Sunday, May 29, 2011

Suzanne Woods Fisher & Guide Dog Puppies

Suzanne Woods Fisher with one of her beautiful labs

Today I have a special guest on One Writer's Journal. This is the first time I've had a writer guest, but maybe not the last time if I can make connections with some other writers about what they do besides write.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling novelist with a wonderful following of faithful readers who love her books. She hosts a weekly radio program called Amish Wisdom where she interviews writers and other guests about Amish living and the simple life. She has a busy family life and on top of all that, she raises puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind.  So as one dog loving writer to another, we're talking dogs and writing. And as a bonus, Suzanne has graciously offered to give away a copy of her 2011 Christy Award finalist book, The Waiting to one of you readers. Just leave a comment with a way to contact you. So now let's talk to Suzanne.  

Suzanne, you have a very busy life with your writing, radio show, signing tours and everything that goes along with publishing books. Tell us how you handle it all and still enjoy time with your family.

I am always writing. Nearly always! Promotion is a big side of this book gig—answering e-mails, participating in interviews, public speaking, keeping up with social media. Everything gets done…but it’s a pretty busy life right now. I don’t have much time for just having coffee with friends. As for the puppies…they are a joy! Taking a dog on a daily walk helps me get away from the computer, slow down, enjoy nature, exercise, relax a little. You just can’t take life too seriously with a puppy tearing through your house with someone’s underwear in its mouth.

Your grandfather was raised Plain. Was his background instrumental in you deciding to write about the Amish? Your Amish books come across as very authentic as well as respectful to the Amish way of life. Did your grandfather tell you about Plain living or did you experience that firsthand through visits to the Amish villages?
 I’ve always been intrigued by my Plain relatives, even as a child. They have a very gentle spirit, very warm and welcoming, and I admire their focus on a simple life. My grandfather was one of eleven children, raised Old Order German Baptist Brethren, near Gettysburg, PA. He left the colony as an adult, but kept in close contact with his many siblings (and many, many cousins, second cousins, third cousins, etc.). The German Baptists (also known as Dunkards) share core beliefs with the Amish and Mennonites. All Anabaptists. Same song, different verse.

And I have a similar respect for the Amish families whom I’ve met—they’re such kind, wonderful people. A number of my characters in my novels are inspired by real Amish people. Caleb Zook, for example, (in The Waiting and The Search) is modeled after a bishop I admire. I admit, though, that I took a little license with the character: Caleb is a dashingly handsome Amish farmer. The real bishop is a dead ringer for Benjamin Franklin.
I’m a dog lover and I know there are many dog lovers out there in the reading world. You have gone a step farther than simply loving dogs as pets to raising dogs for service. How did you get started raising Guide Dog puppies?
We had lived in Hong Kong for four years with my husband’s work (he’s a corporate guy). We have four kids, and the six of us lived in an 1100 square foot apt. in a 44 story highrise. My youngest son, Tad, wanted a dog and it just wasn’t the time in life for us. When we returned to California, the time seemed right. Another dilemma! My husband doesn’t like dogs. He told Tad that he had to convince him of a function, a solid reason, a noble purpose, to get a dog. That very week, Tad and I went on his 3rd grade field trip to Guide Dogs for the Blind and learned about the need for puppy raisers. Voila! We found the reason! Nine puppies later…we are still raising them. And my husband has grown to like (not love) our dogs.

Tell us about raising these pups. What is the same as raising any pup and what is different?

Some aspects of raising a Guide Dog puppy would be similar to having a pet: House training (my first objective!) and basic obedience. Puppies are assigned to a puppy raiser's home at eight weeks of age and recalled back to the Guide Dogs for the Blind facility around sixteen to eighteen months for formal training. The job of a puppy raiser is to socialize the puppies by taking the pup on age-appropriate outings—grocery stores, restaurants, church, movies and concerts, doctors and dentists, bus and train rides, on and on. We also attend weekly puppy raising meetings to work on skills. The goal of preparing a puppy to become a working guide is always in front of us.

Pups can be cute little bundles of fun or at times, bundles of trouble. My daughter has a German Shepherd pup right now who sometimes drives her crazy and she’s a dog lover like me. He just chewed up a library book. I guess he wants to read that badly. Can you share some misadventures you’ve had with your pups?

