Donna Alward: A Cowboy to the Rescue

Horses Email[1]When my editor and I talked about me writing a duet set in my fictional town of Larch Valley, my mind started whirring.  It’s always a challenge to come up with something to distinguish a book, a little something different to make it stand out.  I already knew who my characters were – Jen O’Keefe and Andrew Laramie.  Jen I already knew owned the bakery in town and made the best brownies ever.  Andrew was her old flame who had moved on to greener pastures, something more than small town Alberta and its limited offerings. 

But there had to be more.

I started looking a little more closely at Andrew and why he was coming home and what he was going to do when he got there.  That’s when I had an idea…I would have him set up a rescue ranch.

I talked to my very horsey friend Trish Wylie about it, and she issued a warning.  You see, I’m a little soft-hearted andDA whitehorse she advised me that the research would be heartbreaking.  She was right.  There’s only so much you can read and watch about horse slaughter and abattoirs and abandoned animals.

In the middle of researching I discovered the website of Bear Valley Rescue Ranch in central Alberta.  Bear Valley is situated in one of my favourite areas of the province, close to where I set three of my first four books and where we used to go camping quite often.  I dropped them an e-mail with questions.  It just so happened that I was going to be in Calgary for a weekend and I added a few days to the trip so that I could pay them a visit.

DA turkeyIf there is a positive side to all the research I did, it was my afternoon spent at Bear Valley and with Mike Bartley and his motley assortment of animals.  Not only horses, though there are several of those, with velvety soft noses, some only foals and others old gents and ladies.  There are cows, and pigs, and dogs and cats and chickens and a particularly old tom turkey that was quite intimidating.  Mike, however, is not.  He is a gentle soul with a big heart who together with his wife, Kathy, has made this his life. 

Bear Valley relies heavily on donations for upkeep, and you only have to visit the site’s donation roster to see how the community pitches in.  That whole idea formed the spine of what I wanted Lazy L Rescue Ranch to be. 

And in the middle of it all of the story, I somehow think that while it’s the cowboy that rescues the horses, it’s the heroine who steps in and rescues the hero. 

DA coverOne Dance With The Cowboy was a lovely book to write.  It’s out this month from Harlequin Romance, the first in my “Cowboys and Confetti” duet.

Of course, being a duet you know there’s more to the story – and in March you get to return to Lazy L Ranch for Noah Laramie’s story…you won’t want to miss it.

Have you ever rescued an animal?  In December we adopted a rescue cat who had been abandoned as a kitten.  I get quite squishy about it and I think my husband is very relieved we have restrictive covenants against livestock in our community – else I’d end up with a stable full! 

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of One Dance with the Cowboy!

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30 thoughts on “Donna Alward: A Cowboy to the Rescue”

  1. My daughters and I adopted a beautiful silver tabby cat once from a local humane society. He was about 6 months old. The poor thing must have been abused by a man because it took forever for him to warm up to any man. My youngest daughter’s boyfriend finally got him to warm up to him a little bit. My oldest daughter’s boyfriend never got him to warm up to him. He was an extraordinary cat. He’s gone now but we still talk about him every now and again.

  2. About a year and a half ago our family had been without pets for a couple of years because everyone was busy and pets are a big responsibility. I did miss them though and thought I would like to get a kitten and talked my husband into it. We went to our local SPCA and my daughter and her friend, they are in college, came with us since they happened to be at our house. When we went into the cat room there were so many kittens it was hard to believe. The girls were so upset at the amount of kittens that they asked my husband if we could pick two instead of one and he agreed. Well, they have been spoiled by the whole family and I am so glad we got two instead of one since they keep each other company.

  3. Hi Linda and Maureen and all the fillies! I’m going to be back later to answer comments. An unexpected family…well, not emergency, really, maybe “necessity” is a better word…has come up that means I’m away for the day. But we have to be back in town by 4 so I promise to come back and respond to comments then!

    Thanks for having me back and I’m looking forward to all your rescue stories!

  4. In 2003, I took in a Chinchilla that someone just left in a trailer that they were renting. A friend of mine who knew the park manager ask me if I wanted it and I still have her. I have always taken in stray animals too. I remember growing up my family always took in the stray cats and a few stray dogs that someone drop off on a road next to ours that noone lived on. At one time we had 23 cats and 15 dogs. If I had more room I probably would adopt a cat or dog, but I already own 4 dogs.

  5. Beautiful blog, Donna. I fell in love with Walter, my huge tabby boy, when I saw his photo on an on line adoption site. After I brought him home he was so lonely that I went back and got his little girlfriend, Sadie, from the same shelter. They love each other and fill my life with delight.
    My previous kitty, Powderpuff, was found abandoned by a neighbor child who brought her to me. She was my little soulmate for 23 years. I still have her photo in my office.
    Hope all is ok on the home front.

