Sunday Column: How ranch people become lake people

Lake Sakakawea Sunset

It’s been hot out there lately. I just pulled my first harvest from the ground in my garden and it got me thinking about the long, hot weekends spent on the ranch when I was a kid.

Back before we had a boat just a couple lawn chairs and a cooler full of pop and juice boxes to lug to the shores of Lake Sakakawea, on days like this my sisters and I would come up with a plan to get a chance to swim in that big lake that was so close to the house (well like 20 mile or so) we could smell them catching fish out there.

At least that ‘s what we’d tell dad in our subtle suggestion that maybe baling hay could wait for the day.

Maybe it was time to hit the lake.

A few weeks ago I met a young girl who said she reads my column in the paper every Sunday. I thanked her for being such a loyal follower and asked her what she would like to read more about.

“Oh, I like the stories about your childhood,” she said.

And so, inspired by her and a recent trip to the lake where we loaded up the coolers, sunflower seeds, summer sausage sandwiches, nephew, sisters, gramma and grampa and headed to the big water on the new pontoon only to hit the water just in time for rain, I decided to write about the simpler days, enjoying the short lived summer on the “beaches” of that big body of water…

Coming Home: When the day’s just right, ranch people become lake people
by Jessie Veeder
7-19-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com 

It’s hard for ranch people to be lake people.

Between trying to keep the cows in the fences, the hay baled and the lawn mowed, there’s not much time left to spend an afternoon with a fishing pole in one hand, a beer in the other and your feet up on the dash of a fancy boat.

But when you live so close to the biggest lake in the state that you swear you can see it from that hill out east if the sky is clear and you tilt your head just right, it’s pretty hard not to work a few lake days into the schedule.

When I was growing up, a chance at a lake day meant the conditions had to line up just right to make my dreams of jumping off a flat rock on the shore into the cold, deep, murky water of Lake Sakakawea.

First, it had to be Saturday or Sunday, and both my parents needed to be home with plans on doing something that was utterly miserable to accomplish in the blazing 90-degree heat.

Which means that, secondly, it had to be either the month of July or August, and said blazing 90-degree heat had to magically fall on a Saturday or Sunday.

Now, we all know how rare it is that those two circumstances converge, but when they did, we girls needed to be on it. We needed to wake up with the scent of the lake in our nostrils, ready to feel things out and set the plan in motion.

Maybe Dad would come in from working on a broken-down baler, all sweaty and fed up in the already hot midmorning sun. Maybe Mom was in her shorts pulling weeds from the walkway, stopping every so often to put her hands on her hips and shield her eyes.

Maybe the bugs were a little bad out there because the wind wasn’t blowing and it wasn’t quite noon, and so I took the opportunity to walk out and pull a few weeds myself, sure to mention what a great day it would be for a little swim in the lake.

And then maybe we caught Dad in the house splashing water on his face at the kitchen sink so I said something about how I heard that the fish were biting up at McKenzie Bay while my little sister was out digging worms in the garden, and pretty soon the seed was planted. Mom started whipping up summer sausage sandwiches, Dad started hunting for the old tackle box on the garage shelf where he left it the previous July, and my sisters and I packed up our favorite beach towels, pulled on our swimsuits, loaded the lawn chairs in the back of the old pickup, grabbed a bag of sunflower seeds and milled around in the driveway waiting impatiently in the hot sun, but not saying a word as our parents made the slow migration toward the vehicle.

Now, back in the youth of our family, there was no budget for things like boats or Jet Skis, so we didn’t have to fuss with that. No. Our biggest concern was avoiding the potholes on the worn highway, leaving the windows open so we could spit seeds and cool down, and, when that big lake appeared before us in the windshield like an oasis nestled in the hot cliffs of the Badlands, it was our mission to find an acceptable “beach” on those rocky, weedy and muddy shores.

Lake Sakakawea

And for us, “beach” meant that the legs of Mom’s lawn chair didn’t sink in to her butt when she sat down, the poky Canadian thistle didn’t reach all the way to shore and that there was at least an acceptable amount of sand and/or flat rocks where we could throw out our beach towels, make our picnic, stick a fishing pole in the ground, eat our sandwiches and watch the fancy boats and Jet Skis drive by before finding a place to wash the heat, work and worry of the summer off in the waves of a lake that belonged to us for the few sweet, relaxing, fly-bitten hours that we, too, transformed into lake people.

