Friday, February 28, 2014

Pet Health Tip #1- Housebreaking Your Puppy

Housebreaking your puppy can be a frustrating event.  However, remembering a few simple rules could save you and your puppy some heartache.

First, there are specific times when your puppy will need to eliminate. These are:
1) Immediately after waking
2) Approximately five minutes after eating
3) Immediately after playing

Additionally, puppies under six months of age need to eliminate approximately every four hours.

You can use this knowledge to your advantage.  If you know that these events will trigger your puppy’s need to eliminate, then you can time when to take your puppy outside.  Once he is outside, tell him what you want him to do.  For instance, use a phrase like "Go potty."  Don't play with the puppy until he potties.  Then, once he is successful, give him lavish attention and praise.  Eventually, he will learn to go on demand.

Another thing that you can do to greatly decrease the amount of time it takes to potty train your puppy is a method called "crate training."  It is a simple concept that really works.  The idea is that you have a crate your puppy considers his den.  The crate should be big enough for the puppy to lie in comfortably, but not so big that he can use one end of it for a bathroom.  Dogs are pretty clean animals and don't like to eliminate where they sleep.  They are also den animals and feel safe and comfortable sleeping in a small dark place.

Here is how “crate training” works:  The puppy should be inside the crate whenever you are not giving him direct attention.  So, let's start at night.  You place the puppy in the crate.  You will need to give him a potty break in the middle of the night.  Take the puppy directly outside and give him the command to "Go Potty".  Once he obeys, give him praise and attention.  Remember, do not play with him until after he potties.  Then place him back into the crate.  Repeat this process first thing in the morning.  He may only urinate at this time.  Feed him and then take him back outside.  Most puppies will need to defecate about five minutes after eating.  Then place him back into the crate.  He needs to stay in the crate until you are ready to give him attention again.  Make sure to take him directly outside, give him the command, and wait until he potties before playing with him.

Remember he will need to go outside approximately every four hours.  It usually only takes a few days until your puppy will catch on to this routine.  Just like kids, puppies feel most comfortable and confident when they have a routine.  They will be much better behaved in the long run.  So, with “crate training” you get two benefits, a housebroken puppy and a puppy that doesn't have separation anxiety.

If you don't want your puppy to be in a crate while you are home, then you can place him on a leash.  That way he stays within your line of vision.  If you see him sniffing the ground and circling, then he is about to go and you need to get him outside immediately.  This method doesn't work as quickly as crate training, because of the increased likelihood of having accidents.  However, it can also be effective.

“Crate training” is also a great method to use if you are housebreaking an older dog.  In my experience, this method can work within a few days.  Many times, the dog will prefer to spend their time in the crate, even if you leave the door open.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another 5 star review for "To Love A Cat"

Reviewed by Cheryl Schopen for Readers' Favorite

In To Love a Cat by Billi Tiner, Catherine “Cat” James has overcome a rough childhood. Having abusive parents and being kicked out when she was a teenager, Cat has vowed to help another child if she got the chance. Finally, having a stable life as an accountant and living in her own home, she has decided to become a foster mom. She ends up taking in a 13-year-old boy named Ethan, who has had a childhood very similar to her own. Soon, her life changes drastically, and Detective Mitch Holt enters their lives. Fighting her attraction to this man and trying to focus on only being a mother, she convinces herself that she doesn’t need or want a relationship. Will Cat finally find the happiness that she has always dreamed of?

Thinking I was getting into a typical romance book, I was pleasantly surprised in the depth of not only the plot, but the characters as well. Yes, there is romance. Cat and Mitch have an undeniable attraction to each other, and seeing them try to deny their feelings and focus on other things is both frustrating and entertaining. However, what is truly at the heart of the story is the relationship between Cat and Ethan. Witnessing their mother/son bond gradually grow as time goes on and as circumstances change is absolutely heartwarming. They both desperately needed each other, more than they even knew. Any parent can relate to Cat’s love for Ethan and her need to protect and keep this boy safe. Billi Tiner is an amazing writer who really brought these characters to life and made the relationships realistic. The plot was suspenseful and unpredictable. In this story about friendship and love, with the perfect amount of animal-loving moments, To Love a Cat is a must-read. Filled with touching moments that got tears streaming down my face, this was a book that I could not put down. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

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Another 5 star review for "To Love A Cat"!

