Tosca Lee is an accomplished author who has written 12 novels to date, with her latest release, “The Long March Home,” co-authored with Marcus Brotherton, due out in May. She enjoys traveling or spending time with her husband, Bryan, and their three boys when she’s not busy writing. Tosca has a particular fondness for animals, and she and her husband are proud dog parents to Timber, an adventurous four-year-old German Shepherd.
In this interview, Tosca shares her experience of being a dog mom, including how she came up with the name Timber and the most mischievous thing he’s ever done. She also discusses Timber’s favorite treats and toys and how he played an essential role during the pandemic. Tosca also opens up about the challenges of being a dog parent and offers tips on keeping your furry friend healthy and happy. So, let’s dive in!
HEY TOSCA, WELCOME TO DOGOPPO. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A DOG PARENT?
My husband Bryan, who is a farmer, and I love animals. I grew up with an English bulldog named Oliver and in my 30s had a Sharpei named Attila. When I married Bryan, he had a black Labrador named Charlie and he wanted to get her a young companion—someone she could teach and that the new dog could learn from. He found Timber in Iowa, about half a day’s drive from where we live.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR DOG AND HIS/HER PERSONALITY?
Timber is a handsome German Shepherd. He is four years old—and was born on St. Valentine’s Day! Even when we brought him home at eight weeks he was 16 pounds with big feet. Today, he’s 160 pounds and the size of a small pony! He’s very funny, always up for an adventure or a ride in a car, truck, or UTV, loves to patrol our yard, and can be very stubborn. When we brought him home, I had blankets ready to cuddle and keep him warm, but I quickly learned that he prefers to be cold!
HOW DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR DOG’S NAME?
My husband, our three boys, and I were talking through a list of ideas for names. (Had I known how big he was going to get, I might have suggested the name Goliath!) I am a novelist and I have a reader whose first name is “Timber.” I remember always thinking what a neat name that is, and so I added it to the list. The boys all loved that name—it reminded them of the timber wolf. So that’s how we decided.
WHAT’S THE MOST MISCHIEVOUS THING YOUR DOG HAS EVER DONE?
This is a very long list! One time as a puppy, Timber chewed up an entire shelf of my books! He likes to pester the cat and he has a pet fireplace log that he carries around the yard and buries like a stick. When we freshen up the landscaping with new plants and mulch, he adds the log as his contribution. He sits on the living room ottoman and gets discombobulated if someone else sits on it when he wants to. But he’ll sit on about anything—one time one of the boys was laying on the floor and Timber sat on his head. I was preparing fish to bake one day and left the kitchen for just a moment… and when I returned, the fish was gone without a trace. Another time, we had two ice cream makers going in the garage and Timber got into one of them and ate the ice cream. It was homemade peach ice cream—so who can blame him?
WHAT’S YOUR DOG’S FAVORITE TREAT?
He loves ice cubes and freeze-dried liver. He loves most any dog treat, too. And peach ice cream.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT A SPECIAL MOMENT YOU’VE SHARED WITH YOUR DOG?
There are usually a few throughout the day—from when I wake up and find him sleeping outside our door, to when he proudly carries his stuffed bears around. But one of the most special was during the pandemic. I decided at the start of lockdown that I would read to the fans of my books every night online. And so for more than two months, I went live online every night at 8pm to read to any of my followers who wanted to tune in. But I always started that time with Timber first—either Timber hanging out on his bed, playing a game, doing a trick, or trying to wheedle more treats from me. We started to call that time with him “Timber Therapy.” And it was very therapeutic for all of us.
WHAT’S YOUR DOG’S FAVORITE TOY?
Timber has four bears—all made by the Kong company—that are gifts to him by the readers from Story Time. Those are his favorite toys, and he loves to carry them around and sleep with them. Most of all, he loves to suck on the bears’ ears until they disappear. These bears no longer have any ears!
WHAT’S THE MOST CHALLENGING THING ABOUT BEING A DOG PARENT?
It takes a great deal of dedication. German Shepherds shed a lot and need to be brushed and groomed regularly. In addition to the normal things like food and water, many dogs need some kind of medication or other special care. They also need activity. Timber loves to learn and becomes bored if no one interacts with him enough through the course of a day.
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR DOG HEALTHY AND HAPPY?
We live in the country on an acreage, so Timber has a big yard to run and play in. In the summer when apples fall off our tree, he likes to bring them up on the deck and eat them. He also loves going for rides and enjoys going to the lake. And woe to any creature that shows up uninvited on our property. He chases some kind of animal (rabbits, opossums, raccoons, deer) almost every day or night. If all else fails and no unexpected visitors show up, he chases the cat around.
HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED SINCE BECOMING A DOG PARENT?
I’ve had dogs before, but it’s much easier when there are several family members to help walk, play with, brush, feed and water a dog. The main way my life has changed is that Timber is very popular on my social media. Whenever I do a book event, I always get asked about him, and people remark that they love seeing him on my social media. And I am glad that he has brought so many people—more than just us—joy.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO’S CONSIDERING BECOMING A DOG PARENT?
Make sure that you have the practical resources (space, a yard or dog park, the ability to pay for food and veterinary bills) and the support system (friends or family to help out if you have to leave town or must be gone all day) to not just own a dog but give it the love and attention it needs and deserves. Dogs are filled with unconditional love and loyalty and bring so much joy—and humor—into our lives. It is wonderful to give that love and loyalty in return.