Lake Sakakawea  

Sunday Column: Small town summer…

Summer is in full swing up here in North Dakota. School’s out. Wedding’s have begun. Garden’s are in and a full line up of summer fairs and festivals are marked down on the calendar.

Last weekend during a little tour across the state promoting my album, I got the privilege of being a guest of honor at a small town in the middle of the state. I was hired to do a concert with the band there during their Dairy and Ag days celebration,

and in addition, I was asked to be the Grand Marshall of the parade…

I took my job very seriously…

AND to help judge the Little Miss Farmer/Rancher contest.

This was right up my ally, such and honor and pretty much the most adorable thing ever.

So of course I had some things to say about it. I could have written a book on all of the characters, from the kids singing their hearts out in the choir before the band

The opening act waiting to go on!

to the little toothless princess candidate dressed in a sequins dress with a hoop that flew up and hid her face when she tried to sit down in the chair in front of us judges.

It was the epitome of what it means to be a small town kid in the summer.

It was the epitome of cute and wholesome.

It was what I had to write about for this week’s column:

Coming Home: Longing to be a kid of summer again
by Jessie Veeder
6-14-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

In small towns up and down the Midwest, summer has officially started. I know this not by the date on the calendar, but because in the next few months I’ll run into kids catching and holding calves at the neighbor’s branding down the road, rolling down the road in a tractor helping with harvest, or showing their steer at the county fair for a little extra cash.

I get to witness these kids of summer because my job as a singer takes me to big towns and small towns across the state to witness them dancing in the street after a day spent eating barbecue beef sandwiches, catching candy in the parade and competing in a tractor pull or Little Miss Potato Queen pageant.

And I have to tell you, I kicked off the season right last Friday when I took a trip to Linton to participate in their Dairy and Ag Days festival. I rolled toward the town in the morning, turning off the interstate to admire the fresh crops popping up neatly around manicured farmsteads, big red barns and, my favorite, the black-and-white dairy cows milling behind rail fences.

After months of planning, Linton looked as polished as ever, and so did its littlest residents who were waiting for my arrival that morning, dozens of young girls from kindergarten to second grade, dressed to the nines lined up in the lobby of the local bank, vying for the title of Little Miss Farmer/Rancher.

And be still my heart, because while each contestant was as adorable as the next, this was no beauty pageant. No. This was a competition where each young and utterly adorable contestant is asked about their experience and knowledge of the farm and ranch they live and work on.

I was asked to be one of the judges, to which I enthusiastically agreed, not understanding how completely impossible it would be to choose a winner among little girls who talked reverently about helping their grandmas feed the horses, being responsible for bottle feeding orphaned calves, the make and model of the tractor used on the farm and the one who joked that, if they’re not careful, the heat lamp used in the baby chick pen might result in fried chicken. Then she laughed and laughed.

And I teared up, not just at the absolute cuteness of it all, but because, really, they still make kids like this. Kids who come to town dressed in bolo ties, fluffy floral dresses, their best jeans or, yes, even a sequined gown, ready to proudly declare that they are learning to break their own horse, they can’t wait to learn to drive the tractor, or — my favorite — the tiny, brown-eyed girl who said her preferred chore was helping her dad fix fences.

When I asked her why she liked to fence so much, she frankly replied, as if the answer should be so obvious to us, “Because I love him!”

First place, I say! First place to all of them!

I’m really not cut out for this judging thing.

But after the decisions were made, I headed out to Main Street, where I had the honor of leading the parade of Dairy Prince and Princesses and Little Miss and Mister Farmer and Rancher contestants, American Legion Club members, 4-H club floats, combines, antique tractors and kids pulling smaller kids in wagons.

In a few hours, I stood up on a flatbed trailer in an empty lotand sang my songs to bleachers full of moms, dads, grammas and grampas watching while the kids tested out their best moves on the concrete dance floor in front of me.