Reviewed by Patricia Day for Readers' Favorite

Take two successful professionals, each independent and content with life. Mitch is a law enforcement officer and family for him consists of his dog Roscoe and Tucker, an appealing but unwelcome cat. Mitch is totally dedicated to his work getting criminals off the streets. He is not the marrying kind. Catherine James is single and stunning. She is an over-achiever, seeking nothing more than to continue her career as lead accountant in prestigious company. Her success enables her to help youngsters; especially those damaged and rejected by their families. She knows too well how traumatic that is. She wants to provide a stable, comfortable home to a child, and applies to foster one. Add a troubled teen, Ethan, and you have the ingredients for an interesting, compelling read.

The story not only winds in and around the lives of Mitch, Catherine, and Ethan, but introduces their individual families, who are all caring and well-adjusted adults. As the tale unfolds, it exposes unsavoury elements, too. To reveal more could spoil the story for you. Suffice to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is engaging and well written. You want to keep reading. How the characters meet each other, and adjust makes for a wonderful read and I highly recommend it if you want to escape your reality for a while, and become entwined in the lives of these fictional folk. It highlights how critically important helping less fortunate individuals is, as well as having a stable, loving family.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

TO LOVE A CAT giveaway!!

Enter my Goodreads Giveaway for a chance to win an autographed copy of my newly released contemporary romance "To Love A Cat."


From the author of “Dogs Aren’t Men” comes “To Love a Cat”, a contemporary romance novel. 

Catherine “Cat” James’ life is simple and orderly, and she likes it that way. She loves her job as an accountant. Working with numbers is safe and routine, no surprises. Her childhood had been very abusive and unstable. She vowed not to live that way as an adult. She also made a promise to herself to become a foster parent. She wished someone had been there for her as a teenager, to let her know she wasn’t alone. 

Cat agrees to foster Ethan Summers, a troubled teenage boy whose childhood closely resembles her own. Suddenly, her nice and orderly life is filled with chaos and uncertainty. Things really start to spin out of control when circumstances bring police detective Mitch Holt into the picture. He’s handsome, charming, and definitely not what Cat needs right now, or so she thinks. 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

To Love A Cat by Billi Tiner

To Love A Cat

by Billi Tiner

Giveaway ends April 01, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pet Health Tip #40- Tick Borne Diseases

Several diseases can be transmitted to dogs and cats from ticks.  Therefore, keeping pets that have access to the outdoors protected from ticks is essential to their overall health.  There are many good tick prevention medications available.

The four most common tick borne diseases that affect dogs in the United States are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichiosis, and Tick Paralysis.  In most cases, the tick must be attached for several hours before they can transmit these diseases.  So, if ticks are promptly removed from your pet, it will greatly reduce their risk of developing a tick borne disease.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria.  The symptoms include: lameness, fever, swollen lymph nodes and joints, and a reduced appetite.  In severe cases, animals may develop kidney disease, heart conditions, or nervous system disorders. Animals do not develop the "Lyme disease rash" that is commonly seen in humans.

Lyme disease is treated with oral antibiotics.  Since this is a bacterial infection, the animal doesn’t develop an immunity and can contract an infection again.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF)

The symptoms of RMSF are similar to Lyme disease and include: fever, reduced appetite, depression, pain in the joints, lameness, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some animals may develop heart abnormalities, pneumonia, kidney failure, liver damage, or even neurological signs (e.g., seizures, stumbling).

Similar to Lyme disease, RMSF is treated with antibiotics.  However, unlike Lyme disease, dogs usually do develop an immunity to future infections.


Erhlichiosis is caused by a rickettsial organism.  Common symptoms include depression, reduced appetite (anorexia), fever, stiff and painful joints, and bruising.  Signs typically appear less than a month after a tick bite and last for about four weeks.

Treatment of Ehrlichiosis usually involves an extended course of antibiotics.  Animals will develop antibodies against the organism, but can become re-infected.

Tick Paralysis

Tick paralysis is a strange condition caused by a toxin released by the tick when it attaches to the pet.  Dogs that are sensitive to the toxin can develop weakness in the hind limbs that can progress to complete paralysis.  Owners usually notice a sudden unexplained paralysis in an otherwise healthy dog.  Removal of the tick will lead to a complete recovery.

