Friday, August 26, 2011

True Story of Lazy, Homeless Dog and Lonely, Little Girl Now an E-book

Congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus): True Story of Lazy, Homeless Dog and Lonely, Littl...: Book includes how to prevent #1 birth defects virus Mystic, CT---The publisher of "Anything But a Dog!" is now making the true story of a...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book Clubs: Anything But a Dog!

"If you're an animal lover, you'll love the critter tales as much as the special-needs storyline...really lifted my spirits." --Terry Mauro, About .com

Anything But a Dog! is a mother's harrowing search for one pet to suit two daughters--one a tomboy, the other disabled by congenital CMV.

Excerpt (followed by reviews, book club discussion questions, author interview/bio and purchasing info):


“Mom, can I have a dog?” my six-year-old daughter Jackie asked, standing next to me while I washed the breakfast dishes.

I cringed. The dreaded day was here—all kids inevitably ask for one. And why wouldn’t they? Movie dogs like Lassie drag you from burning buildings and keep you warm when you’re lost in a blizzard. But by the time we're adults, we've learned the truth about them: they urinate on your new wall-to-wall carpets, dig holes in your leather recliners to hide their rawhide bones, and bite your neighbor's kid.

“No, you can't have a dog,” I said, bracing myself for the age-old argument.

“Why not?” she demanded.

My mind raced for good excuses. Might as well start with the standard one: “A dog is too much work. And I know I'll end up being the one who walks it in the pouring rain.”

“I promise I'll take care of it. I will, I really will!" Jackie exclaimed.

“Sure,” I thought, “that’s what they all say.” Avoiding her pleading eyes, I picked up a plate sticky with leftover syrup. “The truth is,” I said, “we just can't risk a dog around your sister.” I hated admitting that. I didn't want her to blame her little sister, three years younger, for being so fragile. But taking care of Elizabeth, who was quadriplegic from cerebral palsy, was already enough work without adding a dog that might playfully nip at her.

I know! I’ll give Jackie the “lip-severing story.” That’ll convince her we can’t have a dog around her sister.

“When I was 13,” I began, “I talked Grandma and Grandpa into letting me have a Weimaraner. His name was Bogie—short for Humphrey Bogart—and he was a nipper. One day, my two-year-old cousin Suzannah wa s playing on the floor underneath the table with a Popsicle stick in her mouth. Bogie snapped at the stick and bit her lip off! My grandmother got the lip off the carpet and wrapped it in a paper napkin to take to the hospital. But it couldn’t be sewn back on. A surgeon fixed Suzannah’s face, but when we got home, my mother loaded Bogie into the back seat of the car and took him to the vet’s. I never saw him again. He took the ‘long walk’ as they say in the Lady and the Tramp movie.”

I paused so Jackie could let the horror of the incident sink in.

But all she wanted to know was, “Where’s Suzannah’s lip now?”

“Gosh, I don't know! The last time I saw her lip it was stuck to the napkin, all shriveled and mummy-like on my grandmother’s bookshelf. But that’s beside the point; can't you see how dangerous a dog could be for your sister? She can’t speak—how would she call out to us if she was in another room and the dog was bothering her?”... (to read the rest of the chapter, click into:

Anything But a Dog! also includes tips on how to prevent the #1 viral cause of birth defects--congenital CMV (more common than Down syndrome), which was the cause of Elizabeth's disabilities. Most OB/GYNs still do not warn their patients the necessary precautions to take.


"Saunders takes readers on a road trip as harrowing as any Dog Whisperer training challenge...Beyond the laughs about a dizzying pet search, Saunders' dog tale is about a mother who candidly reveals her family's burden, love, and acceptance of a daughter born with severe disabilities-and the people, and pets, forever touched by her life." — Rockland Magazine

"Sheds light on a disorder that is preventable and not talked about enough. If you're an animal lover, you'll love the critter tales as much as the special-needs storyline...really lifted my spirits."

"Wow! Laughed, cried, hugged my pooch...couldn't put it down! What an incredibly touching story. I, like WAY TOO MANY others, had never even heard of CMV before. I will share it with my book club -10 more people to help spread awareness!" Susanne Sullivan Kirkland, Bountiful, Utah.

“A hilarious set of pet tales! This mini-classic shines with the assurance that every child is beloved and valuable."-- Dr. Elisabeth Schafer, author of Vegetable Desserts: Beyond Carrot Cake and Pumpkin Pie

"Very touching, moving, personal; a joy to read. I laughed out loud and I cried. I congratulate Lisa on producing a very good piece of work.” Gail J Demmler-Harrison MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Director of the Congenital CMV Disease Registry and Research Program, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas

"The book is so well written and so endearing that you won't forget it once you've read it. Believe me." David Sisson, retired English professor

Book Discussion Questions

What do you think motivated the author, Lisa Saunders, to share her story about her daughters and their pets in Anything But a Dog!?
Does Lisa convey her story with comedy, self-pity, or a little of both? Which events were the funniest? Could you relate to any of them?
How does this book compare to other memoirs you have read? Is it more honest or less honest? Did some of the Lisa’s honesty shock you? Why?
How has this book changed or enhanced your view of people with disabilities?
Are there benefits to adopting an older, calmer dog?
How did you respond to Lisa’s "voice" or writing style (use of dialogue, punctuation, etc.)? How does she “show” the story rather then “tell” it?
What did you know about congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus) prior to reading this book?
What impact, if any, will the life of Lisa’s daughter, Elizabeth, have on the future of unborn children? What steps should a pregnant woman take to reduce her chances of contracting congenital CMV?
Has reading Anything But a Dog! given you hope for handling the challenges in your own life? If so, how?
Will you remember this book a year from now? Would you recommend this book to a friend? If so, why? Do you want to read more works by Lisa Saunders? If so, visit her Web site at

About Lisa Saunders: "I am a full-time writer at the State University of New York at Rockland and a member of its Speakers Bureau. Aside from ANYTHING BUT A DOG!, I am also the author of RIDE A HORSE, NOT AN ELEVATOR, and EVER TRUE: A Union Private and His Wife. I live with my husband and a beagle/basset hound mix in the lower Hudson Valley. As a a public speaker, I talk about CMV prevention, the Civil War, and writing and publishing family history and memoirs. For more information about me or my work, including CMV prevention, how to purchase the book, visit me at: If you would like contact me, write to: Lisa Saunders, Suffern, NY, at

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Anything But a Dog!