I let the band play a song and got down to join them, compelled to be a part of their circle, grab their hands and spin around to the music. Compelled, after a long day in the sun, to laugh and dance with my new friends, in the middle of a small-town street, in the middle of America, where we make our own fun after the work is done.

Compelled to believe with them that anything is possible, just for a moment, compelled to become a kid of summer again.

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And look at that, a whole spread in the Emmons County Record. A day like this is a reminder of why I keep doing what I’m doing.

Thanks Linton, ND!

Sunday Column: Marriage, beyond the celebration

IMG_5620Well, I survived planning and executing Little Sister’s Bachelorette party.

As you can see, I made sure it was epically ridiculous by suggesting we all raid our mom’s and grandma’s closets, the thrift store or the costume shops to find the ugliest bridesmaids dresses possible.

FYI, Little Sister is now the proud owner of this gem of a bridal gown right here, in case she changes her mind about her real wedding dress…

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As for my bridesmaid’s dress? Well it was so beautiful I was only allowed to rent, you know, to give others a chance at such beauty…

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Anyway, Little Sister has cool and fun friends who are game for anything, so they obliged in full force, I made some tacos and margaritas, called the party bus and we were off for a night on the town.

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We danced, we drank a few cocktails, we twirled around in our pretty gowns and we confused a lot of people.

And of course, it would be just my luck to be recognized by a loyal reader of my column at the Lonesome Dove while I was dressed as an 80’s prom queen.

But what’s life without a little good, clean, ridiculous fun…and a ridiculous outfit worn in public every once in a while.

And now I’m home this Monday rested up,  getting ready for a round of CD release parties across the state and thinking about love and marriage beyond the celebration…

So that’s what this week’s column is about.

Coming Home: Fruits of marriage easy seen amid wedding preparations
by Jessie Veeder
5-31-15
Forum Communications

Peace, Love and Wedding Season,

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A second with Gus the cow dog.

And now for a split second with Gus…IMG_0923 IMG_0927 IMG_0929 IMG_0930 IMG_0931 IMG_0932 IMG_0933 IMG_0934 IMG_0936

Gus, the cow dog is energy embodied. Every minute is the best day of his life.

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And every minute of his life is chaos.

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Because he never sleeps.

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I swear it. I think I saw him sleep once when he was a tiny baby sitting on my husband’s lap, and that was after several minutes of the man lovingly forcing the pooch to snuggle with him.

And once he might have caught a good thirty seconds on the floor of my office because I provided him with such a nice blanket not even a terror tornado like him could refuse the pull of slumber.

Gus isn’t really into snuggling.

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He’s more into face licking, lap standing, and jumping three feet in the air upon your arrival. It doesn’t matter if you saw him two seconds ago. Every greeting from Gus is filled with the enthusiasm of a best friend you haven’t seen for years.

Come over at any given moment and you might find him tormenting the cats, ripping up the bed in his kennel, eating the cord to the heat lamp, attacking the broom when I’m trying to sweep, barking at the sky, eating cow poop and horse poop and cat poop and chewing on Brown Dog’s fat neck, then jumping up and over his back relentlessly, barking and taunting the poor old dog until he finally snaps …and then you will hear Gus The Tough wail the wail of a thousand deaths.

Because Gus has one other feeling besides happy. And that’s his hurt feeling.

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It’s pretty traumatic.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with him. I mean, I could teach him anything if I could only keep up with him. He’s smart as a whip. He comes back in a split second on a quick whistle. He sits when asked, and I’ll take it, even though he trembles and shakes the entire time as if the energy in him is bouncing around in that body poking and prodding and begging to be released.

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And when he makes his ears stand up like this, well, be still my heart. It’s frickin’ cute as hell and I can’t take it.

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He looks like a gremlin.

And well, he sorta is…

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Who knew this tiny little grunting fur ball that fit in the palm of my husband’s hand would turn into such a specimen…

And he’s only been alive for like six months.

Oh Gus, it’s fun to watch you grow. And I can’t wait to see how many woodticks/burs/mud/cowpoop you collect when summer comes.

