Wooftastic Books interviews Judith Harch …

Judith With Abby

Tell us a bit about yourself and your books …

I live in the U. S. in southern New Jersey. I’ve been a journalist for 40 years, working freelance for two newspapers as well as publishing non-fiction in a variety of magazines and Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I co-authored my first book, Alzheimer Solutions: A Personal Guide for Caregivers, with Jim Knittweis who lived the daily life of an Alzheimer caregiver to his father.

It is a wonderful book for anyone needing help with caregiving. I recently gave a new neighbor one of my few copies left. She was so grateful since, like many others, she has had no experience as an Alzheimer caregiver. A discussion regarding the pros and cons of having a dog in the home with an Alzheimer patient is mentioned in the book.

The book is still available through Amazon (we receive no royalties now but are glad the book is still out there). Medical journals praised it, but the publisher could not do much marketing because she had developed Alzheimer’s. How ironic!

My second book, an e-book, was my first novel, Falling Off the Family Tree. (A little dog is featured in the story as a companion to an only child.). I loved writing fiction after all the years of writing non-fiction. I had planned to write a sequel. Instead I was drawn to writing about puppy breeding mills and incorporating that into a story about how three women found a way out of loneliness with the joint goal of closing down one puppy mill in their midst.

What motivated you to feature dogs in your writing?

I have always loved dogs, especially Labrador retrievers. My husband and I have had four rescue Labs, two of which were from puppy breeding mills. Those two sweet girls had post-traumatic stress from their years spent in cages. I wanted to bring awareness to adopters of what they may have to face with a puppy mill rescue while emphasizing the rewards they will receive knowing they’ve rewritten a dog’s life story.

Tell us about your experiences with adopting a dog that had been rescued from a puppy mill, and the article you wrote for ‘Just Labs’ magazine …

Both our puppy mill adoption dogs were at least 4 years old. Charlotte was our first. There was a great sadness about Charlotte. I couldn’t help thinking about how awful it must have been when each of her babies was unceremoniously “stolen” from her. She was sweet-natured and loved everyone she met, but she had many fears that took much patience on our part. She had hip dysplasia from her years in a cage, so her daily walks became shorter and shorter as she aged. Charlotte lived a happy life with us until she was 10 years old. Her passing was gentle, and ‘Just Labs’ magazine kindly ran a tribute to her in one their issues.

Charlotte learns to relax
Charlotte learns to relax

You can download Judith’s Just Labs article here:

After Charlotte, we adopted Gracie from the same rescue group that receives puppy mill breeders. She was a different challenge. My husband, Chris, could not wear a baseball hat because she would bark at him as if she didn’t recognize him. Most likely, there was someone in her previous life that wore just such a hat. That was a problem to overcome because Chris volunteered at a Veterans Home (baseball hats are popular there) and had hoped to take Gracie to visit the residents. We never had the chance to meet that challenge. We only had Gracie for 7 months when she suddenly became ill. She was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Chris especially loved Gracie because she was our only retriever who actually retrieved a ball and brought it back to him.

Chris picking up Gracie from the Refuge
Chris picking up Gracie from the Refuge

And puppy mills are involved in the plot of the novel you’re currently writing?

Yes they are. The book is about three lonely women (one is a widow who adopted a rescue dog with her husband shortly before he died, one is in a marriage with a husband who is a serial cheater, and one is a vegan who has few friends because she tends to be preachy about veganism). They develop a close friendship over their goal of closing down a local puppy mill. The puppy mill aspect is the thread that is woven throughout the book.

Although a puppy mill dog is a true challenge, they can bring great happiness to those who adopt them when the dog learns to be loved and protected. Many of our personal experiences with Charlotte are written into the story. Actually, the dog in the story is named Charlotte!


Tell us about your own dogs—their names, breeds and something unique or amusing about them.

Our first Lab, Savannah, was a yellow Lab with a pink nose and beautiful green eyes. She was our only Lab bought from a private home breeder. When she was only 8-weeks-old, Savannah was already an alpha dog who only behaved when she chose to.

Her antics became legendary among our friends. An elderly friend couldn’t wait for my visits to learn what Savannah had done next. We called her the Houdini of canines because she was a true escape artist. She didn’t take containment well. Some of her escapades included climbing out a window to the second story roof of our house, knocking over a six-pack of beer bottles and getting drunk, chewing an entire wicker dog bed to shreds, causing a frightening ride to a dog emergency room on icy roads on a Sunday after she somehow managed to get a large marrow bone stuck around her lower lip and jaw and began hyperventilating. The bone had to be carefully cut away from her after she was heavily sedated. We lost Savannah at 7 years old after our vet’s valiant effort to save her from Lyme disease. I was devastated. She was my true dog love – shenanigans and all.

After we lost Savannah, we adopted a 7-month-old yellow Lab named Maggie from a private owner. She had a kidney infection from lack of water in her kennel while the family was away all day. After a month of antibiotics from our vet, she was fine. We were told that the family bought Maggie after their children watched the movie “Old Yeller” – not a good enough reason to have a dog you can’t take care of properly! That family decided to move to Florida and not take Maggie with them. Maggie was a lovely girl who lived to be 13 years old.

We now have Abby, our first black Lab. Now that the pandemic is slowing in the U.S., we plan to have Abby trained as a therapy dog. She is 2 ½ years old now and is a spunky girl. Chris is determined to bring Abby to the Veterans Home, which will reopen to volunteers in the near future.

Abby was a different kind of rescue. She’d been moved from several homes until she found people to love her. When we adopted her, she was 8 months old, malnourished, and had not been spayed yet. Her coat was dull and bristled. Our vet would not spay her until she gained some weight. Within two weeks, we had her ready to go. The spaying went well, but a few days later she developed two huge bald spots on her back! The vet said it was probably hormone-related since she was near her first heat. She told us Abby’s hair would most likely grow back. It did! She is a beautiful girl now with a shiny black coat.

Do you have any favourite dog themed books?

I truly enjoyed The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. The story is narrated by a highly philosophical dog named Enzo. The story is about Enzo’s relationship with his person, a race car driver, and his efforts to understand quirky humans in general.

What has your family learned from your experiences with rescue dogs?

I am happy to say that our daughters and their families have become dog rescuers themselves. Sadly, Kathleen recently lost their rescue dachshund at 13 years old. She was a frisky, happy dog right up until her last day.

Our other daughter, Tricia, had rescued a terrier that had been taken from a person who was hoarding dogs. Cricket was definitely the leader of the pack to our daughter’s menagerie of dogs, cats, and a parakeet.

Our first grandchild to marry immediately adopted a rescue Lab. Livy has become a pampered pooch. She is still somewhat shy after being found wandering the streets with her sibling. A dog trainer rescued her sibling and is training her as a therapy dog.

Where can readers go to find out more information about you and your books?

I have an author page on Amazon on the book page for Falling Off the Family Tree. I also have a blog (long neglected, I’m sorry to say). I love baking desserts, so the blog is about my favorite recipes and about the some of the incredible people I’ve interviewed over the years as a journalist. The blog also includes some of the favorite stories I’ve published. I really must get back to: https://judithharchwrites.wordpress.com/