I’m delighted to share an extract from The Dog Walkers, courtesy of Kristen at Quail Run Publicity, but first here’s the book description.
Ali Doyle, a thirty-two-year-old engineer, discovers her boyfriend—who is the legal counsel at the suburban Philadelphia software company where she works—has no intention of marrying her. After an uncharacteristically emotional confrontation, Ali ends this two-year relationship. However, the fear of seeing her ex at work and losing all control causes her to feign an illness, self-isolating in her apartment. At first, she’s fine with the solitude, but when Ali tries to leave, she’s incapable of venturing outside.
While feeling lost and hopeless in this self-quarantined state, Ali discovers solace to her loneliness by watching dog walkers from her front window. In an effort to find human connection, she creates imaginative back stories for these strangers and their pets. Ultimately, it’s her concern for an elderly gentleman and his Golden Retriever, as well as advice from an unexpected voice inside of her head, that give her the strength to leave her apartment building and begin her journey to wellness.
As Ali reemerges from her isolated state, she meets several of the dog walkers, learning their real names and true identities. Through this process, she forms friendships, finds guidance, and eventually falls in love. But most importantly, Ali recovers the missing pieces of herself.
Michelle M. Davis began The Dog Walkers in November of 2019. Observing unknown dog walkers from her kitchen window, Michelle became curious about who they were and wondered about their lives. This sparked the desire to create the story of Ali Doyle, her self-isolation, and her struggle to face her fears. Little did Michelle know that in three months, we’d all be quarantined, experiencing isolation — and perhaps our own loneliness and worries — firsthand.
Extract from Chapter One
Glancing in the rearview mirror, I see a woman whose green eyes sparkle with hope. She’s happy, content, in control. Ali Doyle is more than ready for the next stage of her life. Normally reserved, I can no longer suppress the joy for what my future holds. David and I leave for Costa Rica in twenty days. I’ve packed most of my clothing and booked our daily activities, excursions, and dinner reservations at the resort. Plus, I’m two weeks ahead at work. I’ve never been more prepared for anything in my life.
For months, David promised we’d go away. Sure, we’ve traveled together, but only for long weekends in the tristate area. Between our demanding jobs and his having partial custody of Caroline, whom I have yet to meet, David always claimed life was too busy.
But last Christmas, he surprised me with a week’s stay at a private villa at Nayara Gardens, an exclusive jungle resort in Costa Rica. We’re going white water rafting, exploring the rainforest, and indulging in amazing spa treatments. And the restaurants at Nayara Gardens look incredible. But what I’m most looking forward to is seven days alone with David. He assured me this trip will be special. Yet I have a feeling it will be more than just special. I think David plans to propose.
Thoughts of engagement rings and sunny Costa Rica fade as I return to the present. Tonight, like most January evenings in Pennsylvania, it’s dark, cold, and damp. According to the Volvo’s dashboard, the temperature hovers at thirty-three degrees. Although yesterday’s snowfall melted earlier today, black ice is bound to be lurking in previously shaded areas. Slowly, I pull into O’Malley’s parking lot. It’s packed for a Thursday night, and the only available space is in the rear, next to the dumpster. Scanning the backup camera for shiny spots on the asphalt, I carefully back my car into the open spot, conscious of the rusting maroon trash container situated too close to the fading white parking line. We said we’d meet at 7:30, but it’s 7:37. No doubt David will be there, waiting at our table, drinking a manhattan, and perhaps eyeing his watch.
Every Thursday, David and I meet for dinner at O’Malley’s, a small pub in Haverford. Actually, it’s where we had our first date, almost two years ago, shortly after I left my job at Teleco to begin working at Genesis, a small company specializing in telephone software. I was tired of commuting downtown, captive to the train schedule. But it was much more than that—large corporate politics frustrated me.
Initially attracted to this industry by the innovation it offered, I was naive and thought being smart and working hard was enough. But I didn’t anticipate the hierarchy—one that I, as a fe male, didn’t fit into.
Then I met Miles Becker at a software engineering conference in Washington, DC. This fifty-nine-year-old balding man introduced himself to me after the keynote presentation. Surprised to learn the company he founded was located in Bala Cynwyd, only a few miles from my apartment in Narberth, I began to ask a lot of questions about his firm. But it was his mission statement—Team work, ingenuity, and creativity: how we develop superior software packages designed to meet your needs—that piqued my interest.
One thing led to another and before I returned to Philadelphia, Miles offered me a package I could not refuse. I promptly re-signed from Teleco and then immediately began my new position, reporting directly to Miles. This past November marked my two year anniversary at Genesis. My life could not have been better. At age thirty, I worked for an amazing boss at an incredible organization and earned an extremely competitive salary. I had it all.
At least that’s what I thought—until David. I know, it’s kind of cliché, but how we met was magical.
Twenty minutes late to work—I had slept through my alarm—I sprinted into Genesis’s lobby to catch the elevator before the doors shut, asking the person inside to please hold the door. When the elevator reopened, there was only one occupant, a tall, thin man with short reddish-blond hair. Dressed in a pinstripe suit, he had a somewhat angular face that appeared perturbed with the momentary delay, but quickly his gaze turned warmer. I remember how it felt when I first set eyes on him. My face flushed, and tingles coursed through my body during the entire fifteen-second ride to the fourth floor. Even with heels, I was clearly much shorter than this stranger. As the doors opened, I nervously looked up at him and offered an awkward smile before exiting the elevator and dashing toward my office, as our team had a meeting scheduled in five minutes.
Once inside my office, I quickly glanced in the mirror that hangs on the back of the door. Realizing my long hair, slightly wet from my morning shower, looked disheveled and a bit unruly, I tucked brown strands behind my ears then used my hands to smooth my hair into place. Not having seen this man before, I assumed it was only a happenstance encounter, and it didn’t matter what I’d looked like because I’d never see him again. But two minutes later, as I entered the conference room, there he was, sitting right next to Miles.
Miles began the morning’s meeting by introducing us to David Hendrix, a newly hired lawyer at the law firm that represents Genesis. Miles continued to share that David graduated at the top of his class from Tufts University and that he would be providing legal assistance in the development of patents for our newest software, my team’s responsibility.
After the meeting ended, David approached me in the hallway outside of the conference room. Small talk ensued, turning into flirtatious banter. Before I knew it, I gave him my phone number. And now, two years later, I’m headed into O’Malley’s to have dinner with the man of my dreams.
MICHELLE DAVIS is a writer from Boston and debut novel, Learning to Bend, shares the story of Jenna Moore’s journey from a safe and predictable life in Boston to Bend, Oregon, where she begins to discover her true self. The Invitation—Michelle’s second novel and the first book in The Awakening Series—delves into the world of spirituality and holistic healing. In addition to writing women’s fiction, Michelle’s blog, elevate, explores finding inspiration, increasing vibration, and embracing limitless possibilities. The Dog Walkers is Michelle’s third book. To learn more about Michelle or read her blogs, visit www.michellemdavis.net.