Until then, let me reminisce you back to when you were small and innocent, when you peed puddles on the floor and weren’t such a threat to my cats… seriously, you need to go easy on those cats…IMG_4390 IMG_1573 IMG_1591 IMG_9881 IMG_0044 IMG_0027 IMG_9964 IMG_9958 dogs

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Gus, Gus, Gus…such an adorable bundle of energy and trouble brewing…

If you need us we’ll be out in it…

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Sunday Column: About an impromptu sledding party

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Last weekend we had an impromptu sledding party with the neighbor kids.

I just happened to be hanging out with my nephew building a snowman in 50 degree weather, so it was perfect timing.

Impromptu is always perfect timing for me. Especially in the winter when the days can get sort of long without a project or a visit or two from the neighbors.

We gotta stick together around here.

Stick together and then, you know, let small children push us down an icy hill into a quickly melting crick below.

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It was fun watching my friends’ kids playing on the same hill where we used to play, sliding down with their dads, squealing the same kind of screams, laughing the same kind of laughs and pushing it to the limit they way we used to, you know, trying to see how many could actually fit on a sled at once without crashing into a pile of tears and bloody noses at the bottom.

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There were rice crispy bars, 

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Snowball fights,

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Soaking wet mittens,

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Negotiated rides back up the hill…

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It was the best way to spend a winter afternoon out here in the middle of all this snowy hills.

It was just like old times.

Coming Home: Sledding quickly into the life we imagined
by Jessie Veeder
2-15-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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A Girl Needs a Dog – Official Music Video

It’s finally up!

The Official Music Video for “A Girl Needs a Dog” starring YOU and your dogs is ready for viewing.

This truly was one of my favorite projects, getting a glimpse into the bond you ladies share with your pets was inspiring and heartwarming.

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Because we had so many submissions, I’m so sorry that we couldn’t fit them all in, but I think it was the perfect way to capture the essence of this song. I couldn’t help but smile all the way through.

And now for another chance to win something.

Please SHARE this video with your dog loving friends, either on Facebook, Twitter or here on this blog, and be entered for a chance to win a signed copy of my new album “Northern Lights” when it’s available this spring!

Thanks again for playing along. And thanks for taking such good care of each other.

Peace, Love and Puppy Kisses,

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We’re not in Cabo anymore…

We’re not in Cabo anymore.

photo 1

Nope.

photo 2We’re home.

Home to the great white and frickin’ frozen north.

You know what that weather report up there doesn’t say? It doesn’t say that the wind is blowing 50 MPH, making the air feel like it’s actually -30.

Which would mean when I got on the plane in Cabo on Tuesday morning and landed in Bismarck, North Dakota on Tuesday night, my body was asked to deal with a nearly 100 degree temperature difference.

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CABO!

NOT Cabo.

I can’t help but feel the shock of the juxtaposition that was the result of a couple plane rides …

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CABO!

NOT Cabo.

But oh, we had a nice trip. We wore vacation hats.

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We got some sun our our pasty white skin. We played beach volleyball and drank ridiculous drinks,

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we swam in the ocean,

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and rang in the new year in a blur of tequila and club music.

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And while we were doing those things, the wind was whipping in a cold front up north, as it tends to do in January.

But you know what they do in January in Cabo? They ride horses in shorts and bare feet on the beach.

Yup.

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CABO HORSES.

NOT Cabo horses.

Dammit, it’s cold here. No more vacation hats for us.

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Beach Couple

Arctic Tundra Couple

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White Sandy Shoreline  

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Just a white line

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Cabo Husband.

Freezing Husband.

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Cabo couple

Umm,  no…
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Cabo Cactus

Not a Cabo Cactus 

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30 below zero and windy sisters

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Vacation feet.  

Not on vacation anymore feet

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Warm weather pet

Jessie and Dogs

A more snuggly version

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A beachy drink

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A blizzard-y drink

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A walk on the beach

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Ah, son of a beettchh…

And that’s it. No, we’re not in Cabo anymore boys and girls…

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But we’re not beach people really.

We’re pale and pasty northerners with a large collection of wool socks. And we’re home.

And no matter what the sky is doing in Mexico, or Jamaica, or Sunny California,  it’s always good to be here.

