Saved by Gracie by Jan DunlapSaved by Gracie Media Kit


When author Jan Dunlap reluctantly adopts a rescued shelter dog, she finds herself forced to confront her life-long fear of dogs, a generalized anxiety disorder, and her own failing of faith as her unwanted companion drags her – literally! – back to health, happiness, and a renewed relationship with God. 



Key talking – barking! – points

pawleftFurry therapy for the 40 million Americans who suffer from some type of depression

 pawrightInspirational story of the gift of companionship and the power of healing

pawleftReview of current research into nature-based health improvements

pawrightAdvocacy for animal rescue groups and adopting shelter dogs

pawleftAn uplifting celebration of (wo)man’s best friend

pawrightToday’s search for God and the path to faith

pawleftGod’s gifts of creation


Meet Jan

Jan Dunlap has written about personal spirituality for over twenty-five years for a variety of national and regional religious publications. She wrote her first book, Purpose, Passion and God: Awakening to the Deepest Meaning of Life (Twenty-third Publications, 2006), while completing her MA in theology at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, in an attempt to figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. (She was partly successful, though she admits she’s still working at it – growing up, that is.)

At the time, she was also writing a humorous newspaper column about raising her brood of five children and working part-time as a career center manager at a local high school; to help her survive the chaos, she decided to plot murder (as fiction, of course, though it’s been suggested by her children that she might harbor a tiny passive-aggressive tendency – but what do they know, right?). Drawing on her life-long fascination with birds, she began developing a book plot about a nice guy who finds dead people while he’s out birding. In 2008, The Boreal Owl Murder was published by North Star Press, Inc., launching Jan’s Bob White Birder Murder Mysteries (all five of which have been nominated for the annual Minnesota Book Awards). With readers across America and Europe, Jan’s brand of humorous storytelling has earned her accolades from critics and readers alike of all ages (as well as some rather odd emails, but that’s another story).

Like millions of people around the world, Jan has suffered from depression and anxiety, and it wasn’t until she joined the millions more who own dogs that she finally found relief…and a very effective way to discourage door-to-door solicitors. Relying on her skilled writer’s eye for detail and her clear insight into human nature – along with her trademark sense of humor – Jan tells the story of how Gracie, the shelter dog she didn’t want to adopt, helped her recover her emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Saved By Gracie is Jan’s hope that others may regain their health and find renewed joy in life by welcoming a rescued dog into their hearts and homes.

A former adjunct instructor for both New Mexico State University and New Mexico Junior College (thanks to her master’s degree in English Studies from Minnesota State University-Mankato), Jan now works as an author full-time. She frequently speaks to book clubs, community service organizations, writers’ groups, birders, and senior living communities about birds, writing, the blessings of nature, and the importance of humor. Jan lives in Chaska, Minnesota, with her husband Tom and (of course) their dog Gracie.


10 Interview Questions for Jan

1. Why were you afraid of dogs?

A: I can’t point to any specific incident in my memory, but my mother told me that they’d had a dog when I was born, and the dog was very jealous of me, and nipped at me. They gave up the dog out of concern for my safety, and we always had cats instead, until I was a junior in high school. Then they adopted a Miniature Schnauzer, and while I didn’t mind it being around, I never had any interest in bonding with it. Since every dog I ever met seemed intent on sniffing at my crotch, I was fairly disgusted with dogs as a species. And the ones who wanted to jump on me just added to my fear. I reasoned that given the chance, dogs would eat me.


2. How did you get over that fear?

A:My youngest daughter took care of a rather large dog as a favor to her older sister for a few weeks one summer. The dog was old and very gentle, and I learned that I could live in a house with a dog in the short term and it didn’t kill me. That was probably the first and most critical wedge into my life-long fear. As I recount in the book, once we adopted Gracie, I decided that knowledge would be my best defense, so I read everything I could get my hands on about dog behavior, psychology, training and cohabitation. Aside from that, it was a miracle.


3. How do you feel about dogs now?

A:I love them. Now I have to remind myself not to automatically reach out and pet strange dogs! I appreciate them for the creatures they are, and I try not to impose my human criteria on them. Everyone’s happier that way.


4. Your writing style is easy to read and you often make fun of yourself. How did you develop that style?

A:When I was growing up, I loved reading Erma Bombeck’s columns, and I always laughed. I wanted to do the same thing as a writer – connect with the details of my readers’ lives and make them smile. I realized that when I laughed at myself, you give others permission to do the same – laugh at themselves, I mean, not necessarily just at me! – and that’s a healthy outcome. As a composition teacher, I was relentless in stressing clarity and simplicity, and that’s my own guide for writing, whether it’s a memoir, a novel, or a business letter.


