My thoughts on Tyrant Books

On Nov. 22 I became aware of a somewhat nonconventional publisher after a tweet they posted went viral in the writing community. Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 6.11.29 PM

Because twitter now allows 280 character tweets, the people of this publishing house were able to add that last sentence. “Writers w/agents: feel free to send, just know you have to drop your agent if we want to sign you.”

Wait what? After some quick sleuthing to confirm that yes, this is not a parody account, and yes, it is NOT run by President #45, I have yet been able to grasp this concept. It took me 12 years of submitting and writing to find my first agent. Three years after that contract ended to find my new fabulous agent. Who would just drop their agent to publish with an unknown publisher??? Especially when the point of an agent is to have someone on your side. Someone championing your writing to get it into the hands of the best publishers. Into the right publisher for your work.

A lot of times writers will see that publishers request the opposite. “Writers, do not submit unsolicited manuscripts. Due to the high volume we receive, we only accept submissions from agents.”

It makes sense, right? There are small indie publishers who may accept unsolicited, but as you get up to the top publishers they make the process more simplified by only taking in submissions that have already been looked at and loved by a third party — an agent.

Unpublished writers on the internet– I get it. You’ve tried for so long to get your book published the traditional way. And if you’re still struggling, we’ve all been there. You could write the next Hunger Games or the next The Hate U Give, but it’s all about finding the right person at the right time. And it can take a freaking long time. So long that self publishing starts to look more attractive to you. Small “indie” presses like this empower you into thinking that agents aren’t valuable. Your writing is still a work of art. You can still be published.

But I urge you to be wary of publishers like this who may trap you into a poor contract. Publishers who exclude agented submissions, encouraging writers to drop their agents. To drop their cheerleader and support system.

Imagine if this tweet came from the office of education. “Dear principals, stop hiring licensed teachers. Teachers with licenses can apply to work at this school but in order to proceed must wait for their license to expire.”  NO THANK YOU! It just doesn’t make sense.

As always, before submitting your work to an editor or an agent always do your homework. Maybe the traditional route is best for you. Maybe you want a small indie publisher. Or maybe you’re taking the first step to go into self publishing. What it may be, always be cautious and question sketchy things with the people you are working with. And above all else, keep writing.



Writers NEED rejection. (Yes, you read that right)

The road to signing with the agent is filled with rejection. That’s no surprise though, is it?

The dream is that we’re Mozart, or the writing equivalent of Mozart. The manuscript is perfectly perfect after the first draft. It’s sent out to a small list of agents. And right away you hit it gold with the agent.

I imagine that it  happens to some crazy species of writers. But not me.

My story starts in 2006. I was a freshman in high school. A senior at my school overdosed. He was popular. He was an athlete. He wasn’t supposed to die. Kids aren’t supposed to die. But he did.

On Facebook of all places, the whole community came together to pay their respects and share memories of the teen. Post after post on his personal page and on group pages that were created to remember him.

In the months after his death I started playing with the idea of writing a manuscript solely through Facebook posts. It was about a girl. A junior in high school. Star basketball player. Who died of an overdose. I sculpted her whole back story slowly, each Facebook post and entry revealing more about her life, her death, and what happened in between.

And I thought it was good. I mean, not just good, but best thing since sliced bread good. It reminded me of Give A Boy A Gun by Todd Strasser. Except where the amazing Mr. Strasser was able to make his book a page turner, mine was boring. Not to me. To me it was a work of literary genius. But to everyone else, boring.

It was sent out to agents. A lot of agents. A lot of form rejections.

Fast forward to sophomore year of college. It was winter break. I, being an exceptional nerd, had purchased a bunch of YA books to read as “market research.” One of which was But I Love Him by Mandy Hubbard. And it spoke to me. The voice and the tone would not leave my head. So over the next 5 days I stole the characters from my Facebook-esque manuscript, and I rewrote it in a normal narrative. 30,000 words written in 5 days. Another 50,000 words were added slowly, as I juggled spring semester with my writing.

It all happened so fast. And being the naive, cocky, unexperienced writer that I was, as soon as the first draft was completed I sent it out to agent after agent. Not a small, controlled group of agents, where I could take their feedback and revise if necessary. But every YA agent I could find.

