A USA TODAY Bestseller
"... a must-read for dog lovers, fans of Women's Fiction, and anyone who likes a funny, well-written story about overcoming life's obstacles. This book is another winner from author Jackie Bouchard, whose work continues to entertain and impress me. Warning: Once you pick up Rescue Me, Maybe, you won't want to put it down!"
- Tracie Banister, author of Blame It On the Fame and In Need of Therapy
My second novel, Rescue Me, Maybe is a love story... for dog lovers.
It's available in paperback, e-book, and audio formats on Amazon and also paperback and audio book on Barnes & Noble. (NOTE: I originally self-published this book in 2013 with the cover at the right. It was re-released in 2015 via Lake Union Publishing with a new cover, seen in the blog sidebar. That is why you might see 2 different covers for the book!)
Below, you'll find an excerpt and a readers' discussion guide.
I hope you'll love Rescue Me, Maybe. It's written from the heart and was inspired by both our angels, Bailey and Abby. (You can read more about them on the About Us page.)
Please consider leaving a review on Amazon, B&N or GoodReads. Reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations are still the best way readers discover great new books. Thank you!
This scene takes place as Jane is on the way (reluctantly) to help out her uncle temporarily at his B&B. She has recently lost both her husband, Ryan, and her dog, Barnum, to cancer. (She's sadder about the dog, though, which no one knows.) Her father-in-law has been telling her to "look for the pennies" - signs that her loved ones who've passed are okay.
About thirty minutes away from the B&B, I turn off Highway 69 at a rest area. As a general rule, I try to avoid rest stops, but Mom kept pushing glass after glass of iced tea at me during lunch. I knew she was trying to stretch our time together, so I let her keep refilling my glass. Besides, I wasn’t that anxious to head north, toward my new life at the B&B.
But now that I can’t hold out until I get to the B&B, or to a gas station, I’m cursing that third glass. The high gray clouds give the day a gloomy feel, but when I park in the empty lot and open the car door, the cool breeze after the heat of Phoenix revives me. I racewalk to the bathrooms, hoping no mass murderer waits in one of the stalls. Desperate as I am, I still check behind each door before slipping into the last one.
I trot back to the car. The rest stop’s too quiet and gives me the creeps, even though there’s still plenty of late afternoon daylight. The slight exertion makes my heart pump hard; whether it’s due to the five-thousand-foot elevation or the adrenalin from looking for bathroom boogeymen, I’m not sure. I slow to a walk a few feet short of the car to catch my breath. With my Converse shoes now making less noise due to my slowed pace, I hear other feet on the gravel.
I freeze. Silence. I’d love to think I imagined the noise, but I know I heard something. My car sits ten feet away, like an oasis. Oh, how I’d like to be in there with the doors locked. I’m afraid to turn around, wondering how far the madman/cannibal/rapist/escaped convict is behind me. The noise seemed far enough back that I could probably lunge for the car, get in and lock the doors before he grabs me. But just in case, I work my car key—the sole survivor on my key chain now that I have no job and no home (If I wasn’t a nomadic, jobless loser I’d have more keys!)—around in my hand so that it protrudes between my middle and ring fingers. The mere seconds I stand there last forever. I take a single step forward, straining to hear. My ears catch the slightest rustle of stones in the gravel. The madman/cannibal/rapist/escaped convict has taken a single step too. But he sounds far off, over by the other side of the women’s restroom. As I gather myself for the lunge to the car, I can’t stand it anymore and glance back.
Oh, geez Louise. It’s a coyote. It flinches, hunkering close to the ground. No, wait . . . it’s a dog. Relieved, I almost burst out laughing. I hold my fist that still clenches my key ring up to my pounding-harder-than-ever heart.
The dog, which looks to be some sort of tall, thin shepherd mix, cowers further when we make eye contact. As my wits start their slow return, I notice how scared and skinny the poor thing looks, its tail tucked between its legs, hip bones sticking out.
Apparently it crept out from behind the ladies’ room to spy on me, but now that I’m moving toward it, it takes stilted steps backward. I stop so the dog won’t literally turn tail and run. “It’s okay. I won’t hurt you.” What the hell is this dog doing out here by itself? I look around again, although I know its owner is nowhere in sight. Taking a slow, silent step forward, I hold out my hand in greeting and crouch to make myself appear smaller, but it’s no good. For each of my steps forward, the dog takes three back. It’s almost at the corner of the building, and I’m afraid it will dash into the woods.
Cheese! I have string cheese in the car. Even though I’d had lunch with Mom, and although Prescott is less than two hours from Phoenix, she insisted on packing road snacks.
“Wait right there.” I try to make my voice calm and gentle. “Wait.” I tiptoe to the car, grab the cheese, and tear off the plastic. Barnum knew that crinkling sounds usually meant food, and I’m hoping this dog does too. The dog must have some experience with plastic-wrapped goodies, or maybe it smells the cheese, because it creeps a few steps forward.