Cats can be infected by all of the above organisms, but do not tend to be as severely affected.  However, additional tick borne organisms can cause severe infections in cats.  These are discussed below.


This infection is also known as Feline Infectious Anemia.  The organism attacks the cat’s red blood cells and can lead to severe anemia and weakness.  Cats will often need to be hospitalized and may need blood transfusions if the anemia has become severe.


This is also known as Rabbit Fever.  Cats will show symptoms of a high fever, swollen lymph nodes, nasal discharge, and possibly abscesses at the site of the tick bite. Younger animals are usually at a higher risk of contracting tularemia.


This disease is common in wild cats, such as the bobcat.  Ticks that feed off the wild cats can then transmit the disease to domestic cats.  Symptoms include: anemia, depression, high fever, difficulty breathing, and jaundice (i.e., yellowing of the skin). Treatment is often unsuccessful and death can occur in as short as one week following infection.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Today is my 40th Birthday

Today I am saying goodbye to my 30's and thought I would reflect on my journey over the last decade. When I turned 30, I was working as a veterinarian in a large animal shelter. I loved my interaction with the animals who were brought into the shelter. I made it a point to spend time with the new arrivals to help them adjust to being there. My co-workers nicknamed me "The Dog Whisperer" due to the fact that I was able to calm a fearfully aggressive dog down to the point that it could be adopted. I'm very proud to say that several dogs found their forever home due to my efforts.

During this time, I was still single and starting to think I was never going to find that special person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, so, I did something completely outside of my normal personality and signed up with an online dating service. Lucky for me, I met my soul mate. We were married a few months after my 31st birthday. He lived on the other side of the state, so I quit my job at the animal shelter and moved.

After I moved, I worked part-time at a veterinary practice and part-time teaching at a community college. Due to the fact that I come from a family of teachers, I had actively avoided that occupation. However, I found that teaching at the college level can be very rewarding. During this time, I also stepped way outside my comfort zone and took a job as a play-by-play radio announcer for the local high school football team. I have always been an avid sports fan, but had zero experience as a radio announcer. My husband became my color commentator, despite knowing absolutely nothing about football. We had an absolute blast and both feel that the experience helped strengthen our love.

A couple of years later, we moved again. After we were settled in our new town, we decided we wanted to become foster parents. I was in my mid-thirties and my husband his mid-forties, so we were looking to foster older children. We didn't think we had the patience for a younger child. I was working at a veterinary clinic at the time and my boss was also a foster parent. He began fostering a 10-year-old girl and her 2-year-old brother. I fell in love with them and my husband and I decided we wanted to take them into our home and hearts. 2 years after they moved in we were able to adopt them. My daughter just celebrated her 16th birthday and my son is in the 1st grade. They are both terrific kids.

During this time, I left my job working at the veterinary clinic and took a job working for the USDA as a public health veterinarian. Due to a good promotion opportunity, we moved once again. I enjoyed my job. However, it required me to be on the road a lot and I hated being away from home so often. My father-in-law knew that I had written a book nearly 10 years ago and couldn't find a publisher. He told me about self-publishing and a few months before my 39th birthday, I published my first book.

I now have 10 books published and have an enough success to quit my job with the USDA and become a full-time writer.

So, here I am at 40. I'm a wife, mother, and full-time author and I'm loving it! I can't wait to see what my 40's bring!

Readers' Favorite 5 star review of "To Love A Cat"

Rating: 5.0 stars

Reviewed by Faridah Nassozi for Readers' Favorite

Cat has settled into her relaxed schedule as a big time accountant, but her life suddenly changes when she decides to fulfill a promise she made to herself years ago - adopt a child and give them a chance at a better life, one that she was denied as a kid. What she did not count on, however, was adopting a teenage boy, but there is something about Ethan that just feels right so she takes him in and soon she is faced with the troubles of raising a teenager. Mitch, on the other hand, is a self-confessed ladies' man and has no intentions of settling down in the near future; that is until he takes Ethan home one night and meets his foster mother, Cat. Cat is not sure whether starting a relationship is the right thing and Mitch is not sure whether a relationship with Cat, who comes with a teenage boy no less, is something he can do. 

