Welcome to CoralDawns! This site is a collection of all of the things that interest me, Coral. I write about life here in Gainesville, Florida, as well as about dog care and behavior and about the topics that come up in my career as a self-employed, freelance writer.
A given post may be about making a shrub into a bonsai, attracting frogs to your pond, taking your dog to the dog park, the best equipment for raising chicks, or the most useful free infographic maker. This site is also an opportunity for me to showcase my art, creative writing, and non-fiction writing.
Throughout this site, you will find product suggestions with links to Amazon or another merchant. I am working towards Amazon and other affiliate programs. I only suggest products that I have either tried myself or researched thoroughly. If I am being paid to review a particular product, I will make that clear.
Much of my writing is done on Upwork. You can look at my profile to see examples of the work I have done for clients.
I grew up in Lake Worth, Florida, near the ocean. I was an only child. My parents and I spent long months wandering the Abacos of the Bahamas on an F27 Trimaran Sailboat. The ocean was my playground, an alien landscape just for me.
At night, the dark water lit up with iridescent worms and invertebrates. A light cast over the side revealed squid flashing every color and huge dark sharks circling the edge of the light.
During the day the sun was so bright that I felt like it would scorch me off of the face of the earth. The wide sandy flats and beaches shimmered with mirages like a desert as we fished for our dinner.
Plunging into the cold water, going from a landscape of shimmering white and blue to a chaos of color, movement and life, was a pleasant shock that never got old. I loved to hold my breath for as long as I could as I dived down among the sea fans and schooling fish, at home with the eagle rays and placid nurse sharks.
In the still of the evenings, I lost myself in worlds of my own drawings and stories while my parents cleaned the day’s fish or conch and cooked it, the delicious smells sizzling up from the tiny galley and torturing our Jack Russel terrier, who stood in the cockpit with his nose inches from the pan.
As I got older, I continued to spend most of my time reading, writing, and drawing, whether on the boat or in class. My teachers were aggravated by my constant doodling and daydreaming and I was frustrated by lack of an outlet for what I loved to do.
When I was in my sophomore year of high school I applied to and was accepted to Dreyfoos School of the Arts.
At Dreyfoos I fell in love with words in a way I never had before. I loved collaborative writing and peer review. I knew I wanted more of that workshopping experience when I went to college.
When I was accepted to Stetson University I chose an English major with a focus in Creative Writing, which allowed me to keep workshopping my writing with talented peers for the next four years, under the instruction of patient professors and published authors. My mind wandered freely, finding its way into minors in Psychology and Philosophy as well.
I met my now fiance, Justin. We spent our senior year in a little house near the college, with two kittens and a succession of foster dogs.
I had always loved animals, but for the first time, I came to appreciate something really special in dogs. We bonded deeply with each dog in an incredibly short time, and while saying goodbye was always hard, we felt lucky to have known them.
When we graduated from college we moved to Taiwan to teach English. I saw English in a new light through the eyes of my students. Rules of grammar and word usage that I hadn’t thought much about before needed to be clearly demonstrated and explained. I had thought about syllables in the context of poetry, but now I was using them to distinguish the sound of a word.
Living in Taiwan was a constant adventure. We learned to use a scooter as our primary mode of transportation and navigated by matching Mandarin characters, which we didn’t understand. In the city where we were stationed, Hsinchu, we loved going to the weekend flower markets and admiring the bonsai and orchids.
We got a puppy, a Maltese mix. She brought constant joy to our lives. She made me feel more comfortable going about in a world in which I often looked different than everyone else, an experience I had never had before.
You can’t help but smile at Sofie. Going places with her creates the illusion that everyone around us is happy. I think it is because she loves everyone without suspicion that she has that effect. We took her everywhere: to the weekend flower markets, the wide flats at the coast, even camping in Taroko Gorge.
When we returned to the US we settled down in Justin’s hometown of Gainesville, Florida. He began a career with a local publishing company. I pursued a fascination with dogs that had been sparked in college and fed by our first puppy. I took a job with a small, family-owned dog daycare.
Hours were long and lonely, pay was low, and the work was hard and sometimes dangerous. I loved it. I loved being immersed in dogs.
I wanted to understand everything about them: the meaning in their social interactions, the ways in which they communicated with me, and how they understood the world around them.
Dogs became some of my closest friends. They were always talking to me, constantly letting me know their opinion about what was going on. With the regulars, a glance would be enough to tell me whether or not they cared for a new dog or that someone was about to walk into the lobby.
I had dogs that would not only let themselves out of locked pens, but open other pens as well, creating chaos as unintended playgroups mixed. There were feuds and friendships between dogs. A boxer and collie mix never missed an opportunity to shoot a dirty look and start a snarling match with each other across the hall.
The same boxer was best friends with a little terrier. The terrier would hold her down and clean her face whether she liked it or not. There was a dog that loved to play tricks on new employees, taking them on chases all around the yard at naptime before running inside and jumping in his own crate, grinning from ear to ear.
The daycare was barely staying afloat, and few if any dogs were turned away. I found that dogs who were rejected from other daycares were able to have positive social interactions with the right guidance and positive reinforcement.
While I remained interested in learning about, grooming, and caring for dogs, and while training of some kind always was a necessary and pleasant activity with every dog at the daycare, what I really came to love was working with dogs’ social groups. I learned that the important communication signals between dogs are often the small ones and that dogs generally say an awful lot before resorting to a snarl, much less a snap. Watching dogs that had been labeled “aggressive” playing well with other dogs gave me deep satisfaction.
Eventually, I knew I had to make more money than the little daycare would be able to offer anytime soon. I was thrilled to get a job as a client liaison with UF Small Animal Hospital.
I helped people and their pets to and from rooms and cashed them out, as well as going over paperwork like estimates and pet insurance. I soon became the liaison for the integrative, neurology, and zoo medicines.
The work wouldn’t have been interesting, except that it was in the most fascinating place I could imagine. As far as I was concerned, I was working with the most intriguing services in one of the most interesting places I had ever been. I loved listening to the doctors and technicians as they shared their vast wealth of knowledge and quizzed the students, glad that I didn’t have to answer the questions, but thrilled when I knew an answer.
I took any excuse to go into the Zoomed treatment room, where I caught glimpses of wildlife, exotic pets, and zoo animals from behind shrouded cages. I watched fascinating procedures, and clients loved to talk about their parrots, squirrels, monkeys, and foxes.
The doctors in neurology were skilled surgeons, able to do incredibly delicate surgeries. I saw dogs that were paralyzed or in debilitating pain made healthy again. Sometimes the dogs couldn’t be healed, or the costs were astronomical, and owners faced incredibly difficult decisions.
In integrative medicine, dogs received therapy for all kinds of ailments, from managing chronic conditions to recovering from procedures. I liked lounging on the exercise mats with the dogs when I had downtime. I got to know some of these dogs very well since they often came frequently and for long periods. One of these dogs found his way into my home.
Winston’s zest for life and enthusiasm for whatever is happening continue to inspire me. Caring for a paralyzed dog is a huge decision, and Winston’s disability affects both of us, as well as Justin and our other two dogs, every day. However, as I write this, he is lying on my feet. Every morning, he scoots in his funny way out of bed, playing with the other dogs, and I can’t imagine it any other way.
Now, I am a freelance writer and artist. I live with my fiance, Justin, our three dogs and our flock of chickens, in a little purple house in Gainesville, Fl. Enjoy my site, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions at all.