Tulane University in New Orleans, where I was a professor for twenty years, renewed its commitment to community service following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.   Wind and water reminded university scholars of the frailty of life, even for powerful institutions, and although research continued to be important, service and “practical” applications became more highly valued than previously.

Tulane has always had its share of bright, dedicated young people looking for a career of service to others, but prior to Katrina, choosing the university as a place to hone one’s altruism was probably less common than the lure of the French Quarter. Today, more than a decade later, the post-Katrina commitment to service is a hallmark of Tulane’s students. An example reported in the February 23, 2015 edition of New Wave, Tulane University’s online news, is TUSTEP (Tulane University Service-Dog Training and Education Program) which partners with Canine Companions for Independence. TUSTEP’s student volunteers teach future service dogs good manners and simple commands that will be useful in their eventual jobs.  The dogs accompany their student-handlers almost everywhere, including class, the library and jobs.

As a dog lover, I have always admired people who give early training and affection to puppies and dogs that, by definition, will ultimately belong to another.   Even knowing ahead of time that the dog must move on in order to fulfill an important need, parting must be bittersweet. Recently, TUSTEP students said farewell to Kipper, the first dog trained on the Uptown campus. TUSTEP founder Adam Kline took Kipper to Orlando, Florida, where the dog will receive further training. Perhaps what makes the inevitable parting of dog and student easier is that a new “litter” soon will replace them. Four new dogs recently arrived on campus, bringing a smile to their handlers and passersby.

Kudos for this small, but significant, program that brings happiness to all involved — two-legged and four.

For more information and a video, visit http://tulane.edu/news/newwave/022015_service-dog_puppy-raising_video.cfm

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The e-book edition of my novel, ALMOST PERFECT, is now available for only 99 CENTS on Amazon! This is a limited time offer, so please go to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PNZXHH0 and order your copy today!





My Thoughts On Westminster 2015

Westminster 2015 is now in the history books, but it was an important show because of several unplanned outcomes that helped ensure that America’s second oldest, continuous sporting event will continue to appeal — even grow in popularity. My dog of choice will always be the standard poodle, and naturally I was excited when one was chosen best of the Non-Sporting Group. Still, I wasn’t unhappy when the 15-inch beagle beat her out for Best in Show. I know that underneath all the poodle’s puffery and glamorous hair there beats the heart of a silly, playful “real dog,” but I am very aware that many people haven’t come to that understanding. The beagle, on the other hand, is all out there — what you see is what you get — charm, energy, a bundle of cuteness. Picking that adorable dog as winner will help Westminster’s image as a dog show for the average dog lover, not an event for the elite to strut their pampered animals.

Another stereotype this year’s Westminster helped to smash was that the dogs spend their lives either cloistered in cages waiting for the next show or eating bon bons from their owner’s fingertips. It was gratifying that several of the prize dogs spent their off hours as therapy animals visiting wherever people needed a little extra TLC. The Terrier Group winner, Skye Terrier “Charlie,” was one example.

It was also noteworthy how often the announcer pointed out the dogs were being shown by breeder-owner-handlers. These people bred their dogs, whelped the puppies, kept them at home, taught them how to perform in the ring, and then ran them around the ring themselves. Like Bess in Almost Perfect, these people let their dogs sleep on the bed, schlepped them from show to show building up their records, and finally achieved the honor of being eligible for Westminster. Appearing at Westminster is an earned honor, and there is a lot more to qualifying than filling out an application. (For more details, follow Breaker’s Almost Perfect journey with Benny and Bess).

Finally, Westminster is a major, American sporting event, but it is international in scope and appeal as the top winners remind us. Flame, the winning Standard Poodle and Non-Sporting Group winner, is from Canada and so is Best in Show winner Miss P, the 15-inch beagle. People all over the world tune in for Best in Show on the internet and on international television. As such, it is one of the most loved and watched events in the world.

Do we really have to wait a whole ‘nother year?



Announcing the ALMOST PERFECT Blog Tour & Trivia Contest!

January 26th — February 13th, 2015
(CLICK HERE for Full Schedule)

What could be better than having ALMOST PERFECT featured across 31 web sites over a three week span? How about a trivia contest running the duration of my blog tour where readers can win Amazon Gift Cards by correctly answering questions about my novel?

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be running a trivia contest to accompany my blog tour! Every morning, along with information regarding that day’s “tour stop,” I’ll be posting a question about ALMOST PERFECT on the home page of my web site (dianedanielsmanning.com); simply submit your answer using the provided form and you could be elegible to win the following prizes!

1st Prize — $50 Amazon Gift Card
2nd Prize — $25 Amazon Gift Card
3rd Prize — $10 Amazon Gift Card

At the conclusion of my blog tour, all CORRECT submissions will be placed into a blind drawing for the prizes.

Limit one entry per day and one prize per entrant (i.e. you can’t help your odds by spamming and you can’t win more than one gift card!).

You Don’t Need a Trained Dog for Pet Therapy: PART FOUR



Read Part One here, Part Two here, and Part Three here.

Therapy animals need their own R&R, even ones like Vino Blanco who are informal and unintended pet therapists. As busy as Yves is with four dogs and the job of running a popular restaurant, Yves makes sure Vino Blanco has time to rest and relax with friends. Every few days Yves takes Vino Blanco to a retreat at her special “camp” where she can visit her donkey friends and play untethered. One donkey is her special pal, and the minute he sees Vino arrive, he brays and carries on in a frenzy of delight. When she leaves, it is a sad moment for the poor fellow until the next time. Who could blame him? Vino Blanco is an exceptional beauty!

All kinds of animals have been specifically trained and used as therapy for all sort of people who benefit from the help. At the New School in the Heights in Houston, therapy dogs and one therapy cat regularly visit the children as part of a local church’s outreach programs. Dogs, cats and even an occasional rabbit have visited hospital wards, retirement homes, hospice and almost any place where a chance to feel warm fur under one’s hand brings a smile. Horses, too, are also regularly part of equine programs to help children and adults with physical challenges and bring a sense of empowerment to the people they help.

The medical benefits of pets are well documented. Pet an animal and your blood pressure goes down.

The point of writing her about Vino Blanco is to illustrate the “therapeutic” benefits of many untrained animals who never specifically intended to affect anyone outside the limited circle of their immediate family. It’s not just my opinion that Vino Blanco has done that. A headline in the local newspaper read, “Celebrity Donkey Honored for Spreading Joie de Vivre.” Visit Yves’ Restaurant and you will see hanging on the wall a certificate stating:



Congratulations to Vino Blanco and her remarkable owner, Yves. If there is a better friend to animals and people,
it is hard to imagine.