I thought I was Mozart. I thought that I wrote it down perfect the first time. I thought what I wrote was my gift to the YA world. I thought that what I wrote would be picked apart in high school English classes as if I were F. Scott Fitzgerald.

And as is easily inferred, I failed. Sure, I got some requests. But with each rejection I grew numb. I would see a reply from an agent, and automatically start to cross them out on my spreadsheet, without even reading their reply.

By a stroke of luck, a few months later one of those emails turned out to be the email. An agent wanted to represent my story. I said yes as soon as I could, scared that she would reread the manuscript and revoke the offer.

It was good, for a while. Almost every editor she sent it to requested the full. And 100% of them also rejected it. The manuscript never sold, and my agent and I eventually parted ways.

I started querying a new manuscript. I already had the hard work done. I had the contact information of 75+ agents saved on an excel spreadsheet. I knew what they wanted submitted, whether they replied to every query, and what their response time was.

The years passed.  As I started my first year teaching, I also went back to that first manuscript. I cleaned it up and started submitting it again. I dipped my toes into the world of twitter pitch parties. I found some critique partners. And I waited for someone new to fall in love with my work. I got even crazier and started querying other manuscripts simultaneously. Don’t do this friends. Don’t.

Rejections piled up. It got to a point where I created a “rejections” folder in my gmail. And I got frustrated. It didn’t seem fair that someone could score a huge agent with a YA fantasy about a girl obsessed with a vampire boy in her high school and my work would be forever collecting dust on my laptop.

Remember Mandy Hubbard and her book that sparked my first manuscript? Well, it all came around full circle. She was auctioning off a manuscript critique, query critique, and phone call for charity. I told myself that I would bid, no more than $400. That was all thrown out the window though, as I ended up bidding more than I paid for 1 month’s rent. But I won!

I sent her my most recent manuscript I had written about a school shooting, and she tore it apart. In a great way. I didn’t major in creative writing. I never had any writing professors. My only talent came from studying YA books and the techniques different writers used. But clearly, something was always missing, and Mandy pointed out what that was right away. And she showed me how to fix it.

While talking with her, I knew that I could throw myself into rewriting the work she had critiqued. But the more I studied her comments, I couldn’t let go of my first manuscript. The one that had been waiting since my freshman year of high school.

I stole two characters from that story and threw them in to a different manuscript. A whole new world. Whole new circumstances. Whole new plot. Whole new manuscript.  I was cautiously optimistic, querying only a few agents at a time, constantly rereading and improving where necessary.

Enter the amazing Stacey Donaghy from Donaghy Literary Group. She fell in love with my manuscript just as much as me, maybe even a little more. It’s been over 10 years since the first inkling of this story rooted itself in my head. And it has totally been worth the wait.

I know we all want the dream. We all want to be Mozart’s of the literary world. But if we get it “right” the first time, there is no room for growth. Our writing, our stories, our world building, our voice — it never gets better. We need rejections. We need critique partners. We need teachers. We need to spend time failing.

So keep writing, friends. Keep stacking up those rejections. Keep improving. And maybe if the right stars align you’ll find yourself writing your own blog post about signing with the one.


In other news, on this beautiful, rainy Saturday my fur babies achieved their own accomplishments.

  1. Fitz, my scrappy rescue dog, who is 99% of the time still leash reactive, did not bark at anyone on our walk today.
  2. Winston Tate, our new cavapoo puppy, didn’t have any potty accidents in the house today and has been enthusiastically scratching at the potty bells to go outside.


Dear new music teachers

Dear new music teachers…

It’s your first job as an elementary music teacher. We’re a few weeks into school and you think you’re living the dream. Now don’t get me wrong—teaching is what you have always wanted to do, but you’re too busy riding the high of this experience that you’re overlooking that your life is a hot mess. And you need long term strategies to survive this life.

I know you’re busy. We’re all busy. It started as music majors in college. We practiced before our 8 a.m. classes when our friends slept until noon. We overloaded our schedules with 1 credit classes, classes deemed only as 1 credit so that we could fit everything into four years. Theory. Aural skills. Music History. Oh boy, was that one a treat. We spent our nights in rehearsal. Large ensemble rehearsals. Chamber ensembles. Jam sessions. We didn’t sleep.

Just because you have the shiny prize at the end doesn’t mean all the work gets to stop. You’re just starting. And there are things you need to know. Things you need to do. Even though you think you don’t have time.

