If you’ve read any of my Louise Golden mysteries, then you’re already familiar with the blind Westie, Sage, who appears throughout the series. At the very end of Almost Paradise, Louise’s ten-year-old neighbor Emmeline finds an unkempt Westie in the street. Unable to locate the owner, Emmeline keeps the dog. After seeing the knowing look in the little terrier’s eyes, Louise comments that she looks like a sage. The name sticks.
By the start of my second book, How Far is Heaven, Louise has adopted Sage. Though Louise didn’t realize there was a problem with Sage’s vision, a vet tells her Sage has been blind from birth. In spite of this “handicap,” Sage sees more than most people do. Sage remains Louise’s faithful companion throughout the series.
It’s no coincidence that I chose a Westie for this important role in my series, nor is it a coincidence that her name is Sage. I am also the owner of a very wise Westie, whose name is also Sage.
In the original draft of Almost Paradise, Emmeline finds a Shis Tzu, and Louise calls him Punkin as an endearment. He seems to like the name, and continues to be called Pumpkin. But before I finished the final draft of that manuscript, tragedy struck our family. On the eve of my 50th birthday, our beloved dog, Daisey Grace, met with a horrible accident. My kids and I were devastated, none of us more than my daughter, who was twelve at the time. Daisey had been a gift for her tenth birthday. For two weeks my daughter wouldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t stop crying. I had to have her excused from school. I was equally broken, but had to keep functioning for my kids’ sake.
I set out on a desperate mission to find a suitable replacement for Daisey, who had been a perfect fit for our family. Throughout my search, in the back of my mind I kept remembering a women I’d met who trained Westies to be service dogs. Like me, the woman was in a wheelchair. She extolled the virtues of Westies as service dogs. One big plus, she said, is they are small enough to carry, if necessary. I love animals and was determined to find a rescue dog. But after weeks on waiting list with local rescue groups, while my daughter declined, I bought a Westie pup from a breeder. I had a feeling our family would learn a lot from this little pup with the wise, knowing demeanor. I called her Sage. Sage brought love to our family and helped our broken hearts begin to heal.
And I changed the ending of Almost Paradise. Pumpkin the Shih Tzu became Sage the Westie.
When she was six months old, Sage began her service dog training with an organization called C.H.E.W.Y. Westies are known for their stubbornness as well as their intelligence, and Sage has Westitide in spades. She did learn to pick up things I dropped, and bring me certain items when I asked for them. But just as often, she made a game of it, running out the doggie door to hide the things I wanted her to retrieve. More than anything, over the past eight years, Sage has become my best friend and closest companion. I have no regrets and couldn’t imagine life without her.
No, my Sage is not blind like the Westie in my books. But through my friendship with Westie owners, I’ve gotten to know several Westies who are blind. I am so impressed by the way these resilient little dogs manage without sight. Maybe the most impressive of these is Louie the Super Westie, who has his own Facebook fan page. Louie who was born blind to a breeder, was rescued as a pup by one of my Facebook friends. When Louie points his eyes at you, you’d swear he’s looking right at you. He even manages to run around obstacles as though he senses them. It was in his honor I decided to make the Westie in my books blind as well.
It was around the time we got Sage that I joined Facebook. With no idea how to get my foot in door of social media, I joined several Westie groups on Facebook. Thanks to the many wonderful Westie owners I met online, some of who are involved in Westie rescue, I have learned an incredible amount about puppy mills, animal abuse, dog rescue, and more. I forged strong friendships among Westie owners. I now contribute to Westie rescue groups and have donated my royalties to them.
I thank God for bringing Sage into my life, and opening my eyes to the wonderful world of Westies.