To Love a Cat by Billi Tiner is a story filled with intrigue, suspense, and beautiful romance. Billi Tiner created a group of characters that complement each other perfectly, coupled with a plot full of twists and turns and heart-warming moments, to bring to life a must-read story. To Love a Cat by Billi Tiner is one of those books that make you so eager to get to the end and yet you do not want the story to finish. It shows the challenges and rewards that come with taking chances, and the beauty of having a strong support system of good friends. The story has interesting moments that keep you engrossed and eager to know what happens next; it is a definite page-turner.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

NOW AVAILABLE!!! TO LOVE A CAT (kindle edition)

I am happy to announce that "To Love A Cat" is finally available in the kindle edition. The paperback is coming soon! This book is a follow-up to "Dogs Aren't Men" and shares many of the same characters.


Catherine “Cat” James’ life is simple and orderly, and she likes it that way. She loves her job as an accountant. Working with numbers is safe and routine, no surprises. Her childhood had been very abusive and unstable. She vowed not to live that way as an adult. She also made a promise to herself to become a foster parent. She wished someone had been there for her as a teenager, to let her know she wasn’t alone. 

Cat agrees to foster Ethan Summers, a troubled teenage boy whose childhood closely resembles her own. Suddenly, her nice and orderly life is filled with chaos and uncertainty. Things really start to spin out of control when circumstances bring police detective Mitch Holt into the picture. He’s handsome, charming, and definitely not what Cat needs right now, or so she thinks. 

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cover Reveal + Chapter 1 of "To Love A Cat"


