From the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper

I have lived in and around the Ortiz Mountains for some 20 years. The last seven have been spent on the south side in the mountains. I bought land and a fixer-upper home. It’s on a bluff, facing west. I watch the sunset over the Jemez Mountains every night and count my blessings. Then I go to bed and find the ear plugs, close the windows, check that my pets are all home and safe, put the phone, reading glasses and flashlight on the the bedside table, and try to go to sleep.

Every few nights, dogs bark. Dogs fight. It’s a nightmare. I can’t sleep. The earplugs only do so much. I use a flashlight and glasses to text a neighbor whose dogs are barking. Phone calls are ignored, so I text him to get his dogs in, to stop his pack of five from barking and fighting with the other dogs in the neighborhood.

I have lived in this hell for the last four of seven years. The first few years were fine but then three years ago, my neighbor was in an accident that sent him to hospital for months. He didn’t fully recover and now has a live-in caretaker. His dogs attacked me when I came home in my truck. They’ve cornered me on my motorcycle at my own gate. They chase my dogs when we walk. They bark for hours on end. This is what I live with.

In 2013, he appeared in court for his unrestrained and vicious dogs. He got rid of them shortly after, paid a fine. In April 2014, he was in court again for owning another pack of vicious dogs. He was given a fine. He got rid of all but one dog. Within a few months, he had another pack of five unfixed, untrained dogs. It never ends.

Over the years, I have contacted the Santa Fe animal shelter, Santa Fe County Animal Control, neighbors in the valley nearby, acquaintances in Madrid two miles away, and even called out the sheriff’s office. I fenced the land around my home and driveway. I walk my dogs before 7:30 a.m. only. This is not how I want to live.

What is Animal Control waiting for? Or rather, what can the legal system do with chronic problems like this? How many times do I have to ask for help? Is there a way to persuade my neighbor, to keep just one (fixed, healthy, happily trained) dog at a time?

Sarah Leamy is a local author and photographer.


Kristie’s Story (in her own words)

These last few weeks have been pretty amazing.

I used to follow her around all the time but suddenly she keeps picking me up and cuddling me. I used to drive her crazy, always ready to pounce on her lap as soon as she sat down, on the bed, at the desk, outside, it didn’t matter to me. I wanted to be close. Now though, it’s Sleam picking me up and holding me against her chest, sitting down for ages at a time, doing nothing but loving me. She knows that the cancer is killing me. She’s spoiling me rotten and I love every minute!

There was a time before Eddie and I came to live with Sleam. I won’t go into details but I will say they didn’t like me and I didn’t like them, which is why I peed on their bed, a lot. That kind of backfired as they dumped me at the Shelter. I didn’t like it there, small spaces, and lots of strangers coming and going. I’d overheard people talking about Eddie, this black and white cat; he’d been there a year already and was running out of hope. He used to hide under the cages all day long, all on his own. Eddie didn’t play the game you see, the ‘customer service smile and purr game’. I got to hang out with him though, I liked him, he was my age almost, and a funny cat. Anyway, one day, this tall woman came in and lay on the floor and talked to us both as we hid under a huge cage in the corner room. Eddie went over to her, purred loudly, and then climbed onto her lap. I was amazed. I followed him. She took us both home. Life has never been so good.


It’s funny how much I love being held these days. I used to fuss and cry when she’d pick me, but Sleam would stroke me, once, maybe twice, and then put me down again. It felt good to be held though so I let her pick me up more and more. Now though, like I said, it’s her coming to me. My tummy hurts and it feels good to be held so I let her cuddle me. The other night I fell asleep on her chest. The dogs were on the bed too, well, not Harold, he’s happier on the floor-tiles.


I usually join him during the night but this time, it rained and Rosie and Ollie and even the annoying little kitten Stevie slept with me and Sleam. Stevie, I shouldn’t call him little any more, he’s bigger than me now I’ve lost all this weight. He was the one-pound weakling when he was found in a woodpile and came to live with us. He got so sick that Sleam had to hold him to her heart for days before he started drinking goat’s milk.


