Category: News from Ashland Creek Press

A Q&A with Dogland author Jacki Skole

By Midge Raymond,

A Q&A with Dogland author Jacki Skole

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this book?

A: I didn’t set out to write a book so much as I set out to discover why the puppy I adopted from a small rescue organization seemed unusually submissive and fearful of men, and why she—a dog from North Carolina—was up for adoption in a New Jersey garden supply store.  At the time I began to dig for answers, I was in the midst of a career crisis: Should I pursue a doctoral degree in education? Could I be content as a stay-at-home mom teaching a few college classes a semester? What was my purpose?

As I uncovered little bits about Galen’s past and learned about the scope of the dog problem in the United States, I realized there was a story that needed telling—not just about all the healthy and adoptable dogs being killed in shelters (that story’s been told), but about what’s being done—and what more can be done—to save lives and stop the killing. I now had my purpose.

I spent about two years reporting and writing the book. My favorite part of this journey has been meeting the amazing people who are in the trenches saving lives, be it through increasing access to spay/neuter surgeries for some of America’s poorest pet owners or finding new ways to promote shelter adoptions. For so many of these people, their work is wholly volunteer, squeezed in around their day jobs but done because of their deep love for dogs and their inability to stand idle while so many suffer.


jacki skole


Q: Tell us about some of the research you did for Dogland.

A: Some of the toughest reporting I had to do for Dogland was to visit several of the South’s under-funded, under-staffed, decades-old public shelters. I knew that many of the dogs I saw there—beautiful, healthy, vibrant dogs—would be euthanized. But I also had the opportunity to visit shelters where every healthy dog was cared for and socialized until some man or some woman walked through the shelter door, peered into the dog’s kennel, and decided that dog would have a home.

I got a lot of mental whiplash reporting this story because it seemed like for every potential solution to an existing problem, that solution sparked unintended consequences that created more problems—or at least resistance to the solution. For instance, low-cost spay/neuter clinics would seem the perfect solution to increasing spay/neuter surgery rates. But they are often opposed by veterinarians. Sometimes the opposition stems from greed, but sometimes it’s because veterinarians have seen spay/neuter clinics morph into full-service veterinary clinics that can threaten a private vet’s livelihood. As one supporter of low-cost spay/neuter clinics told me, “If our goal is spay/neuter, then every time we are doing something that is not a spay, not a neuter, then we’re not working towards our goal.”

Perhaps what surprised me most, as a person outside the animal welfare world, is how much animosity and infighting exists among the players inside that world—at the expense of the animals. In fact, at an annual conference sponsored by the Best Friends Animal Society, one of the sessions included a discussion on the importance of collaboration. Let go of egos, quit vilifying others, and walk in one another’s shoes was the message delivered to conference goers.

Q: Does the United States really have a “dog problem”?

A: Yes. When more than a million healthy, adoptable dogs are euthanized in animal shelters each year, we have a dog problem. And of course, that doesn’t count all the dogs killed by their owners or who die as strays having been dumped on the sides of roads, in wooded areas, or wherever people choose to rid themselves of unwanted pets.

Q: Isn’t shelter euthanasia on the decrease?

A: It is, and that’s wonderful. But we’ve hit a plateau. Animal welfare groups say about twenty million dogs and cats were euthanized in American shelters in the 1970s. Now, more than four decades later, that number is down to about four million. But that’s an outrageous number, especially when you consider that animal welfare groups say 90 percent of those are healthy and adoptable.

Q: What’s the root of the problem? 

A: The root is that too many pet owners do not spay and neuter their dogs—thus there are too many accidental litters. The solution would seem straightforward: Have more pet owners get their dogs fixed. Unfortunately, issues of accessibility and affordability make that more easily said than done. According to an organization called Spay FIRST!, fewer than ten states can claim to offer pet owners accessible and affordable spay/neuter. The organization defines “access” as having a veterinary clinic, a low-cost spay/neuter facility, or a program that transports dogs to a clinic within fifty miles of a pet owner’s home. It defines “affordability” as keeping the cost less than what a low- or minimum-wage worker makes in a day—in some cases making it free. Then there’s also the issue of education. For many dog owners, especially those who grew up in rural or farming communities, spaying and neutering dogs was something that traditionally just wasn’t done, so it is something that needs to be taught.