  6. Hi Donna, Wonderful post! My husband and I adopted a rescue dog. Hartley’s a Jack Russell/Beagle mix. He’s odd, but we love him.

    As for horses, we live next to a farm for retired thoroughbreds. The horses we see are well cared for and beautiful, but other retired racehorses that don’t fare so well. One of these days, I’m going to blog on it. You’ve inspired me!

  7. When I was a kid my parents picked up a puppy from the SPCA. PeeWee was in my life for at least 15 years. When we moved into a house with farmland all around, a cat used to come around. She was never allowed in the house, but we set up a place for her by the back door and fed her. We even named her – Kay. She must have liked us because when she had kittens she brought them around and we fed them too. Once someone dropped a dog off by the side of the road and he found his way to us too. When you would go up to pet him he would stick his butt up in the air and cower, so we knew he was abused. We set him up a place by the barn with his own doghouse and protected from the winter weather. His name was Dingy (pronounced Dinghy). Our house wasn’t very big so we couldn’t keep all the strays inside.
    Hats off to those who have rescue farms. I could see myself getting very emotional at these places.

  8. What a lovely post! Yes, hubby and I took in a cat, a thin, shivering small black cat that showed up at our door. After much discussion (I am more of a dog person myself) we took him in, and he turned out to be the best pet we ever had. We called him Pepsi and he was with us 15 years, until he passed 2 years ago. He was always so loving and grateful.
    And they say animals don’t have feelings, yes…they do.

  9. Hi Donna,

    Welcome back to P&P. We love having you visit us. And what an interesting blog! I’m so glad there’s places that take in these horses no one wants anymore. It breaks my heart to see animals abused and homeless. I took in a border collie and her pups that someone left by the side of the road. She turned out to be a great loyal dog. Sadly, she died at the age of 16. I sure miss her.

    Your new book looks great! That cover sure calls to me. Wishing you lots of good luck with sales.

  10. When we get our animals it is usually from some sort of a shelter. Alot of the times they are the best animals you can ever have.

  11. Donna,

    Your books sound great. Yes my family and I rescue several wild animals.

    There was an injured bunny once and there was a hawk.

    It made my heart swell just knowing I would get to touch them

    I love all animals. We are all connected to them as they are to us.

    Walk in harmony


  12. Donna, welcome to the Junction! We’re so glad you joined us today. I’ve never rescued an animal, but I grew up loving rescued strays – my grandmother found room for any that wandered up.

  13. hi and welcome Donna; I love your Larch Valley as I am familiar with Alberta. We adopted Sam, a 3 yr. old male Apricot poodle who was our love and joy for 11 yrs. He has been gone for 2 yrs. now and we miss him so. No one can ever replace Sam.

    Years ago dh and I adopted another dog named Sebastian; he was, as they say, a Heinz 57. I lost him to a divorce.(Different dh). I even kidnapped him once but then felt bad for the dh so took him back. I heard he didn’t like the new lady in dh’s life so that made me feel smug for a few minutes.

  14. hi everyone…a great post today…unfortunately, i’ve never had the opportunity to rescue an animal (or at least not yet!)…

  15. We rescued a cat from being abandoned. As we had distemper in our barn, he had to be a house only cat. Max grew to be a wonderful cat who entertained us constantly. He also was my nurse cat, contantly checking on me if I were ill. Unfortunately he and I developed diabetes at about the same time and we did not realize his until it was too late. I miss him.

    We also rescued a small mini poodle cross puppy from some children that were abusing him. He was a scruffy little mutt but was soon an important member of the family. Unfortunately he died in the fire when our barn burned down. Good news, the distemper also dissapeared and we are able to have lots of cats here on the farm.