Seated on the curb by the car, I face away. I know the dog might come to me if I don’t seem to confront it head on. Tearing the cheese into small chunks, I toss the first bit toward the dog. It lands close enough to tempt but still far enough away not to threaten. Perfect. I silently thank my dad for all the softball tossing we did in our backyard.
The dog’s nostrils flare. It keeps its feet planted but stretches as far forward as it can. The cheese lies just out of reach. The smell gets the better of the dog—I’m assuming it’s starving since I can see its ribs from here—and it lunges at the cheese, then retreats to eat it.
I smile; I’ve got it now. Thank you, cheeses!
Another hunk. If I can get the dog close enough, maybe I can see if it has a tag. It’s wearing a pink collar, so I’m assuming it’s a girl, or a sexually secure male, but she’s got such a full ruff of neck fur that I can’t see if there’s a tag. We play the toss-sniff-lunge-at-the-cheese game until I’m down to the last two hunks. The dog is almost within reach. I set one hunk in my palm and hold it out, then turn my head away. I wait, what seems like ages, until a warm tongue darts at my hand. I turn to find her eyes focused on the last morsel.
Now up close, I can see beyond the dust and burrs that she’s one helluva gorgeous dog—or, she would be if she had some meat on her bones. She’s got a thick mostly strawberry-blond coat and a long fluffy tail with a white tip. Her slender legs are white with reddish-blond speckles. A white ruff surrounds her face, with its adorable half black, half white spotted muzzle. Her red head blends into dark brown ears edged with black that stick out like the floppy wings on a homemade angel costume. Deep brown eyes, rimmed in black stretched back in an extreme cat-eye effect, watch me, unblinking. She has a regal air that is very Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra.
“You’re a pretty baby.” I offer the final bit of cheese, then hold on as she nibbles it. Reaching out with my other hand, I feel for her collar. Although her ears go up and back in alarm, the power of cheese keeps the dog from pulling away. “It’s okay. I’m going to help you find your people. Good girl.” Groping along her collar, I find a tag. Eureka! It reads: "Penny." That’s it. No phone number, no address.
Penny. Seriously? I clench the dog’s collar and look up to the heavens. Ryan or Barnum, if either of you is behind this, it’s not funny. This is not the sort of sign I need. This dog is going to the Humane Society, and they’re going to deal with it.
Readers' Discussion Questions
- Jane is definitely an introvert. Introverts aren’t necessarily shy; they just find being with others a drain on their energy, and they re-energize by spending time alone. Extroverts, on the other hand, thrive on the energy of being around others. Which better describes you – introvert or extrovert? Are there times when you are one or the other?
- Jeffrey tells Jane that his mother would say finding a “penny from heaven” is a little sign that a loved one who’s passed is doing okay. Later, when Jane finds Barnum’s squirrel toy and it squeaks for the first time in ages, she takes it as a sign that Barnum wants to let her know he’s okay. Have you ever had an experience that you felt was a sign from a loved one who’d passed?
- Pet lovers know when you bring home a pet you are signing up for future heartbreak, since our pets don’t live as long as we wish they would. When Jane’s beloved Barnum dies, she swears she won’t get another dog because it’s too hard when they pass away, but then Maybe comes along and helps Jane’s heart heal. Many people share Jane’s opinion and once they lose a beloved pet, they can’t go through that again. Others believe a new pet helps piece your heart back together. What do you think?
- Not every story has a classic villain. Do you think Rescue Me, Maybe has a villain? If so, is it Barbara? Or maybe cancer? What did you think of Barbara?
- Jane admits to being more demonstrative with the dog than with her husband - even back when she was still in love with Ryan. Why do you think some people find it easier to be completely vulnerable with pets, rather than other people? How did this make you feel about Jane?
- Since B&B’s are known for their hospitality and usually include a family-style breakfast, this starts out as the worst possible workplace for an introvert like Jane. Some people love B&B’s, while others definitely prefer an impersonal hotel stay. Those who love B&B’s often fantasize that running one would be like staying at one. Do you like B&B’s? Does running one seem like a dream job? Or a nightmare?
- In honor of Aunt Sugar, if you were a baked good, which one would you be?
- How do you feel about Jane? Are there things you have in common with her? When Jane makes a list of “ways she used being a widow,” she theorizes that trying to work some widow-pity into her job hunt would make her a worse person than she already is. Do you think Jane is a bad person? Do you think everyone has both some good and bad in them?
- Jane and Jeffrey both made promises to Ryan that they intended to keep. Barbara was there when Jane promised to take Ryan’s ashes to Hawaii, but she didn’t object until after he was gone. What do the living owe the dead? If a dying loved one wanted you to promise something you didn’t agree with, what would you do? Humor them, like Barbara did? Who, in this situation, should have the power to make this decision--the spouse or the deceased's family members?
- Have you had a pet that taught you life lessons? What did you learn?