Anyway, the little tiger, Stevie’s learnt to be a great little mouser. Sleam’s home will still be rodent free; that was my job you know, keeping the kitchen clean of critters. Eddie, he went outside most days, hanging out in the yard, watching the birds, didn’t catch anything but he liked to hang out with the dogs. He even raised a few puppies. Eddie didn’t come back one night though; we’ve all missed him horribly. Stevie makes me think of Eddie, he wants to be a dog too, always playing with Rosie and following Ollie around the yard. Funny boys.


These last few weeks Sleam and I have a new routine. She feeds me junk food, oh my, oh my, I do love this food. Whiskas, Friskies, fresh salmon, ham, you name it, whatever I want she goes to Santa Fe and picks it up, even catnip!


I can’t keep the food down any more, but I try to hide how bad it is. Sleam hears me though, wakes up in the middle of the night, and simply cleans up my mess then strokes my head until I stop heaving. She picks me up and takes me to bed with her.


I hadn’t wanted to tell her about the cancer but her friend the vet worked it out. Sleam didn’t take the news well, but I didn’t expect her too. She rallied around though. Her job even let her have time off to be with me. I’m glad. She’d talked to the vet and they’d decided on a Friday to let me go but I wanted Thursday. I kept telling her, each time she held me, but she didn’t hear until she got to work one day. That voice in her head was me. Her boss told her to take the day off.


Yep, these last few weeks have been pretty amazing. Today, Thursday, the dogs sniff me, sleep next to me, they’re being gentle. I like being near them all. Even Ollie is cuddling me. He still steals my food but I don’t mind.


Stevie is outside in the tree, oh here he is, come to check on us. Rosie takes a nap with me whenever she gets a chance.


Sleam is writing. I sit in the sun and dictate to her. It’s a good day. I’ve had a great life – did I mention that? Life with Sleam and family has been wonderful. I know I’ve been loved. How good is that? I’ve known love.

My latest Writing Project

I’ve been thinking about how I should do what I love and that is writing, dogs, camping, and the Four Corners area in the States. I’ve started writing a blog on wordpress in case any of you are interested in following along with my road trips. I’ll keep this blog upto date with my novels and articles too. Thanks for staying in touch.



Call for your stories! I’m editing an anthology of dog focused tales, with the theme of taking our dogs on the road when camping and on road trips in the Southwest…What was most fun? Most challenging? Tell us of a specific incident that made you laugh or cry, that made you wish you’d left them at a Doggy spa or one that tempted you to adopt yet another dog. 

The book will be a mix of photos and articles and stories, available on Kindle and Amazon to start with, expanding as soon as possible to a bigger audience.

Word length of 150 – 2000. Images of 4 mgb or larger.

Contact me at with “Roadtrips with dogs” in the title.

You can find me on Amazon, Rovers North, Google, Madrid Artists Quarterly and other places too numerous to mention. Oh, and FB there is a page called Roadtrips with dogs in the SW.

Thanks and pass this on!

Which chapter is this from?

“Maybe walking to town wasn’t such a great idea.”

We huddled in the shade of a half dead tree. Mark’s nose was lobster red. My tongue stuck to my lips. The heat was relentless. I’d not slept well. Mark had a hangover. What a perfect first day in New Mexico, eh?

We’d spent the morning making plans, what to buy, what we needed, where to set up the tent – that kind of thing. Oh, and ice, we needed ice. I’d suggested walking to Oliver.

It hadn’t seemed that far in the truck, going as slow and steady as we’d driven, I’d figured a few miles at most. Now though was a whole different perspective.

We passed the dead dog again. For some reason, we both walked up close and examined the body closely.

“A boy,” said Mark with authority. He poked the body with a stick of dried cactus. I’d kept back in case it stank. It didn’t. My curiosity drove me nearer. I noticed the tuxedo style of white chest and black body. White paws on three feet. Thick dense fur and a long scrawny tail, the dog was pretty odd looking I have to say. I nodded wisely.

“Yep, a boy.”