Q: Why do we often hear the situation for dogs—in terms of shelter euthanasia—is worse in the South than in any other region of the country?  

A: In part, it’s an issue of numbers—the South has a large population—including a large dog-owning population which itself has historical roots—and a large percentage of Southerners live in poverty. Thus the issues of accessibility and affordability are ever-present. That historical relationship stems from the region’s agrarian history. Dogs were quite useful on the farm—they had a host of jobs, from protecting the homestead to accompanying their owners on hunts. Everyone had them, and no one fixed them. It just wasn’t something that was done—the American Veterinary Medical Association didn’t even establish standards for spay/neuter until 1923. And still, by the 1970s, only 10 percent of pet dogs and 1 percent of pet cats were fixed. Dogs also tended to live outside the house, so if a dog had puppies it’s not like a family went from one dog in the house to nine or ten. They lived outside—they were animals. They were property. They were not pets—certainly not this notion we have today of companion animals.

Q: If more people rescued animals from shelters, rather than bought from breeders or pet stores, could we solve this problem? 

A: No, though it would certainly help. As I heard over and over again, we have to “turn off the spigot.” Stop the procreation. The other thing I heard from shelter workers repeatedly was, “We’re adopting them out one and a time, and they’re making them eight, nine, ten at a time.”

Q: How do we, as a society, make spay/neuter more affordable and accessible?

A: First, bring the price of the surgery down. This can be done with more low-cost clinics that specialize in high-volume spay/neuter surgery. And it can be done by creating state programs, like New Jersey’s Animal Population Control program, that help fund the surgery for low-income pet owners and those who adopt from shelters.

Second, make the surgery more accessible. Mobile units. More low-cost clinics. Have private vets donate space in their clinics one morning a week to low-cost, high-volume surgeries. People can donate to low-cost spay/neuter clinics so the clinics can offer low-income pet owners deeper discounts.

Third, through education. Teach people about the benefits of fixing a dog to the animal’s health and behavior, and the consequences of not fixing a dog to overpopulation.

Q: Many people who rescue dogs probably wish they knew their dog’s history. What made you actually seek it out? 

A: With my first rescue—Gryffin—I always wondered what his life was like before he was found in a box on the side of an Atlanta-area highway. He, too, had some little oddities—he was afraid of garbage bags and he disliked dogs who were boxers. If we were walking down the street or if we were in the dog park, the only breed he would have a negative reaction to was the boxer. But I never did anything—I just wondered.

With Galen, there was something about her submissiveness that was so extreme … and then the timing was right in my life. I was having a mini-mid-career crisis, and reporting this book seemed to be a way for me to move in a direction that had purpose.

Q: You’ve said that Galen could be the poster-puppy for America’s dog problem. What do you mean?

A: Galen was born to a dog who wasn’t spayed because her family couldn’t afford it. The family’s home also didn’t have a fenced-in yard, so when she—her name is Daisy—was outside, she was tied to a tree along the side of the house. Daisy’s owner told me that she didn’t intend to breed Daisy. What happened was that when Daisy was in one of her heat cycles, a neighbor’s dog impregnated her. The result was a seven-pup litter that the family could not afford to care for and that it couldn’t give away. So, the owner and her son dropped the puppies at the shelter when they were six weeks old. But that litter was lucky—they were seen by a rescue organization that pulled them, had them fostered, and had them transported to New Jersey.





Meet the Deodar Cedar: Ashland Tree of the Year 2002

By John Yunker,

In Ashland, you can spend years walking right past a Tree of the Year and not know it.

Like this pair of Deodar Cedars, right smack in the middle of the Haggen grocery parking lot.

Deodar Cedars

Due to their parking-lot location, these two beautiful trees are probably among the most overlooked in Ashland, despite the fact that they provide much needed shade.


Next time you’re on the boulevard, or at Haggen, be sure to look up … these trees are well worth checking out.

Happy Typewriter Day!

By Midge Raymond,

That’s right — June 23 is World Typewriter Day. And we’re celebrating with a special promotion for our vintage typewriter notecards.

This mixed set of 12 notecards features three each of these antique typewriters: the Remington Rand Portable (circa 1940) and the L.C. Smith & Corona Model 8 (circa 1929), both from our own collection, as well as The Chicago (1899) and the Crandall, New Model (1886), from the spectacular Martin Howard Collection.