  1. Join an ensemble. Repeat after me. JOIN. AN. ENSEMBLE. When you’re trying to fall asleep and can’t stop thinking about that parent’s email or an outburst from a student you need to remember why you’re doing this. It doesn’t take long for the memories of your globally touring college ensemble to fade. And when it does, you’re in trouble. JOIN AN ENSEMBLE. Ta ta ti ti ta can only sustain you for a little while. And though I love my ta-ta-ti-ti-ta, it’s not the music I crave to make. JOIN AN ENSEMBLE.
  2. Read “Classroom Management for the Art, Music & P.E. Teachers.” You think you have a plan now, but it’s the honeymoon phase. These kids are on their best behavior. Just wait until January. February. March. April. That long long stretch of indoor recess and no breaks. The author, Michael Linsin, is a former P.E. teacher turned administrator. He gets that classroom management of a “special” class can’t and shouldn’t follow the classroom management that goes on in other rooms. YOU NEED TO IMPLEMENT THIS BOOK. It will save your vocal chords. It will save your life.
  3. Make connections. With students. With staff. With parents. Learn names right now, scratch that. You should already know the names. Take 5 minutes at the end of each day to email parents for good behavior. Congratulate their child’s success. What we do in the music room is not the same anywhere else. We make music. We make magic. And we need everyone else to see it to!
  4. Teach your students how to read music. I’m talking time signatures, bar lines, treble clef line and space notes, eighth notes through sixteenth notes. Every good boy does fine. FACE. Teach them and then teach them again. It’s hard to pass on all this beautiful music through the generations if they don’t appreciate the hard work it takes to be a musician.
  5. Tell stories. Don’t just teach your students the words. I know there are a lot of them. We give so many concerts a year that it’s draining. Each grade needs to know 6 songs. Memorize 6 songs. Know complex Orff orchestrations for 6 songs. It’s so easy to fall into the pattern of, “Echo after me. I sing a line and you sing it back” Don’t do that. Please, don’t do that. Don’t teach words. Tell stories.

You may now resume another 10 hours of lesson planning! And if you’ve made it this far, please send me a cupcake or donut or really big bag of candy!


#PitchWars Mentee Bio

People of the internet — welcome! (and sorry for the lack of gifs!)

For anyone older than 11 my name is Kasey, but for my 500+ mini musicians I go by Miss Dallman. I am an elementary music teacher in Southeastern Wisconsin, which means that from September through June I get paid to make music — play, sing, dance, and create —with over 500 of my favorite musicians. It also means that on my tombstone they will write, DEATH BY RECORDER.

Every other waking minute away from school is spent raising my mischievous little boy rescue dog named Fitz. He has many talents, including modeling elegant ties (see shameless pictures below), applying to go on ABC’s The Bachelorette, and jumping on my laptop to stop me from writing.

You want me as your mentee because….

  1. I joined Girl Scouts because I thought that was the only way I could get the cookies.
  2. I taught my dog yoga and zumba. Okay, okay, mostly yoga.
  3. I sometimes burst out into song at Target because I forget life isn’t a musical. Sorry aisle 7!


About my submission

Despite his dark skin color, high school junior Marc Amazi just wants to blend in. It’s been years since an accident, one he caused, killed his younger cousin. And the hushed voices and judgmental stares have yet to go away. He just needs to make it to graduation and then he’ll be on the next train out of town. That is, until he befriends Anna Mason. Arguably the most stunning creature in the universe. Captain of the varsity basketball team. And the only one who doesn’t fault him for his past.

Marc’s almost out of the dreaded friend zone. Almost. But then Oct. 17 happens. Anna shows up at Marc’s house disoriented and confused, only to die in his arms. Immediately Marc is targeted as a suspect. And when her death is ruled an overdose and pills are found planted at the scene, he’s the one who goes down for delivering the narcotics that killed Anna.

As the justice system brands Marc by the color of his skin, the town doesn’t just label him a friend in mourning. They label him a murderer. A social media group is created to attack Marc. He’s all but ready to give up and join Anna on the doll train that leads to the stars. But in the midst of Marc’s trial, Anna’s younger sister goes missing. Marc might have a real shot at finding her, but to do so he will have to battle the demons of Anna’s death and a childhood trauma he thought he buried long ago.

