Today on Mystery Mondays we welcome Sheri Levy, award-winning author of Seven Days to Goodbye. If you’re interested in service dogs, there’s a little bit for you at the end of the blog, so read on. Sheri’s book intrigues me. I’ve often thought of getting a service dog but haven’t lived near enough to an urban center to take part in a program.
Sheri is hear to tell us about where her inspiration came from to write Seven Days To Goodbye.
Inspiration for Seven Days to Goodbye By Sheri S Levy
Before retiring from teaching, writing about my experiences with dogs, special needs children, and my favorite beach setting played out like a movie in my mind as I walked my dogs every day.
My story memories began soon after my husband and I moved from California to Georgia. We rescued our first dog, a German shepherd. She lived with us six years, and after her death, we knew we could never live without another dog. Our children wanted an eight-week-old white German shepherd puppy.
Eleven years later with our children grown, our house echoed emptiness. We chose our very first Aussie, Sydney. Six months later, a black Lab, blew into our yard during a snow storm. We continued through the years with three more Aussies, our last one being a difficult rescue. He required me to get involved in extensive dog training.
My teaching experience with special needs children created the idea of using a service dog in my story. Since I had used positive reinforcement with my students, I understood the newest techniques in dog training. Agility training helped my rescue overcome his fears, and taught me commands. When I began writing Seven Days to Goodbye, I chose Sydney as my main character.
I researched service dogs online throughout the U.S. until I made a connection with PAALS. Since they were close to my home, the founder included me in training sessions. I interviewed a young girl who worked as a puppy raiser and used her ambition of helping others as the goal for my main character, Trina. One generous parent shared her son’s difficulties with autism. They lived on the coast, and had a boat. I incorporated his needs of a water dog into my story and created Logan, a seven year old boy with autism. For more conflict, Trina needed a best friend, Sarah, whose interest in guys had changed her overnight.
Edisto Beach became my setting, and I used Sydney’s many beach adventures. My husband and I and our closest friends spent long weekends in a rented old house with two bedrooms and one bath, and a screened-in porch over-looking the ocean. We sat in rockers, with music blaring, enjoying the salty air and the crashing waves.
When I closed my eyes, I visualized Sydney and Jake romping on the sand with our friends’ Springer Spaniel, Darby. Sydney herded the waves and bit the white foam rolling on to shore. When he pursued the sea gulls, Jake chased Syd, and Darby raced after Jake. They made figure eights on the sand until they collapsed with their tongues drooping sideways. After writing my first version, Jake was pulled from the story to add more of an emotional impact.
During the months of May through October, outside lights are forbidden. Each female turtle returns to their birth place to lay their eggs. If they see a light, they get distracted, and head back to the water. One dark night, we spotted a trail going up to the dune and tip toed to our discovery. A loggerhead turtle using her fins, dug her nest and laid over a hundred eggs. Then she moved the sand to camouflage the eggs. It was a first for us, but a common event on Edisto, and had to be woven into the story.
I strived to capture the intense feelings of being on Edisto. Beginning with the drive through oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. Watching the pelicans soar over the ocean in a V-formation against the sapphire blue sky, and an occasional bird diving for breakfast. Tossing crumbs to the squawking sea gulls. Eating boiled shrimp freshly caught. Having your breath sucked away by pink sun rises and orange sunsets. Flinging away the distressing roaches and mosquitoes. And burying your feet in the sand.
I call Seven Days to Goodbye my heart book. There’s as much truth in the story as fantasy. It was great fun creating my characters, plot, and conflicts.
Coming, July of 2017, Starting Over. More fun with dogs, horses, and many new conflicts!
Seven Days To Goodbye
After Trina’s beloved dog dies, she swears she’ll never have another one. But then she learns about service dogs, and realizes that if she becomes a puppy raiser, she could train puppy after puppy and never worry about them dying. But like all great ideas, this one has a serious flaw: Her first service dog must be returned to his kennel at the end of their week long summer vacation. And saying goodbye to Sydney is going to be much tougher than she ever imagined.
Trina’s last week with Sydney is made that much harder by her newly strained friendship with her best friend, Sarah, who’s become so over-the-top boy crazy that she’s almost like a stranger. Sarah is determined to have them hang out with every boy on the beach, but when a boy named Chase takes an interest in Sydney and Trina, it puts an even bigger strain on the friendship.
It’s hard enough to deal with losing Sydney, but now she may lose her best friend, too. And even if she manages to patch things up with Sarah—and figures out what to do about Chase—she still must face a daunting decision: is she strong enough to take on another service puppy?
Who is Sherri Levy?
After twenty-five years of teaching special education and training her own dogs in obedience and agility, Sheri finds the subject of dogs and special needs children close to her heart. Sheri S. Levy’s magazine article about a diabetic alert dog, “Scent with Love,” was published in Clubhouse Magazine in July 2010. This story was nominated for a Maxwell Medallion Award at the Dog Writers of America Association, February, 2011, awards banquet in New York.
In 2015, Sheri’s debut novel, Seven Days to Goodbye, won another Special Interest Award with DWAA. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Carolinas, teaches writing workshops, enjoys doing author visits, tutor’s students, and volunteers with an accredited, nonprofit service dog kennel, PAALS.