It started with a dog (of course) by Cheryl Harper

You thought it was going to be a picture of my dog, Jack, right? I completely understand that. I do try to work him in whenever I can (see: Making Up Under the Mistletoe in the A Heartwarming Christmas anthology. His name there is Dash). He's my best spokesmodel. But this is a dog that became known as Bear. He was a stray dumped in the vicinity of my piece of the middle-of-nowhere countryside.

Since formerly easygoing Jack has added new dogs to his list of enemies (right behind roadrunners, armadillos, moles, rabbits, squirrels, and deer), Bear's appearance did not go well. I wasn't sure which one of the three of us would need stitches first. And Bear didn't seem to get the memo because nothing Jack said convinced him to move along.

Desperate for help, I called both shelters in my small town. Then I called again a few days later. And then I called again a few days later. Shelters are often full (please, please, please consider shelters when its time to add a new furry family member).

Eventually, my local Humane Society said, "Bring him in." Because I was unable to surrender him without knowing what happened to him, I started volunteering there. For me, that meant three hours, two days a week, where all I did was walk dogs and pet dogs and dodge dog kisses and listen to dog stories and have my heart broken by really terrible behavior and then put back together by happy endings. For months, Bear was a happy dog at the Humane Society. But he's a big, boisterous boy. And black. Two challenges in the world of rescued dogs.

Then I learned about a program called Paws in Prison. Inmates work with dogs from shelters all over the state to teach them basic obedience and more. Here's a link to the Arkansas Paws in Prison Facebook page. I've done a lot of research lately about similar programs in several states (for a book! Of course it's for a new book! Coming next year from Harlequin Heartwarming!) and this Arkansas page is the best. Warning: DO NOT GO IF YOU DON'T WANT TO LAUGH AND CRY HAPPY TEARS.

This was the missing piece for Bear. He was adopted. And I had a book series in the works with a mean girl who needed a cause that could change her life. The cause closest to my heart? Animals. Nothing except the good work my fictional shelter does matches my real life experience (but Bub the dog could be Bear if we're casting the movie), but that's where the important pieces of Heart's Refuge started. And the next book in the Lucky Numbers series has no title but it's going to be great. It has to be.

Just in case you'd like to read Heart's Refuge (available now!), here's the back cover copy and the buy links. Also, Heart's Refuge is a part of this giveaway. Have you entered yet?
Author Kate James called it "an animal lover's must read" and she's awesome.

Her life has turned upside down 

Back in high school, Sarah Hillman was a rich girl who protected herself by always being on the attack. Now her father's skipped town, the money's gone and she's sleeping in her office. Too bad the only person she can turn to has every reason to reject her. 

Will Barnes isn't a gangly math nerd anymore. He's a financial advisor and a father, and when Sarah shows up in his office, he threatens to kick her out. And yet, Will agrees to help. But if Sarah falls for this kind, strong man, she'll have to stay in Holly Heights, a town where everyone knows her…and hates her.



  1. Congratulations on the release of Heart's Refuge, Cheryl!

    I was so happy that my book order arrived in time for me to take Heart's Refuge on vacation with me. Admittedly, I'm a mush when it comes to animals but your book is an enjoyable read in many respects beyond the animal rescue theme.

    I loved this post and learning about the inspiration for Bub.

    Also, your readers will be happy to know that you just signed another contract with Harlequin for three more Heartwarming books. Congratulations for this as well!

    Finally, yes, we have a terrific giveaway that runs until October 18th, so there's still time to enter.

  2. A great post. I'm so glad Bear found a forever home!

  3. So happy to hear Bear found a happy home!

    We debated getting another dog last month, but the biggest stumbling block was our Westie. We weren't sure how he'd get along with another dog in the house. He's fine when we dog sit, but he's always relieved when the other dogs go home. I really didn't want to hurt his feelings if we focused on a new dog. So we're still a one-dog-family.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Love books with animals, and of course they have to have happy endings. Good on you for taking on the huge problem of strays. Our shelters do a good job here in Tucson. Looking forward to reading the book.

  5. Sounds like a wonderful story. You have me hooked.

  6. The fact that you volunteered at the shelter, in order to know what happened to Bear, speaks volumes about your character and your love for animals.
    Congratulations on your latest release and your contract for three more! That's wonderful news, Cheryl!

  7. Congratulations on the contract, Cheryl! Very happy for you. Love Jack's face, and the sound of Bear and love all you did for him. It's hard to imagine a love that pays back as much as love for a dog or cat. (Well, children, but there's a lot lest angst with animals.) And your research has to be very rewarding. Happy Monday!

  8. So glad you found a home for Bear. And congratulations on your new contract!!! Heartwarming is an awesome place. Looking forward to reading your book.

  9. What a great backstory! Can't wait to read the new book.

  10. So nice to hear Bear's story, and Heart's Refuge sounds like an awesome read. You're a very dedicated animal lover. I'm so glad to know you will still be writing Heartwarming books because I love your stories. I just wish I had more time to read because I want to read all of them!! Thanks for sharing the inspiration for your book.

  11. Bear looks like a great pup! Can't wait to read Heart's Refuge and for everyone to get their hands on Making Up Under the Mistletoe!! Congratulations on your new contract - you deserve it :)

  12. I just went and walked around Pet Marts dog rescue this past Saturday. I'm thinking so very thinking I want a dog for my ten year old. We're thinking shepherd.

  13. Reply to Pamela...

    I'd love to be able to give you a gentle nudge, Pamela. Opening your heart and your home to a rescue dog is more fulfilling than you can imagine. A pup (of any age) will complete your family and help your son continue to learn responsibility. I had a Shepherd. They are wonderful, intelligent animals...but I'd probably say that about any dog!

    Nudge, nudge...


  14. You guys are great. I really love this story and I hope readers will, too. My volunteering has slowed, thanks to there never being enough hours in any day lately, but I believe the work shelters do is so important. And like Kate, I'd nudge nudge, too. Dogs, when they're part of the family, add so much. Rescue dogs have an extra sprinkling of awesome because you're also saving a life.

    *end of commercial*
    Fingers crossed readers love Heart's Refuge. And back to work on the next one!


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