5. There’s a lot of research in this book. Why did you choose to include it in a memoir?

A:My goal in writing Saved By Gracie was to share what I’d learned about healing from anxiety with the help of a dog, in hopes I could help others who found themselves in similar unhealthy – and unhappy – circumstances. For myself, part of that healing was learning about anxiety disorders, about how common they were, and how research has confirmed with quantifiable evidence that our interaction with animals and nature can improve our quality of life. This has always been a spiritual truth for me, but to find scientific affirmation for it was really exciting for me on several levels. I think it strengthens the religious perspective that creation is divinely orchestrated, and it’s for our good, if we respect it and use it wisely. And I hope all the scientific proof that dogs are good for you is one more reason that people will decide to adopt a homeless dog!


6. You write in several genres. How is that working for you?

A:At the moment, it’s working very well. I knew it was a risk when I began writing my memoir, since I kept hearing from publishing experts that to be successful, you need to stick to one genre and build your platform and audience there. I’ve done that with my Birder Murder mysteries, and I feel like I’m really hitting my humorous fiction stride with the series. But I also felt compelled to write Saved By Gracie to help others. Actually, it wasn’t that far a jump stylistically since my Birder Murders have a first-person narrator. I just have to remember whose voice to use when I sit down to write and tell all the other voices to shut up. I think of it as straddling the secular and the religious book market, because underlying my Birder Murders is the same respect and joy in God’s creation that I experienced so profoundly in Saved by Gracie.


7. Did you have a theological goal in writing this book? 

A:Absolutely. While I was in graduate school for theology at St. Catherine University, I took a special interest in God’s work of creation and how we relate to it. The more I studied and researched, the bigger my belief grew that God designed all parts of creation to work harmoniously together and that when that harmony happens, it’s healing for man and the earth alike. When natural harmony is disrupted, it’s not healthy for the whole of creation. I believe my experience with Gracie is a small example of this spiritual dynamic in action, and I wanted to tell others how adopting a dog had helped me beat anxiety and improved my quality of life…except for the scooping poop part – I’m still not convinced that’s an improvement in quality of life.


8. What advice would you give someone who wants to adopt a shelter dog?

A:Balance your enthusiasm with knowledge of what to expect. I’m a huge fan of educating yourself to make life more manageable; when you’re thinking of adding a dog to your family, you really need to know what you’re getting into, not to mention what the dog might get into! (Big tip –don’t leave socks or underwear out in the open.) So many dogs are returned to shelters because their new owners didn’t appreciate the work that may be required for both human and dog to happily cohabitate, and that’s heartbreaking for all involved. Read about dogs and specific breeds so you won’t be surprised when your dog likes to dig up your prize rosebush. Learn about training options, and take advantage of them to keep you and your dog in communication. Understand that dogs are biologically wired for specific behaviors, and that they are social animals. Love them like crazy, but remember they are dogs, not humans.


9. What books did you find helpful in learning to live with Gracie?

A:I read all of Cesar Milan’s books – he’s the Dog Whisperer – Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz, several fact books about Labrador Retrievers, and Meg Daley Olmert’s Made for Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond.


10. Will there be a sequel? 

A: I hope so. I want to continue to share with readers some of the things I’ve learned about myself and others from spending time with Gracie and other dog owners. Healing from anxiety isn’t a done deal – it’s something you keep working at and getting better at all the time. There’s something humbling about caring for a dog, too – you can’t be pretentious when you’re bagging dog poop! – and I’ve found people to be so genuine when you relate on that level. Becoming a dog owner has not only transformed my health, but’s it opened a whole new world of friendships for me that I was never exposed to before.


A Few Reviews

I loved this book! Jan Dunlap and her dog Gracie will win your heart and sympathy for every dog waiting to be adopted and for every person who needs a dog in his or her life – whether they know it or not. Backed by the newest research into the healing powers of the human-dog bond, Dunlap shares her hilarious story of a clueless, not to mention reluctant, journey into dog ownership that will leave you laughing and heading for the nearest dog adoption event.”

Dr. Marty Becker America’s Veterinarian”, Regular contributor to ABC’s Good Morning America and The Dr. Oz Show & Author of 22 books, including three NYT Best-sellers

A sweet account of life with canines – a book that makes you laugh, cry and think.”

Jean M. Larson, PhD, CTRS, HTR, University of Minnesota Manager – Nature-Based Therapeutic Services

Doctor’s Orders: Adopt a rescue dog (a black lab named Gracie), slap a leash on her, and let her drag you out of your stagnant, overly intellectual world into the outdoors, where you will find healthy distractions from your worries–plus actual fresh air. On reading Jan Dunlap’s heart-warming and highly entertaining story, Saved by Gracie, you will understand why pet ownership is an important means to better physical, emotional, and even spiritual health. “

Rita Hancock MD, Pain Management Specialist  & Author of Radical Well-being and The Eden Diet


Contact Info

If you’d like to schedule me for an interview, speaking engagement, event, or book signing, please contact me HERE.