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A Truce with my Aging Stepdog

There's one good thing about my old dog's fading memory: he seems to have forgotten he hates me. Our dog, Eddie, is 15 years old and generally in good health, but he's showing his age. His hearing is about gone, and he can no longer jump on sofas or navigate long flights of stairs. And he's losing his memory. Either because of that or perhaps because he just doesn't have the energy to bully me anymore, our geriatric dog is no longer the jealous creature who had been my nemesis over 10 years of marriage. Eddie, a 40-pound Blue Heeler mix, was prone to possessive impulses and aggressive behavior with other dogs, and that didn't change after he was adopted by the man who would become my husband and his two young children. He had settled into his new home from a rescue foundation barely four months before my husband and I met. The children were shy and polite to me, but the dog didn't bother with manners. He sized me up from a distance and, on the first night I slept over, he peed in front of the closed bedroom door. Please read on in the New York Times at http://nyti.ms/255K7b [caption id="attachment_961" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Truce"][/caption]

Top 10 Latino Authors

Thanks to the "Authors to Watch and Read" list for including me and "Stepdog" in their 2016 top ten roster. "This New York Times writer shows that she fully understands humanity and our relationship with lovers, friends and dogs. At times laugh out loud funny, "Stepdog" is an imaginative , entertaining work." Here are the other nine authors: 1. Kirstin Valdes Quade, "Nights at the Fiestas: Stories" 2. Adam Silvera, "More Happy Than Not" 3. Alina Garcia-Lapuerta, "La Belle Creole" 4. Andi Teran, "Ana of California" 5. Claudia Melendez Salinas, "A Fighting Chance" 6. Vanessa Garcia, "White Light" 7. Gustavo Florentin, "The Schwarzchild Radius" 8. Wendy C. Ortiz, "Excavation" 9. Sarah A. Chavez, "All Day, Talking"

Parallels: Stepdog and Steinbeck’s Charley

The most ingenious book review so far comes courtesy of SteinbeckNow.com, a site for John Steinbeck lovers that finds parallels between "Stepdog" and Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley." In "Charley," the great American author sets out on a road trip around the country with the perfect companion -- a poodle. "Like Travels with Charley, Mia’s dog-wags-woman tale reveals fault-lines, including blended-family fractures, in contemporary American culture," the review says. "Steinbeck finally achieved marriage success with his third wife Elaine and her poodle Charley, despite daunting difficulties with his-and-hers children and a deeply resentful former spouse. Rather than focusing on kid or spouse issues, however, Mia lets her husband Jim’s jealous, un-Charley dog Eddie carry the theme: where divorce, finances, and careers are concerned, making marriage work is a labor of love." I'm honored.

Yoga Dog

SD: "Do you call that yoga? This is how you do downward facing dog correctly." MN: "Oh shut up."

Stepdog on Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club Summer Reading List

What do "Stepdog" and "The House on Mango Street" have in common? We both made it on  Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club's first ever Summer Reading List! Started in partnership with the Association of American Publishers, Las Comadres/FNLBC promote books written in English by Latino authors. They have 15,000 members and hold monthly book club meetings and teleconferences. I'm honored to be in the company of Sandra Cisneros and so many other awesome authors, including Sonia Manzano ("Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx"), Andi Teran ("Ana of California"), Richard Blanco ("The Prince of Los Cocuyos -- A Miami Childhood"), Cristina Garcia ("The Lady's Matador Hotel") and Eleanor Parker Sapia ("A Decent Woman"). The late Oscar Hijuelos' "The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love," a classic, is also on the list. Go Latinos!

La Casa Azul Bookstore this Sunday 6/28 at 2pm

MN: The "Stepdog" reading at La Casa Azul in East Harlem is at 2pm this Sunday, Eddie. It will be followed by live bolero music! Are you coming?" SD: "Is there air conditioning?"

Public Radio Listeners Vent About Jealous Dogs, Cats and Even Horses!

One of the greatest pleasures I've had as the author of "Stepdog" has been listening to others talk about their experiences with jealous pets. During a recent interview with Kerri Miller, of Minnesota Public Radio, a woman listener called in to say her horse "hated" her boyfriend and chased after him to try to bite him whenever the boyfriend was around. Another caller said her boyfriend's dog deeply disliked her and that when she gave the boyfriend an ultimatum -- me or the dog -- the boyfriend chose the dog! Some owners, however,  said they had managed the problem or chosen the human and placed the jealous pet with friends so they could maintain both relationships. Psst, psst! Eddie! Listen to this: MPRNews

The Treaty of Montclair

As odd as it sounds, I finally made peace with my stepdog Eddie in Montclair. A 40-pound Blue Heeler mix with dark spots on white fur, Eddie and I had been waging war for nearly ten years, ever since I stayed over at my then boyfriend Jim’s townhouse in Los Angeles and his dog peed outside the bedroom door. The message was clear -- “He’s mine.” When I fell in love with Jim, I had braced myself for two stepkids. Never, ever did I worry about a stepdog. But in trying to find my place within my new instant family, Eddie was the one I couldn’t win over. He barked at the sight of me. He stood guard and tried to intercept me whenever I moved in Jim’s direction. He jumped between us when Jim and I tried to kiss or dance. He behaved like a jealous mistress – one capable of biting -- who knew who had come first. Jim got him from a rescue place exactly four months before we started dating. I was the intruder. When several years into our marriage we moved to New Jersey, I thought I had found my opening. I tried to leave Eddie behind. “He’s a California dog,” I told my husband. “He’s used to perfect weather and sunbathing. He’ll be miserable on the East Coast.” READ MORE: Baristanet.com

It’s Not Just Eddie and Me

In a Psychology Today article, New York psychologist Guy Winch notes that pets are a frequent source of arguments among couples. Who should walk the dog? Who should clean up after the cat? Feeding mice to your snake -- seriously? Dr. Winch even cites an Associated Press poll that found that 14 percent of respondents would choose their pet over a new love interest if the two didn't get along. Ouch. I guess I'm lucky that my husband Jim was more reasonable when we met and Eddie made it clear I wasn't welcomed in their lives (First salvo: he peed outside the bedroom door the first night I stayed over.) Dr. Winch has plenty of advice. Among the steps he mentions that helped me: Learn more about the pet's psychology. Make sure you and your loved one are on the same page about issues of discipline and expected behavior. Be compassionate. "Yes, you might be stuck with petzilla," Dr. Winch writes, "but don't forget that an animal that's giving you a hard time is doing so because it feels threatened and insecure."

Everyone Is A Critic

CAT: "I just read "Stepdog" and I'm with the stepmom. Dogs are such trouble." SD: "The word is complex. Dogs are complex. Now SCRAM!"