   Mitch bolted upright. Roscoe leaped off the bed and ran to the closed bedroom door. He stood with his head cocked to the side, listening. Grabbing his service revolver off the nightstand, Mitch swung his legs over the side of the bed and joined Roscoe at the door.
   Thud! Boom!
   Roscoe placed his paws on the door and began barking hysterically. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end.
   Adrenaline coursed through Mitch as he slowly cracked open the door and glanced down the darkened hallway. Roscoe shoved past him and bolted for the kitchen. Moving quickly and cautiously, Mitch followed him.
   Weapon up, he stepped into the kitchen and threw the light switch. Shards of glass from a shattered plate littered the floor. An overturned box of cereal rested in the center of the room. Roscoe stood in front of the refrigerator barking loudly.
   Knowing that whatever Roscoe had cornered wasn’t human, Mitch lowered his weapon. “All right, easy, big guy,” Mitch said, stepping up to peek behind the refrigerator. Roscoe stopped barking, but continued to growl low in his throat.
   A large orange cat with round, golden eyes stared up at him. It twitched its tail, but otherwise didn’t move.
   “What are you doing here?” Mitch asked. He glanced around the room, looking for the cat’s entry point. The screen covering the window above the sink was torn.
   He turned back to the cat and glared down at him. “You tore my screen,” he stated gruffly. The cat continued to stare up at him, seemingly unconcerned.
   Mitch shook his head in consternation. He’d never been much of a cat person. He found their aloof and superior attitudes annoying. He much preferred the loving loyalty of a good dog.
   Grabbing Roscoe by the collar, he half dragged him back to the bedroom. “Stay in here and keep quiet,” he commanded gruffly. He wasn’t usually so irritable, but he hadn't gotten much sleep lately, and he was extremely aggravated at having it interrupted by a cat.
   Mitch Holt was a detective in the Spring Valley police department. He’d been working long hours trying to solve a homicide. He was usually pretty easy going, but the investigation wasn’t going well, and it was starting to affect him. A cat breaking into his apartment wasn’t doing anything to improve his mood. He shuffled back down the hallway, not looking forward to trying to wrestle the cat out from behind the refrigerator.
   When he reached the kitchen, the cat was sitting on the counter, licking one of its paws. “How’d you get up here, anyway?” he grumbled, moving over to look through the window. He lived in a one-bedroom apartment on the third floor of an older apartment building. Mitch liked to keep his windows cracked during the early autumn. The air always seemed to be freshest at that time of the year.
   His building butted up to a city park. A large oak tree grew close to the park’s fence, one branch curving out over the fence to within a few feet of his kitchen window.
   “Ah,” he said, turning back to the orange tabby. “You used the tree.”
   Picking up the cat, he said, “Sorry, buddy, you can’t stay here.” Mitch glanced down and saw a few drops of fresh blood on the counter. “Damn,” he muttered. “You’re hurt.”
   He glanced at the clock on the microwave. It was only 5:30 a.m. It would be a few more hours before Rebecca opened her veterinary clinic. Not only was Rebecca Miller the best veterinarian in town, she was also a good friend and engaged to his best friend, Derrick Peterson.
   He held the cat away from his body and looked for the source of the bleeding. A small droplet of blood fell from the cat’s right rear paw. He shifted the tabby into his left arm and lifted the injured paw for a better look. There was a small laceration across the foot’s large pad. Mitch glanced at the floor and saw tiny, bloody footprints leading away from the broken glass to the refrigerator.
   He shook his head and sighed heavily. Although he was irritated at being awoken out of the longest sleep he’d had in days, he was a good guy. He wasn’t about to throw the cat out of his apartment, if it was injured. As he stood there debating what to do with it, the cat began to purr.
   “What are you so happy about?” he asked, feeling some of his good humor return.
   The big tabby pressed his head against Mitch’s chest and purred even louder. He chuckled and scratched the cat under his chin. Using a couple of papertowels and some tape, he wrapped a make-shift bandage around the cat’s paw.
   “All right, you can hang out in here until Rebecca opens her clinic. I’m guessing you broke in because you’re hungry. Let me see what I’ve got.”
   He set the cat down on the floor away from the broken glass and turned to open a cabinet. He pulled out a can of chicken. Before he had the lid off, the cat jumped onto the counter and stood waiting expectantly.
   “There you go,” Mitch said, placing the can on the counter. The cat gave the chicken a few tentative licks, then opened his mouth and pulled out a large chunk. Mitch watched in fascination as he devoured the food. When the cat finished, he sat back on his haunches and licked his lips in satisfaction.
   Mitch chuckled. “You’re welcome. I guess I'd better clean up this mess you made.”
   A few hours later, he drove up to the Animal Friends Veterinary Clinic. He was impatient to get the cat off his hands. He really needed to get back to work on the case.
   “Good morning, Mitch,” June, Rebecca’s receptionist greeted. She was a plump, middle-aged woman with short gray hair.
   “Mornin’, June. How’s life treating you?” Mitch asked, giving her a charming grin, his blue eyes sparkling.
   June smiled back. “Can’t complain,” she replied. “What can we do for you today?”
   “I’ve got a cat with an injured paw out in the car. The darn thing broke into my apartment early this morning.”