This Typewriter Day special saves you 40 percent (or more, depending on how many boxes you order), and shipping is free for all U.S. orders. (If you’re a typewriter aficionado who lives outside the U.S., please contact us!)

Wishing you all a very happy Typewriter Day.

A Q&A with Earth Joy Writing author Cassie Premo Steele

By Midge Raymond,

A Q&A with Earth Joy Writing author Cassie Premo Steele

Q: What is Earth Joy Writing?

A: It is a way of interacting with the natural world that brings about empowerment, healing, and personal change. Nature has always been a source of comfort, inspiration, and wisdom for me. I wanted to be able to share that—teach that—to others.


Q: How the book come into being?

A: I started writing Earth Joy Writing in 2008 while teaching classes in ecopoetry and ecofeminism at the University of South Carolina’s Green Quad for Sustainable Futures. I continued working on it over the next few years and presenting workshops with exercises from the book to various groups, including more than a year’s worth of monthly workshops at Saluda Shoals Park in South Carolina. The book is very much a balance of theory and practice, tested in university and community settings, and accessible to a wide audience.

One of the best experiences I had while writing the book was being in Short Hills Mall in New Jersey, and a saleswoman asked me how I liked living in South Carolina. I responded, “I like it a lot. We have nature there.” She looked around, thinking, and then said, “Oh, yes, we used to have that store here, but it closed.”

I think we are feeling an increasing anxiety about the natural world, and we’re not sure what to do about it. We listen to news reports, and we can feel helpless. I wrote this book to help with our fears. I truly believe that when we begin to see nature not as a “thing” that can be bought and sold but as a living being in relationship with us, we begin to heal not only the Earth, but ourselves.

Q: How would you describe the book to readers and aspiring writers? 

A: Earth Joy Writing is a new version of The Artist’s Way for the green generation. In the years since the hugely successful Artist’s Way hit the market, three important changes have occurred. First, our lives are much more interconnected on a daily basis through the Internet and social marketing networks. Second, we are highly aware of the grave dangers our environment faces. Third, we can sense a surge in a collective desire for community. This book addresses all these needs for readers—to live a harmonious and balanced life despite the vast changes happening around them, and to connect with others and the earth in meaningfully creative ways.

It is a hopeful book. It is practical. It has been tested. It leads to healing. It is not just for writers or naturalists. It is for the person who wants to live life more meaningfully.


Fiction for Vegans

By John Yunker,


If you’re a vegan (like us) you might find yourself frustrated at times with the current crop of “must read” novels.

Most contemporary novels make certain assumptions about contemporary life, such as what a “normal” family meal looks like, or how a “typical” vegan character should act.

For example, vegan characters are more often than not portrayed as combative, defensive, preachy or downright dangerous.

And I get it.

I’m well aware of this period of time I live in. If you want to write for the masses you’re correct in thinking that the masses are not vegetarians, let along vegans. And that normal for the masses is not normal for me.

I do get it.

But what books are vegans supposed to curl up with at night?

That’s where Ashland Creek Press fits in.

To be honest, we want books that appeal not just to vegans but to everyone. Books that are compelling, complex, and, at times, challenging.

Here’s what we offer so far, with more to come…

Among Animals: Among Animals is a collection of short stories by 15 different authors, each of which explores the human/animal relationship. This is an amazing and challenging collection.

The Green and the Red: This is quite simply a great romantic comedy. It’s a quick read that covers an expansive terrain of issues. And because it’s set in France, it’s a fascinating view of a culture that I know very little of.

The Dragon Keeper: This novel concerns a vegetarian zookeeper and the Komodo dragon in her charge. It’s both a romance and an insightful analysis of zoos and their roles as both exploiters and protectors of endangered species.

Out of BreathThe Ghost Runner, The Last Mile: Books 1, 2, and 3 of The Lithia Trilogy, this young adult series features a vegan protagonist who in search of a place to call home. And it features no other than “vegan” vampires. Yes, even vampires have the power to evolve.

Falling into Green: An eco-thriller featuring a vegan protagonist who just happens to have a crush on a carnivore TV news reporter.

The Tourist Trail: I’m plugging my own novel here, which features vegan characters who are both mainstream and heroic (and inspired by real-world animal rights activists).

I now know many people and families who live perfectly normal — and vegan — lives. What we need now are more writers to help redefine normal, or at the very least portray contemporary life as it really is.