaving Moose’s fur.

“I could put a fence in the backyard too,” he suggested. “Give him a place to run around without worrying about him running away.”

“That’s a great idea. He’s going to be a great pet, Chris. In time. I try to tell all my new owners that there’s a period of adjustment.”

“So I’m an owner now, and not a foster?”

Truth be told, from the moment she’d turned in the yard and seen Moose come galloping, she’d gotten the sense that this was a forever home and not a temporary one. “If you’re ready for that kind of commitment. Just promise me that if he’s too much, you let me know.”

He gave her a strange look, but only said, “You’re very good at this.”

Their eyes locked and Ally shared a fundamental truth with him. “The thing about dogs is that all they need is love, and they return it without conditions. They accept you for who you are. A dog’s heart is always open, and it’s our responsibility to honor that.” She frowned. “This dog wasn’t honored.”

“It’s not the same for cats?”

She grinned. “Dogs have owners. Cats have minions. Cats are special in their own way because they choose to give their affection. You just have to keep them in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed.”

“You have a big heart, Ally.”

She shrugged, trying not to acknowledge the warmth that spread through her at his words.

Great stuff! You can check out Donna’s new release at these online retailers below!

Buy links:




Barnes and Noble

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