We carried on walking for another ten minutes before taking a break. The water bottle was empty by then. I noticed that Mark’s navy blue shirt had large wet rings under his armpits. Mark looked at me strangely when he noticed me staring. “I hear something.”
“Uh huh.” I rolled my eyes.
“No, seriously. I can hear a car or a truck or something. Come on.” He stepped back out into the full day sun. June at midday was not going to be my favorite time of year, I decided. I followed my boyfriend and we started walking once more. The thought of a beer at the tavern kept me going, sort of.



The novel opens, as any good novel does, with a cliffhanger that leaves the reader wanting to know more about Lucky’s circumstances:

“This is going to hurt.”

“Not as much as it did to kill my dad.”

Dr. Fletcher almost drops the needle in his hand and stares at me. I smile.

“Joking. Well, not really. But what were you saying?” I smile again, trying to reassure him. I’m not sure of what.

“Care to explain?”


Lucky and Mike, best friends since childhood, travel through New Mexico and into Arizona, accompanied by Blue, a collie mix. Looking for Lucky’s newly discovered half-sister, these friends search across the Southwest, including visits to Las Cruces, Bisbee and Flagstaff. The clues they follow begin resembling something an undercover genealogist might dream up. Over the weeks Lucky unscrambles the past, one that challenges stereotypes of family, friendships, and gender and lays a few good secrets to rest.

Meanwhile Blue, being a most generous dog embarks on her own search and rescue mission, finding a needing-to-be-bottle-fed pup aptly named Peanut. It’s the two dogs–and soon Blue’s tiny kitten foundlings–that give this archetypal hero’s journey a mixture of heartbreak and comic lightness.

In her previous novel, the award-winning LUCKY SHOT, author Sarah Leamy questioned the role of identity through Lucky, her protagonist, a character whose gender is ambiguous. Leamy also examined the meaning of family and how families constantly reinvent themselves, especially after loss. LUCKY FIND continues with these characters and similar themes in more detail through the humor of all those four-legged critters that keep turning up on their road trip.

In both novels, Lucky’s journey reflects universal themes of love, loss, and self-discovery. In the end, family and friends are what matter.

The connections Lucky makes—the characters who make LUCKY FIND so memorable—are what remain:

“I looked over at the photo of my dad. Henry William Phillips. I looked at this family of mine: Chris. Mike. Susan. They were chatting about other Christmas holidays they’d had over the years, laughing at Mike’s tales of Europe, and drinking the wine for breakfast. In this warm, cozy home of mine, I realized: I’m Lucky. Lucky to be alive.”


Living The Dream Book Release!

LIVING THE DREAM: Jenny and Mark move to a small artist community in NM, dreaming of living off grid and homesteading only it’s not as easy as the magazines make out. A light hearted look at the Green and Sustainable Living movement as it plays out in the desert mountains of the Southwest.


SARAH LEAMY won the NM/ AZ Book Award in 2012 and was a finalist in 2014. She is the author of three other novels set in New Mexico where she makes her home.                

Paperback and Kindle versions are available online.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Leamy was the younger boring little sister who suddenly left her English life with an honours degree in languages from London University and became a broke nomadic wanderer, storyteller and writer. She finally settled in New Mexico in her late twenties although she’s still taking extended road trips when she can. As the socially awkward and insecure Brit abroad, she lived first in Europe and then crossed the States and into Guatemala, performing, writing and working odd jobs as she explored new countries alone or with Daisy, her slightly grumpy Border Collie. She has lived off grid most of her adult life, mostly because she’s too cheap to pay some big mortgage for a place she could build herself. It seems to work for her, and her three walled adobe structure in the Ortiz Mountains is now a cozy, colorful insulated home with doors and windows and even a wooden floor! It’s heated by wood, with solar electricity, rain catchment, heat on demand hot water, and the various rescued animals appreciate the comfort. So does Sarah.

Since settling in NM her strories, essays, and articles have been published in numerous magazines, newspapers in London (The Pink Paper), Madison (The Edge), San Francisco (Circus News), in Vermont (Rovers North Magazine) and New Mexico (The Madrid Arts Quarterly), as well as in anthologies such as The People’s Apocalypse by Ariel Gore. Her second novel won Best Fiction in the 2012 New Mexico/ Arizona Book Awards, and was a finalist with her third, Lucky Find.