   The door to the first exam room opened. Rebecca followed a tiny, elderly woman out of the room. A bright smile lit her face when she saw Mitch standing at the receptionist’s counter.
   “Remember to bring Josie back for her next set of shots in three weeks,” Rebecca told the woman.
   She stepped over to Mitch and gave him a quick hug. She pulled back and grinned up at him. “It’s so good to see you. You’ve been such a stranger, lately. Is everything okay?” Although Mitch wasn’t that tall himself at only 5 feet 10, she had to tilt her head back to look up at him.
   Mitch ran his eyes over Rebecca’s upturned face. She’d recovered amazingly well from the injuries she suffered when an intruder had broken into her clinic and brutally attacked her a few months previously. The only remaining sign of the attack was a small scar above her right eye that disappeared into her hairline. Mitch reached out and playfully tweaked her nose. He and Rebecca had been as close as siblings since almost immediately after they’d met each other. Before she’d gotten engaged to his best friend, he’d asked her out. They’d both recognized that they were only meant to be friends. He was thrilled when Derrick had fallen hopelessly in love with her.
   “Everything’s fine. I had an intruder of the four-legged variety last night. Damned cat ripped through my window screen and knocked a plate off the kitchen counter. Then he proceeded to cut his paw on the glass. He’s out in the car. Do you have time to take a look at him?”
   “Sure, do you need help bringing him in? Is he wild?”
   “No, he's probably the most laid-back cat I’ve ever met. He purrs like a freight train every time I touch him.”
   A minute later, Mitch joined Rebecca in the exam room. “The right back paw’s the one he cut,” he said, placing the cat on the stainless steel table. “I put a bandage on it, but he managed to pull it off almost immediately.”
   Rebecca chuckled. “Cat’s hate things on their feet. How did he get into your apartment?”
   Mitch shrugged. “There’s a big oak tree in the park behind my building. He must have climbed it and jumped onto the windowsill. That’s the only thing I can figure.”
   “What did Roscoe think of him?” Rebecca asked.
   “When I opened the bedroom door to investigate the noises we heard coming from the kitchen, he bolted out and had the cat cornered behind the fridge by the time I got there. I locked him in the bedroom for the rest of the morning. I think he might’ve tried to eat the cat if he’d caught him.”
   Rebecca chuckled. “I doubt it. Usually, all it takes is a good swipe of a claw across the nose for most dogs to learn to leave a cat alone. By the way, how’s your case going? Any closer to finding the Colsons’ killer?”
   Mitch shook his head. “No. So far, we’ve got nothing.”
   “I’m sorry, Mitch. Something will break soon.”
   “Yeah, I have no doubt that we’ll catch him. I only hope it’s before he hurts someone else. That’s the part keeping me up at night. So, how’re the wedding plans coming?”
   Rebecca smiled. “Everything’s all set. I can’t believe the wedding’s only two weeks away. Do you have a date, yet?”
   Mitch gave her a roguish grin and winked. “You know me, a different woman every week. I’m not sure who the lucky lady will be.”
   Rebecca rolled her eyes. “You just wait, Mitch. Someone’s going to come along and knock you off your feet.”
   Mitch shook his head. “Not likely, besides, Derrick’s marrying the only woman in town who could have tempted me to give up the single life.”
   Rebecca shook her head in exasperation and brought the subject back to the reason for his visit. “The cat’s healthy other than the cut on his paw. He needs to be kept inside until it heals. No climbing trees for a while.”
   Mitch recognized the look in Rebecca’s eyes. “No way,” he said, shaking his head. “He can’t come home with me. I’ve already told you that Roscoe tried to eat him. Last week, I had to hire a kid down the hall to walk Roscoe for me every day, due to the crazy hours I’m working. I don’t need another animal. Besides, I don’t like cats.”
   Just then, the cat stood and started rubbing his head across Mitch’s arm, purring loudly. Rebecca laughed. “Sorry, bud, it looks like you’ve been chosen. Cats are easier to take care of than dogs, anyway. You don’t need to worry about taking him for a walk. Just get him a litter box, put out some food and water, and he’ll be happy. I predict he and Roscoe will be pals before you know it.”
   Mitch sighed. He knew arguing with Rebecca was useless. She was as stubborn as they come, especially when it concerned the well-being of an animal. “Okay,” he relented. “But only until his paw heals. Then he’s out the door. Besides, he probably belongs to someone.”
   Rebecca grinned with satisfaction. “I’ll let you know if anyone comes in looking for a cat that matches his description. In the meantime, you can borrow a litter box, bowls, and cat food from me.”
   As Mitch was driving home, he threw his head back and laughed as he thought about how effortlessly Rebecca had convinced him to take the cat home. If she maneuvered him that smoothly, then Derrick was definitely in trouble. Somehow, he didn’t think his friend minded. He was crazy about her.
Catherine James stared hard at the photo she held in her hands. The face of a sullen, 13-year-old boy stared back at her. He had thick, black hair and dark green eyes, almost the same shade of green as Catherine’s own eyes. She felt her heart lurch at the pain she saw reflected there. She looked up at the woman sitting on the other side of the desk she faced. Stacy Shields was a social worker for the Department of Social Services, Children’s Division. Her blue eyes sparkled with intensity as she met Cat’s gaze. Short brown hair framed her plump face. She smiled encouragingly.