Complete at 60,000 words, THE DOLL TRAIN is a contemporary YA manuscript told through Marc’s point of view in chapters that alternate from “before Anna died” to “after Anna died”. The all too real consequences of cyber bullying are woven into the story by interspersing pieces of the other characters’ social media interactions in between Marc’s chapters.


About PitchWars

Pitch Wars is an annual contest held by Brenda Drake in which unagented, unpublished authors with finished manuscripts are mentored by agented and/or published authors.

To learn more about PitchWars visit Brenda Drake’s website.

To read more contestant bios and add yours to the list visit Lana Pattinson’s website.

To see more pictures of my dog, follow me on twitter at @kaseydallman.




Sunday Night Blues tried to kill me

It was a Sunday morning during my senior year of college. In that awful winter state where the kids at school are starting to go stir crazy, trapped in the long stretch between winter break and spring break. I know, because I was a student teacher at the time. In the most wonderful placement in the world with the most talented, respectful, and awesome students. But even so early in my career, I was starting to feel the Sunday night blues. Not only that, but the Sunday morning blues. Sunday night blues

I remember putting my contacts in. Straightening my hair. Putting on makeup. The mundane morning routine that signaled another day of vigorously searching for jobs, typing up lesson plans, and filling out the mandated student teaching reflections before having to start another week.

It was a boring, Sunday morning, until it wasn’t anymore. Until I half-jokingly called out to my best friend (and former roomie), “I don’t want to do life today.”

Not in a depressed, crank up the music way. But in the Sunday-night(morning)-blues way.  In the I’m-tired-of-this-same-routine way. In the why-isn’t-there-one-more-day-in-the-weekend way. Not one minute later, I went to swallow three very large pills, and two of them got lodged in my throat.

Now, prior to this choking incident I was a pretty good dry pill swallower. It comes with the territory of being 1/2 of the “Walking Wounded” club. These specific pills were ones I had been taking since my gall bladder became emancipated. I had dry swallowed them dozens, if not hundreds, of times before.

This time, they refused to go down. No water, coughing, or aggressive swallowing could make them budge. My airway wasn’t restricted, but breathing and talking made the pills vibrate. As if they were on the verge of blocking my lungs. I don’t want to do life today. 

My standard, text-book Sunday morning, turned into a circus. My poor roommate, dragged into the mess, had to drive me to the ER where we waited hours and hours as the doctors tried to locate the pills. On one of their attempts to clear my throat, I began gagging, temporarily got the wind knocked out of me, and the doctors became concerned that I might have aspirated the pills into my lungs.

Sunday-Night-BluesSunday morning turned to Sunday afternoon, as I got prepped to undergo a bronchoscopy. By the time I woke up from the procedure, it was night. A whole day of relaxation wasted. Dreading Monday even more because my battery didn’t have the time to recharge.

There’s this overused saying. “Negativity breeds negativity. Positivity breeds positivity.” It loses all meaning because it’s one we’ve heard an infinite amount of times. Basically as annoying as the whole “glass half-empty or half-full” lecture. But maybe there is some truth to that.

I recently underwent clinical hypnotherapy to help lessen the symptoms of gastroparesis. Part of hypnotherapy is being open to the process, so before I could even begin treatment to target the actual pain, I had to go through a long course of intro sessions.

In hopefully not too confusing of terms….here is a breakdown of these sessions….

Our subconscious is awake at all times, even when our conscious is sleeping. It’s why we can sleep through a storm, but a small cry from the room next door can startle us and jolt us out of bed. That little bugger never sleeps, and is always taking in information from it’s surroundings. For those suffering with chronic pain, before the hypnotherapist can treat the physical pain, they have to retrain the subconscious. Why? Because the subconscious grows so accustomed to the pain and the way we constantly define our lives in terms of the perceived pain, that it only adds to the problem.

Before my course of hypnosis, on any given week day most of the time I would wake up and my first thought of the day would be, “I hope the pain doesn’t flare up today.” Or, “I hope I don’t have an attack at school today.” Or, “I hope I don’t have to try to find a sub at the last minute.” Or, “What will happen if I get sick while I’m teaching?” EVEN BEFORE MY EYES WERE OPEN. Little thoughts like this, as harmless as they appear, help contribute to the subconscious thinking that the pain is in control. That the pain defines you.