I think my most mortifying puppy-raising moments are when a puppy relieves in public. It doesn’t happen often, and it shouldn’t happen at all…but it does. It is very hard to look cool when you are cleaning up your puppy’s mess. Another mortifying moment was when I was in a Nordstrom ladies room , washing my hands, as my Guide Dog puppy poked her head under the stall and scared a lady.

It has to be rewarding to know the pups you raise are going to be some person’s way to a more independent life.  Do you ever know any details or stories about how your pups make a difference in someone’s life? Heard an inspiring story about your pups after they leave your care?

The worst and best puppy raising moment came in a twenty-four hour period after the graduation ceremony for my first dog. Arbor was partnered with Jon, a college boy with progressive blindness.  When we said goodbye, we knew we wouldn’t see Arbor again (Jon lives in the Midwest). We were thrilled that Arbor became a guide, but it really smarted to say goodbye to that big yellow lab. The next day, Jon’s mom e-mailed me to let me know they made it home and she added this comment: “Last night, Jon and Arbor walked over to a friend’s house. I can’t remember the last time Jon did that.” In just 24 hours, Arbor was changing Jon’s life! For our family, loss turned into gain.

I know there must be things I don’t know to ask about what you do with these dogs. So please share anything that is especially difficult or rewarding for you or that you think we might just like to know if I only knew the right questions to ask.

If you are a dog lover, look into volunteering with service dog organizations like Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California. Half the reason I keep raising puppies is because I have met so many wonderful, big-hearted people, too. And there are all kinds of levels of involvement—it doesn’t have to be as big a commitment as puppy raising. Some people in my local puppy club are just puppy sitters—they provide a huge help to raisers.

We’re so happy you shared with us about your dogs. But we are writers, and writers write and then they talk about their books. So tell us a little about your books and which ones are new out there on the market for readers. Also what is on the publishing horizon for you?

I have new releases coming out later this year: Amish Values for Families releases in August—it’s a spin-off from Amish Peace. And then some fiction books follow behind: A Lancaster County Christmas comes out in October…and dog lovers will be happy to know that this is a story that includes a very wonderful Search and Rescue dog!

Starting January 1st, The Keeper is released—the first in the Stoney Ridge Seasons series. And then another series will follow that—still in the little town of Stoney Ridge, Pennsylvania. Different characters, same town. All good!

Any last words before we say goodbye? And be sure to tell everyone how they can find out more about your books.

Thanks so much for having me, Ann, and sharing your many readers with me. I love to connect! You can find me online at and on Facebook, too.

Thank you, Suzanne. Remember, everybody, if you leave a comment you'll have a chance to win Suzanne's book The Waiting. Think how much fun it will be to win a Christy Award nominated book. Also, be sure to tune into "Amish Wisdom," an internet radio program hosted by Suzanne every Thursday. Here's the link. You might even hear me on there sometime in June talking about my new Shaker book.

Let me know what you think. Want me to find more writer friends to tell us what they do along with writing great books?


  1. First of all Ann and Suzanne I love both of your books..keep writing. Suzanne how blessed are you to be able to intermingle with the Amish...I love your description of their gentleness and being at peace. and I've long loved the fact that you raise these puppies. great to know that your husband put a "reason" to have a puppy attached to his agreement, but don't you think, that was God using him to guide you to the right dog...dogs. love it. thanks

  2. What a wonderful story Suzanne. You are such a gifted wonderful person and without a doubt you have a giving heart.

  3. That is such a cute story! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Loved learning more about Suzanne and puppy raising. I like her radio show "Amish Wisdom". It takes a special person to raise a pup knowing it will be only with you for a little while.

  5. I just discovered the Amish Wisdom podcast a few weeks ago, so I am still catching up on listening, but every time I listen it opens up another author, photographer, quilter to learn about. I enjoyed listening to the one about Lehman Hardware as I have been to the store many times, but didn't know the history.

  6. What a wonderful thing for you to do! How wonderful it must be to know what a difference you have made in someone's life.

  7. What an amazing thing to do for others. Just imagine how many lives you have affected and improved by your dedication to Blind Dog training. Awesome!

  8. Love Suzanne Fishers books!!! And I love your books too, Ann. I am reading one of them right now, from our local library. It is wrote very good & drew me right into the plot!! Can't hardly leave it alone till I'm done reading it. :)

  9. Great Story... I love that there are people like you Suzanne that have a love to raise dogs to help the blind. My hubby is blind from a disease that runs in his family. Though we have never looked into a dog, it's a great idea for them.