   “When I decided to become a foster parent, I thought I’d be taking in a little girl. I never considered fostering a teenage boy,” Cat commented.
   “I know,” Stacy replied. “But Ethan needs to go to a home where he’s the only child. Since his father signed away his parental rights a few months ago, he’s been in two different foster homes. They each had other kids, and they just weren’t a good fit. Ethan’s extremely bright. I really feel that given the right environment, he could blossom into a special young man. I also think he’ll do better in a home where there isn’t a man around. His father was very abusive. His mother was non-existent. She left them when Ethan was just a baby. He needs the nurturing influence of a mom.”
   Catherine, “Cat” as she was called by her friends, looked down at the photo. Can I do this? she wondered. She ran a hand through her thick, red hair and sighed. She didn’t really have a choice, did she?
   She’d decided a long time ago that she would offer a child the help she never received. She’d been raised by parents who had beaten her for the hell of it and then kicked her out when she was 15. She’d dropped out of school and taken any odd job she could get her hands on. When she’d turned 18, she’d gotten her GED and scored well enough on the ACT to earn a scholarship to college. It took her six years to finish school because she’d had to work full-time to make up for what the scholarship money didn’t cover. Now, at 30, she was the lead accountant for a large corporation. She liked her job. It was steady, no surprises. Working numbers was a black-and-white issue. Her life was neat and tidy, the way she liked it. She was in complete control. What would happen if she threw a troubled teenage boy into the mix? Would she be able to handle the certain chaos that would follow? She knew it wouldn’t be easy.
   She looked back up. Stacy met and held her gaze. Cat slowly nodded. “Okay, I’ll take him.”
   Stacy grinned. “Great!” she exclaimed. “I’ll bring him by tomorrow. What time should we get there?”
   The next day was Saturday. “Any time after eight in the morning,” Cat replied.
   “Okay, I’ll bring him at nine. I truly believe this will work out for both of you.” She stood and embraced Cat. They’d become close friends over the last few months as Cat had gone through the foster parenting classes. Stacy wasn’t sure why, but she felt confident Ethan and Cat would be a good match. She’d been a social worker for a long time, and she’d developed a sixth sense about these things. This felt right.
Cat awoke early the next morning. Her body was filled with a nervous tension. She scurried around the house tidying up. After the third time, she’d straightened the pillows on the sofa, she stopped and took a deep breath.
   “Calm down, Cat. There’s no reason to be so nervous. He’s just a kid,” she muttered.
   She jumped when the doorbell rang. She pasted a smile on her face and hurried to open the door.
   “Hello, Cat,” Stacy greeted. “This is Ethan.”
   “Hi, Ethan. I’m glad you’re here. Come on in.”
   Ethan stood on the stoop with his shoulders hunched and his hands shoved in the pockets of his jeans. He wore a backpack slung over his right shoulder. He stared at the tops of his shoes. He didn’t look up at her when she spoke.
   Cat stepped back to allow Stacy and Ethan room to enter. As they walked in, she ran her eyes quickly over the boy. His T-shirt was faded, the material worn thin. She could see the big toe of his left foot peeking through a hole in his tennis shoe.
   “Why don’t we have a seat at the dining table?” Stacy suggested. “You two can get to know each other a bit before I go.”
   “Sounds good,” Cat replied quickly, relieved that Stacy was going to stay for a few minutes.
   After they were seated, Cat wiped her moist hands on her jeans. She cleared her throat and asked, “So, what grade are you in, Ethan?”
   “Eighth,” he replied, still not looking at her.
   “Do you play any sports?”
   “No,” was his one-word reply.
   “Ethan is really good at art,” Stacy put in.
   “That’s cool. I like art, too,” Cat replied. “Do you prefer to draw or paint?”
   Ethan didn’t answer. After a brief pause, Cat asked, “Is there anything you’d like to know about me?”
   Ethan looked up and met her eyes for the first time. He studied her closely. Finally, he asked, “Why am I here?”
   Cat knew this was an important moment. She needed to answer him honestly. “There are two parts to that answer. Why did I bring a foster child into my home? When I was 15, my parents kicked me out. I didn’t have any place to go. I swore that when I was older, I would be there for another kid, so they wouldn’t have to do it alone, like I did. Why did I pick you? Stacy thinks you have a lot of potential, and you’d have more of a chance in a home without any other kids. She seems to think that you and I will get along well together.”
   She held her breath waiting for his response. Finally, he nodded, accepting her answer, then lowered his eyes back to the table.
   Cat let out the breath she’d been holding. She smiled at Stacy, feeling more confident than she had before they’d arrived.
   Stacy returned her smile. “Well, I guess I’d better be on my way. I’ll be back next week to check on you. Good luck.”
   Cat walked Stacy to the door. Ethan stayed at the table. “Call, if you need me,” Stacy said, pulling Cat into a quick embrace.
   “I will,” Cat promised.
   “Don’t expect too much too soon, Cat. He’s had a rough time of it. It’s going to take a lot of love and patience to break through his guard,” Stacy whispered.
   “I know,” Cat replied. “I’ve been there.”

   “That’s why I’m so confident this will work,” Stacy said, giving Cat one more squeeze.