In the same way, negative thoughts, day in and day out, set your subconscious up to view life negatively. To turn every waking minute into the next round of Sunday night blues. Negative thought patterns drain the body, drain your energy, and wreak havoc on the whole system.

So maybe my quick words of I don’t want to do life today  were the final push my subconscious needed before it went rogue. Or maybe it had nothing to do with it at all. Since that wasted day my esophagus has been dilated and I no longer dry swallow pills. Or, at least those pills. And even better after 100 hypnotherapy sessions my stomach is walking on sunshine. (Some days cautiously tip-toeing!)

Now the only thing that needs curing are these pesky Sunday Night Blues (sometimes starting as early as Friday night…)


Fitz applied for The Bachelorette

Fitz has been itching to go on a new adventure, so he’s auditioned to date America’s next Bachelorette. Below is his filled out application. (Yes, this is the real deal, copy and pasted)  #FitzForPresident #FitzOnTheBachelorette #GetItTrending

 Name: I think it’s Fitz, sometimes Fitzgerald, but Mom also yells out “No Biting,” a lot…1888717_10205333822257121_8406413533594608625_n

Do you have a nickname? Baby cat, Fitzaroonie, Gerry, My love, Fitzo, Sassy, Naughty…

What is the next big city near you and how far is it: Milwaukee. A short sniff walk away

How did you hear about our search: Mom forces me to watch The Bachelor with her every Monday. She even puts my thunder shirt on so that I am calm and don’t get into trouble.

Occupation: Trouble Maker (That’s legit right? Like, this season someones job is being a twin so…..)

Annual salary: Currently mooching off of Mom. I plan to do the same with my future wife, and she better make a lot because I have a few medical issues (grain and chicken allergy, arthritis)

Birthdate: Somewhere around Aug. 5, 2014

Weight: 16 lbs

Age: 18 months

 Hair Color: Blue/Grey/White

Eye Color:Black

What is your highest level of education? Petco Positive Dog Training Advanced Adult II

Where did you grow up? I was abandoned in Racine, Wis. and was found cold and scared. After Mom adopted me I moved to Oak Creek. Sometimes I also get to go to Green Bay to visit Grandma and Grandpa.

Do you have siblings? No, but Mom wants to get me a baby sister named Olivia Pope.

Have you ever been arrested, charged or convicted of a crime of any type? I have been charged daily with stealing Mom’s laundry out of the laundry basket, breaking into the garbage can, and destroying furniture. I don’t plan on changing these actions because then I wouldn’t be the same Fitz.

12510382_10205501093758804_6011578121132857962_nHave you ever been a performer, participant or contestant on television, radio or in film? Yes. I am a popular star on Mom’s facebook pictures and videos.

Do you drink alcoholic beverages? No, but I’ve tried to steal Aunt Larissa’s wine…

Have you ever been married? No, I find it too hard to only kiss one human.

Do you have any children? Neutered

Please describe your ideal mate in terms of physical attraction and in terms of personality attraction. Someone tiny whose size doesn’t intimidate me. Must not steal my squeaky toys and must be a fan of wrestling.

How many serious relationships have you been in? Two, both with beautiful goldendoodles in my petco playgroup. I still see both girls every week, but if I get picked as a contestant I’ll obviously break up with them. I also have a serious crush on Olivia Benson from Law and Order SVU but she doesn’t know it.

What are your hobbies? Getting into mischief, running laps around the living room, 12359961_10205284778191050_7193339752701408315_nchewing everything, playing fetch.

What is the unique talent of which you are most proud? I can balance a treat on my paw until Mom tells me I can eat it.Mom also says I’m also a heartbreaker, whatever that means.

List the 3 adjectives that best describe you: Sassy, Spunky, Sweet

What accomplishment are you most proud of? I learned how to be calm and respectful with my brilliant in home trainer. I no longer compulsively bite my friends and family, and channel all that nervous energy into following the rules. I can even heel off leash, come when called, and know sit, stay, down, wait, leave it, touch, roll over, up, off, find it.

Why would you be a great husband?  I love snuggling at night and giving kisses. Also, I’m really cute and have lots of energy to give.

Why would you like to be on the show? I had a rough start in life and thought that I was unlovable. I was abandoned on the streets and found sick and starving. After finding my forever home, I now know that I am lovable and that I have lots of love to give away. As long as you scratch my back, rub my tummy, and play tug, I’ll accept any roses the Bachelorette sends my way.