  10. Such a great article especially since I a great dog lover and Labs hold a special place in my heart!! I would be honored to win one of Suzanne's books since I am a fan of her books.......
    Pat (

  11. Raising guide dog puppies sounds like it keeps you busy. Love your books.

  12. Thanks so much, Virginia, for reading our books. It's great to get encouragement from readers to keep writing. Suzanne gave us a great behind the scenes of puppy raising interview, didn't she?

  13. Thanks for chiming in, Deb, Paulette, and Sylvia. And Sylvia, I think you're right. It does take a special person to go through the puppy trials and then give up the dog you've learned to love.

  14. Thanks, Karen, and Karen in KY for reading the interview. And for listening to Amish Wisdom. It's fun that the interviews stay archived there for people to listen to when they can.

    It is a wonderful gift to train a dog to help someone have a better life.

  15. Oh, Barbara, I'm glad you enjoy reading our books. And that you're liking the one of mine you're reading now. Good of you to let me know. I love hearing from readers.

  16. Lanore, thanks for commenting. I'm sure the interview was especially interesting to you since you know first hand the difficulties the blind face in our world. Perhaps a dog would be something your husband might consider at some time.

  17. Pat, if you've been reading any of my posts here you know that I'm a dog lover too and Labs are great dogs. I've had three, one full bred and the other two mixes but with the Lab sweet nature.

    I'll let everybody know which of you won Suzanne's book next Sunday.

  18. Glad you came by to visit and read Suzanne's interview, O Norman. I know she's happy to hear so many readers love her books.

  19. Neat story! enjoy your books!
    b w

  20. Thanks so much to Ann and her faithful blog readers! I always enjoy connecting with dog lovers...they're such a friendly bunch.

    And I'm so grateful for your encouraging words about our books. Ann and I don't take any reader for granted. Not one!

    Enjoy your day off tomorrow, ladies...hope it's quiet and refreshing. Warmly, Suzanne

  21. Enjoyed the interview very much. Always interesting to hear what other writers' lives are like. Thanks for sharing.


  22. Thanks, Carole, for stopping by. Your interviews on your blog are always good reading too. I'm looking forward to my visit your way in a couple of weeks.

  23. Suzanne, I loved reading your story and learning more about you and your connection with the Amish. I am also a dog lover and was touched by your story of raising service puppies. Isn't it wonderful how God used your husband, who doesn't even like dogs, to lead you and your son to this 'adventure'. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. I look forward to reading more of your books.

  24. Greetings Ann~ I have enjoyed your books as well as Suzanne's for what seems like forever! Here's an interesting bit of info for son, Ben, is visually impaired. We adopted him when he was just 9 months old. He is now 31 yrs. of age & living independently in western WA. where he is the worship director in a Pentecostal church. When he was in his late teens, we talked quite a bit about getting him a guide dog. Although he decided to use cane travel, I sometimes wish he had chosen to use a dog instead. He may have missed some rich moments of "canine fellowship"!! Suzanne, keep raising those puppies...only the Lord knows how many lives will be touched through you :) May God bless you richly!

  25. Hi, Sandi.

    Thanks so much for sharing about your son and how he is serving the Lord. Perhaps there will be a dog in his future, but sounds as if he's doing fine as he is. Also, thanks a bunch for reading our books. That keeps us writing.

    Glenda, you're right about how the good Lord uses so many ways to lead us to service. And Suzanne has embraced many ways to serve the Lord with her writing and her life.

  26. hi ann and suzanne,

    i really enjoyed this posting...and i always enjoy reading your novels.


    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  27. Enjoyed the interview, Ann.

    Suzanne, I'm a big dog lover (figuratively and literally since our two weigh more than 100 lbs.) Your work with Guide Dogs is wonderful. A friend of mine has re-homed several of the dogs who didn't qualify for service -- another way to give to the organization. Best wishes with your book!

  28. Thanks for dropping by with a comment, Karen and Kathy. I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview. Kathy I know about those big dogs. I have a couple that approach a hundred pounds a piece. But they are sweet dogs.

    Also Trixie in the book A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz as a dog that wasn't able to be used as a service dog and that Koontz and his wife gave a home.

  29. What a great post and interview Ann.
    So fun reading about another dog lover!!
    Wishing you a blessed month of June.

  30. I am so grateful to those who take the time to raise guide dogs - my dad is currently on a waiting list to receive a dog.

    I am truly loving the Amish Stories - thank you for writing them.



Thanks for joining the conversation. I like hearing what you have to say. Thanks for dropping by.