  16. Donna,
    It seems we have been in the “rescue” business forever. The animals either show up at our house or we get calls from neighbors and friends. We have tended injured rabbits, kittens, dogs, snakes, lizards and birds. We have done foster care for the local animal shelter keeping litters of puppies until they are old enough to adopt out. We kept a lab mix from our first litter (she’ll be 14 in April) and a terrier mix from the last litter (she’ll be 9 this summer). We have adopted a number of other dogs from the pound and have one now that just showed up to play with the “girls” and wouldn’t leave. We had him fixed and he’s been here for 5 or 6 years. We have had a newborn squirrel we found in the woods and bottle fed until he was old enough to release. We currently have 4 dogs, 2 cats, 4 peacocks (a friend didn’t have room for them) and a python (also a rescue).
    My daughter is cut from the same cloth. She has cats show up in her barn to have litters. We have brought 3 or 4 litters to the pound but she currently has over a dozen cats, 8 dogs (one a paralyzed rescue dog), llamas, a rescued pot belly pig, goats, sheep, ducks (that just showed up), chickens, horses and a rabbit. A woman from the shelter in another county calls her when she has a hard luck case and she can’t seem to say no. At one time we considered getting a license to do rehabilitation, but we do not have the facilities to do the job properly.
    With the economy the way it is, the need for rescue facilities and support of shelters and their spay & neuter programs is so important. Unfortunately, the people in the area where we live are not very responsible about having their animals fixed or caring for them. The shelter has gotten over 90 kittens and puppies in one week and there is no way to place that many in addition to the older animals they get. There are cases every week of animals being abandoned. Just this week they picked up several llamas, horses and dogs that had been left for a few weeks with no food or water except what they could scavenge in the small pasture.
    Good luck with your books. Hopefully the story will wake people up to being responsible pet owners and supporters of these important rescue facilities.

  17. When we were young my brother found a collie mix pup at a local land field. He brought him home and we cleaned him up. We had many years of pleasure out of this dog. We named him Mutt, he was the family pet. Oh Mutt has been gone for many years now but I still think of him.

  18. My grandchildren rescued a cat about a week old and I bottle feed him. Now they call him the demon cat. He’s so mean, but you can’t help love him. He doesn’t know he’s a cat. He is solid black with a few pieces of white under his belly. We also have a rescued sentinel parrot. She’s a talker. They get along great.

  19. It’s sad that rescue facilities must be provided
    but the work they do fills a great need! God bless them! I followed your links and visited the Bear Valley Rescue site.

    Two of my children were in the U. of Houston marching band together years ago. They and their
    friends would feed all the cats who “visited” the Band Hall. One of the cats delivered a litter in a box of pompoms in the storage room. My two ended up bringing home a kitten in a band hat box. Gerald was with us for almost thirteen years
    before an illness took him away. My four plus one
    spouse all gathered in a circle about Gerald in the living room. They talked and sang to him,
    giving comfort to him on his last day. You can probably tell that he was a much-loved kitty boy!

    Pat Cochran

  20. Am looking forward to your book.
    Over the past 50 years I have had numerous rescue cats and dogs.
    Had two Yorkies and a Pekingese rescued from a puppy mill.
    A Chow from a Humane Society.
    Numerous cats that were dumped in the barn at the end of my driveway.

  21. Enjoyed reading the comments. Don’t rememer rescuing any animls but one time when my son was about 10 years old he came inside and said “Mom, can we keep this horse? It just followed me home” Needless to say, we did not keep it. Animals loved him because lots “followed” him home.

  22. When I was a preteen visiting my grandparents farm I rescued a baby rabbit…when grandpa cut the alfalfa he uncovered a nest of baby rabbits…I kept one and it would sit up on its haunches and drink milk from a doll bottle. I still have a photo of him drinking milk…after awhile when he got bigger I turned him loose.

  23. Hi Donna! Good to meet you here again! I’ve never rescued an animal, but I’ve had pets all my life and my blessings go out to all who take in animals in need. I’m sure I’ll love your book.

  24. Oh my gosh look at all the amazing comments! Thank you all for coming and visiting today.

    My mother in law had surgery this week and unfortunately needed something for home health care – and there were none to be found in their city! We did find one here though and it is 2 1/2 hours each way, so our day was spent driving and at the hospital and then driving again. It was good to see her though, and now that she has what she needs she’s springing out tomorrow. 🙂

    My sister has 3 rescue kitties, so when Boo showed up at their house she said no more…but couldn’t face sending him to a shelter. That’s when we said we’d take him.

    Our dog wasn’t a rescue, but she was a breeding dog that wasn’t going to be bred anymore and the breeders were looking for a family to place her with. The timing was right and we love her lots and lots. Wish we’d had her for her first five years. 🙂

    Thanks to all of you too who visited the Bear Valley site! I’m really glad I got to visit. There’s nothing quite like first hand research.

    I think we’re picking a winner later…

  25. My family has always adopted animals, whether they were cats and dogs, birds, fish, hamsters and lizards, etc… only one dog and a few rodents and fish were ever bought… everyone else came to us through adoption… our household love animals and wish we could afford to help more… 😀

  26. I love adopting animals and giving them the love and attention they deserve. I love your books and can’t wait to read this one.

  27. Weve adopted several animals over the years,we love our babies,my little Prissy is a lap dog,an we got her over 7yrs ago an am planning on another adoption soon

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