Stop Praying. Start Doing.

Well kids, it’s happened. The below picture is one example out of 355 this year alone of what our children think humanity is….


When I was growing up (which not to age myself, but 10ish years ago give or take a few) here’s what I thought humanity was…

  1. Donating money earned from playing piano at events to the local humane society.
  2. Adopting a family for the holidays and giving them all our Christmas presents.
  3. Getting stomach aches in the best way possible (Yes, there are more stomach aches than just those pesky gallbladder attacks!! Stomach aches caused by ridiculous bouts of laughing with family and friends, obvi!)
  4. Bawling while singing silent night and lifting up your candle on “Love’s pure light,”  with 6,000 of your closet friends. (Just kidding, this was only 1 year ago, but Carthage’s annual Christmas Fest is this weekend so I’ve got that on the brain!)

(I think parts and people of America might have forgotten what humanity is, so just in case I’m gonna leave this breathtaking video below so you can cry with me at the 4:10 mark and remember what it feels like to be wrapped around something special…

Through all this horrific violence, I keep  reminding myself that lightning isn’t supposed to strike the same place twice, so my students and I should be safe, right? I live and teach in a small suburban city right outside Milwaukee with dedicated teachers, strong leaders, and beautiful people. But America doesn’t know my home like I do. They know it as the backdrop for the Sikh Temple shooting that took six precious lives.

Since that horrific day in 2012 the number of people whose name has been added to the list of mass shooting victims is astronomical. Which begs the question, how many lives does a shooting have to take before our lawmakers wake up and enact change. How many lives? Apparently 20 innocent children was not enough. Nine devoted and inspired college students was not enough.  Twelve people who thought they were just going to watch a movie was not enough. Sorry for the saltiness, but are we really going to keep ignoring this?

Early this year a group of fourth graders confessed to me that they hated going to school because of the risk of bombs or shooters or violence. You guys, fourth grade. Like 9-10 years old. And in comforting the students, I lied to them, because I can’t guarantee that this sickening violence isn’t going to plague our town again.  Because we live in a world, in a country, where school shootings and mass shootings become a brutal commonplace, as if we are living in the same dystopian world as the Hunger Games.

Every year when police come and train us in defending against active shooters and god forbid performing trauma care for potential victims,  I get a pit in my stomach as they use the language, “when a school shooting happens here.” Not, “if a school shooting happens here.”

When a school shooting happens, what are you going to do? When a school shooting happens how will you evacuate the building?  When a school shooting happens we know you will do everything you can to protect these children…When a school shooting happens we know through history that not everyone will survive, but it won’t be your fault because we know that you would do anything to save these children you love so much…..When a school shooting happens, the victims and survivors don’t just need your thoughts and prayers because it’s too late for that. When a school shooting happens laws need to change. Guns need to become more regulated. Policies need to go in place to protect our innocent and precious children.

Is this the world we want our children growing up in? A world where mass shootings happen weekly? My bad, a world where mass shootings happen daily? (Apologies for the passive aggressiveness …I swear I’m a nice person!)  A world where we must take written and performance tests to legally drive a car but can purchase a gun without batting an eye? A world where our children, the future leaders of this free world, are becoming desensitized to these horrific acts?

Let’s change this. #StopPraying #StartDoing

Shelter dogs are the best dogs…

For years I had been stalking various humane society websites searching for the perfect dog. So it was not a big shocker when after a day at work I specifically drove the long drive to the Racine Humane Society to see the 13 month Lhasa Apso mix named Scruffy. I had seen a video of him playing with toys on their website, and you guys, that face just got me. Like, seriously, he is forever a puppy.

But then I entered the dog room, which for starters was loud. Dogs were barking and growling, and oh my goodness if I had to live there 24/7 like they did I would go insane. As I looked into each cage to see if I could find my Scruffy, the reactions from the dogs were the same. Tense posture. Loud barks. Threatening stares. I mean, I get it. Visiting shelters can be a bit intimidating. It’s so much easier to take home a squirmy, beautiful puppy that doesn’t come with any baggage.

After weaving around the circle of cages, I found my Scruffy. We did not have a good first interaction. He was huddled over his bed, growling and snapping.  And outside his cage a sign read “WARNING: food guarding, resource guarding, leash biter.”