Lisa Saunders says “no” to daughter Jackie’s pleas for a dog, fearing it will be too rambunctious around her disabled little sister Elizabeth. But she does make her a promise she thinks she will never have to honor: “If God brings a dog to our door, then you can have it.” In the meantime, the family wrestles with a series of dysfunctional pets: a flesh-eating hamster, an attack cat, killer ants and a very stinky rabbit. Then one day, the unexpected happens: a shivering, dirty puppy shows up at their door. But is this dog really Heaven-sent?

Plus: Latest news on how to prevent the far-reaching but little publicized effects of congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus), the #1 viral cause of birth defects—more common a cause of disabilities than Down syndrome.

See below for excerpt:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The True Story of a Big, Homeless Dog and a Disabled Girl

"Two Dogs and a Shelter"
Lisa Saunders

"Mom, can I have a dog? I promise I'll take care of it,” my 12-year-old daughter, Jackie, asked yet again on New Year’s Eve of 2000.

I cringed. After all these years, why couldn’t she take “no” as the final answer? Not only did I know who really ends up walking it in the pouring rain, but we also had a daughter, Elizabeth, who was quadriplegic from cerebral palsy (I caught cytomegalovirus--CMV-- during my pregnancy). She was unable to protect herself against a frisky animal like the cat we briefly owned that clawed her face.

Instead of arguing with Jackie again about why she couldn’t have a dog, I just reiterated the promise I had made to her six years earlier: “If God Himself brings a dog our door, then you can have it. Only then will I assume it’s a sign that the dog will be gentle around your sister." Jackie and my husband, Jim, decided that if that day should ever come, they would name the dog Riley after the dog in the movie, "Homeward Bound II.”

Unbelievably, a few weeks after that New Year’s Eve, a big, brown female puppy, shivering cold, wet and dirty, tried to jump into our car as we were leaving to go out with friends.

Stunned, I knew Jim and I had to honor our pledge. But first, I ran "found" ads, put up posters, and called the police. Reporting her to our local animal shelter, Donald, the Assistant Director, said that an overwhelmed owner--who probably received the puppy as a Christmas present--had dumped her.

Jackie wouldn't name the puppy Riley because she only knew male dogs named Riley, so she called her Gabrielle-Gabby for short.

Now I was the overwhelmed owner. Not only did Gabby urinate all over our new wall to wall carpets and chew on everything, she was a nipper. She'd playfully attack all passing ankles and grab Elizabeth's feet dangling over the couch with her razor sharp teeth. Many nights I lay awake worried she'd hurt Elizabeth someday.

Suddenly a solution occurred to me. Perhaps Jackie would agree to upgrade the dog for an older, calmer one sitting in an animal shelter? Moments after having that thought, Jackie started screaming from the laundry room, "Dad, get Gabby off me! She's attacking my feet again."

That's it. Without saying a word, I picked up the phone and dialed Donald at the shelter. "Help! The puppy we took in a month ago is driving us crazy. Can you find her another home?"

"Puppies are easy, I can find her a home within a week."

"Do you have an older, calmer dog? I have a handicapped child, so I really must be certain."

"As a matter of fact, I have a big, fat, lazy male Lab-mix, who wants nothing more than to lie on a couch all day. He's not only a couch potato, he's the whole sack of potatoes!"

"Perfect! What's his name?"


"Riley! You're kidding me! Hold on to him. We'll be right in!"

Jackie felt sad on the trip to the shelter with Gabby on her lap, yet awed by the name of the dog we would be bringing home. "Mom, that's got to be a sign."

She was right. Not only did the 100-pound Riley come fully neutered with up to date shots, he was completely housebroken. As soon as he got settled into our house, I patted the couch next to Elizabeth letting him know he was welcome to join her--and he did just that. Like Elizabeth, Riley was considered a misfit because he couldn't do much. He didn't know how to fetch, play with a toy or chew on a rawhide, but he did know how to jump on the couch and keep Elizabeth warm without stepping on her.

Jackie finally had a dog and Elizabeth finally had a companion who understood her. It became my pleasure to walk our carpet-friendly couch potato--even in the pouring rain!

End Note: I later learned that Gabby was adopted within a week of being dropped off at the shelter and that her new family had broken her nipping habit. She was making her new home as happy as Riley had made ours.

You can see a photo of Elizabeth and Riley on this short USA News clip tells their story along with how my daughters disabilities could have been prevented. Click on:  USA 9 News clip.

You can read the beginning of my memoir about Elizabeth and Riley online by clicking on the "LOOK INSIDE" feature found at:  "Anything But a Dog! The perfect pet for a girl with congenital CMV."

Thank you so much for taking the time to get to know my daughter and the homeless, old dog who loved her.

Lisa Saunders
Autographed copies of "Anything But a Dog!" are available by writing to me directly at