Locally though she’s become more known as the odd Englishwoman, a performer and storyteller, into building her own off grid home in the hills, rescuing dogs, cats, chickens and even donkeys, who now and again appears with another novel or article in hand.

“Leamy’s prose is lean, almost stocatto at times, and creates a series of pictures in the mind’s eye of readers. What another writer might need thousands of words to describe, she can describe vividly in far fewer words. Reading her fiction is like viewing a film.” Sandra Sanchez, 

LIVING THE DREAM (2015): Jenny, a teacher from Olympia, WA moves to New Mexico with her musician boyfriend. They decide to give up all the conveniences of the city and follow the dream of an off-grid, sustainable and trendsetting green lifestyle in a small rural community. Just the thing to spice up their relationship, and it’s cheaper than having a kid. They arrive in the high desert, following the GPS directions, and struggle to find the forty acres and a schoolbus. Quickly humbled by how little prepared they are, they try to settle into a rather unique small town. Only it’s not as easy as the magazines make it seem, this off grid lifestyle that is.

LUCKY SHOT (2011):  “Readers who enjoy vulnerable, flawed characters will find themselves engaged by Lucky’s courageous attempts to leave the past behind. Leamy’s writing is solid, but the book’s tendency to jump between the past and the present can be distracting. Still, readers will ultimately be inspired.” Kirkus Review.

LUCKY SHOT was a finalist in the 2012 Dragonfly Book Awards and won Best Fiction in the 2012 New Mexico/ Arizona Book Awards.

LUCKY FIND (2014): Lucky and Mike, best friends since childhood, travel through New Mexico and into Arizona, accompanied by Blue, a collie mix. Looking for Lucky’s newly discovered half-sister, these friends search across the Southwest, including visits to Las Cruces, Bisbee, and Flagstaff. The clues they follow begin resembling something an undercover genealogist might dream up. Over the weeks, Lucky unscrambles the past, one that challenges stereotypes of family, friendships, and gender, while laying a few good secrets to rest. Meanwhile, Blue, being a most generous dog, embarks on her own search and rescue mission, finding a needing-to-be-bottle-fed pup aptly named Peanut. It’s the two dogs – and soon Blue’s tiny kitten foundlings – that give this archetypal hero’s journey a mixture of heartbreak and comic lightness.

LUCKY FIND was a finalist in Best Fiction in the 2014 NM/AZ Book Awards.

WHEN NO-ONE’S LOOKING (2010/ 2015): Passionate, funny, bittersweet, and most definitely obsessive, this is a story of love and hate in equal measure, a messy and secret affair that spans six countries and five decades. Joey is dying, but no one else knows. Joey reluctantly tells Paula, who’s been a close friend since the sixties. They spend snowy days sitting on a cabin deck in Northern New Mexico laughing together. The two start planning a Thanksgiving gathering in their small local town of Madrid, New Mexico, to celebrate Joey’s life. But Joey has a second woman of importance; Kat and Joey have been on-again/off-again lovers for the last fifty years. A random encounter at a tavern in New Mexico changed Joey’s life drastically. Even though they fight constantly, they always end up back together every few years. The two first came together in 1967 in Santa Fe, then again during the Civil war in Guatemala, the start of Glasnost in Russia, the Eighties in Spain, and in Britain during the late Nineties. Theirs is a love that almost kills.

“When No One’s Looking makes me homesick for the simple, hardscrabble, poetic life that unfolds daily in the Ortiz Mountains of New Mexico—and for the raw, fearless emotions and journeys of its people, as brought to life in Sarah Leamy’s protagonist Joey. It’s a story about the outer and inner landscapes that lead to love, to hate, and ultimately to wisdom.”

Carol Carpenter, Playwright. New York. 2010


MARCH 13TH FRIDAY 4pm with music by OLD TIME ROBOT

 THE MINE SHAFT TAVERN Patio Bar, 2846 Highway 14, Madrid, NM 87010.


With information on living off grid, permaculture, gardening, solar and workshops for those interested in finding out more!