So, doing what most people in a shelter do, I walked away from Scruffy’s cage and kept walking until I found a dog that didn’t growl or bark as I walked by. There was one. A skittish, little dachshund. But as fate would have it, minutes before I arrived another person had their eyes set on the little girl.

Originally coming to the shelter for Scruffy, I then started asking the adoption counselor more about Scruffy’s behaviors. Which led to me taking the little nugget outside to get to know each other. And that face just had me. Combined with the way he tottered around when chasing toys, I just couldn’t get him out of my head. Even though he was mouthing my hands almost the whole time I was in the play space. I know, I know, that should have been a bad sign.

As I talked more with the counselor, I found out that Scruffy had been at the shelter for an abnor11850721_310703369053569_3056885170983084635_omally long time. And his history broke my heart. The poor guy was severely underweight and matted when he was brought in. (The picture of the condition he was in when found makes me physically sick.) After being shaved, a painful process when the fur is matted, he also had to be on antibiotics for a respiratory infection.

The little guy came from such a traumatic past. And it was nauseating to think of the obvious neglect and potential abuse he had suffered. Could you blame the poor nugget for his saltiness?

His heart wrenching past and once again that face, (it always comes back to his adorable head tilt) had me.

Scruffy became mine on Sept. 2, 2015. Being a stray, I felt it not to confusing to rename him. Scruffy became Fitz. And it was good. For like the first hour or two. Until it wasn’t.

He was only 10 lbs, but that little guy was menace when I brought him home. It was pretty obvious that he had no proper socialization as a puppy and his behavior was consistent with a pup that was taken from his mother too soon. High anxiety. Forceful nipping not responsive to basic corrections of yelping. Powerful teeth that didn’t know their own strength. For weeks I had nasty looking bruises all up my arms, legs, hands, feet, stomach, hips. Basically anywhere, because his unpredictable lunging would always end with him biting down on any bit of skin, covered or clothed.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 10.31.28 PMNot willing to give up on him, I signed him up for puppy classes at my local dog store, which came with a bonus of puppy playtime and the socialization he desperately needed. But it wasn’t enough. And while he was an angel out in public, inside the walls of my home the behavior would escalate and escalate.

Enter Suburban K9. The in-home training group, based out of Chicago, Milwaukee, and Madison, is basically The Dog Whisperer x 1000. Within minutes of the trainer walking with Fitz, his ears were back, his tail was down, and he was relaxed. No more leash biting. No more leash pulling. Which made for a more relaxed dog back in the home. And the techniques I practiced with the trainer stopped his biting and impulsiveness and helped me earn back the leadership. He finally had something to do that required all his brain power.

Fitz is basically a rockstar now. And while we’re both still learning, every night I go to bed so thankful to have him in my life. Every morning he’s the reason I get up at an ungodly hour. He’s the thing that keeps me excited about work and the mini musicians, knowing that I get to shortly return home to him.

Some shelter dogs aren’t going to be obedient, respectful dogs. Most of the time they were either strays or were surrendered because their behavior became too much for their previous family. So they might need work. Lots of work.

But I’m just going to leave some pictures of Fitzgerald below to show just how worth it these little shelter dogs are! This little heartbreaker leaves people in puddles wherever he goes. I could just stare at that face for hours. Mama loves you to pieces, my little Fitz!

Introducing: Fitz(gerald)

Favorite past times: Jumping on Mama’s computer keys when she’s trying to write, running through the leaves, and Petco puppy playtime.

Favorite food: Sweet Potatoes, Grain Free Blue Buffalo Turkey

Favorite commands:  Leave it

Favorite toys: Human fingers, mesh football, box spring liner

And we’re back for round two…

Goodbye summer vacation! School has been in session for a bit now, and it’s 1,000x easier knowing just what to expect, what to focus all that energy on, etc., etc., etc. A few weeks ago someone asked if I was planning on doing anything different now coming back as a second year teacher.

Of course I laughed and said, “EVERYTHING!” New classroom management system. New first day of school lessons. New lesson pacing. Right down to a bubbly and brighter classroom.

Enjoy this tour of my classroom. (I confess, the pics were taken before the kids came back so my instruments were still kind of a hot mess at this point!)