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Girls, their dogs and Music City…

So I made it home safe and sound from Nashville (and managed to steer clear of the Nude Karaoke).

I’m going to tell you all about it this week when I have a minute to gather up the clothing explosion that happened in my room upon my arrival, and then maybe think about the whole Christmas cards and gift thing, but if you’re curious, here’s a little write up the Fargo Forum did on my trip. They called me up on day two of my visit to see how things were going.

They were going swimmingly, I tell you. It has been such an awesome experience and I can’t wait to get back there and finish it up!

Jessie Veeder recording forth album in Music City

But there was more work to be done as soon as I got home. We had to get started on the video for “A Girl Needs a Dog” before Santa starts making his way across the sky.

I received so many wonderful photos of you ladies and your dogs, I can’t even tell you. This has been one of my favorite projects, getting to see you and your pooches, and hear your stories about what your furry friends mean to you.

So I got home on Saturday at noon, threw on a flannel and made sure I didn’t have any boogers in my nose and went out with my friend Nolan with Quantum Productions to get some footage of me singing and playing with my hounds out and about in the barnyard

There was mud. There was ecstatic and obnoxious jumping. There was barking and stick chewing and running and howling.

Yes, there was howling.

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It was a great time. I can’t wait for you all to see how it turns out. Funny thing about this place I’ve created here, seems from Australia to Alaska, we all have more in common than we think.

And our love of our pets seems to be one of them.

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I’m expecting the video to be done before Christmas. Until then, enjoy the live version filmed from the back pasture at the Red Ants Pants Music Festival this summer.

Learn the words so you can sing along!

Thanks for all of your support and love.

I’m off now to tackle that pile of dirty socks strung out on my bedroom floor…

A Girl Needs a Dog: Music Video Submissions

One of my favorite parts about making and performing music is meeting the people who have found they can relate to the songs I write. I’ve been performing out and about in support of my last album “Nothing’s Forever” since it’s release in 2012.

Since then I’ve hosted CD release parties, been hired as the opening act for big names, have been the main event myself, joined up with another band of great musicians, sat around campfires and house parties, performed at bars, major events, and festivals surrounded by so much intimidating talent it made my heart beat out of my chest and,

of course, met hundreds of wonderful people along the way who take the time to tell me that they can relate…

To the songs about rural living. To the cowboys in the music. To leaving the light on for the people they love. To the weather so cold it freezes your bones. To the loneliness for a familiar place. To being so happy you have to sing it louder.

To their story told in Boomtown.

And then, my favorite, your response to A Girl Needs a Dog.

What was a fun, catchy song that almost didn’t make it on the album surprisingly turned into an anthem for the women out there listening and singing along, thinking about all the times that dog of hers was the only one who got it.

The only one who understood when there were no words.

Me and the dog in the grassThe one who comes with her to clear her head on a walk through the trees. An every day companion.

PudgeThe most loyal. The most sincere. One of her favorite things about this life, even when he poops on her rug or chews her favorite pair of boots or tears through the kitchen screen door in a thunderstorm.

IMG_8585 With each show, after talking to the crowd and watching you sing along,  I understood more and more that this song needed to be written. It was a story that hadn’t really been told yet. A simple one, but apparently, an experience many of us share.

A girl needs a dog in times like these
Some hope and a plan
Clarity
A girl needs a bike or her own car keys
A girl needs a dog
A girl needs a dog

You showed me photos of your pets, sent me emails with stories about how the two of you found each other. There were labs and shitzus, mutts, poodles, an array of cow dogs, dozens of pugs and even one missing an eye like my lost but not forgotten Chug the Pug.

ChugYou told me about your daughter and how she begged for a puppy. You sent the song on to your nieces and granddaughters. Your sister who brings her Chihuahua everywhere.

What a thing to come together in the name of a song about a dog.

Dog in the stock tank But as much as this song is about our furry companions, it was written as an anthem to a girl finding her independence and being comfortable and strong in it. And sometimes, when you’re unsure about it all, that dog helps hold us up a little.

That’s what I think anyway.

Turns out, that’s what you think too.

Anyway, in a few weeks I’m heading to Nashville to record another album. Since the release of “Nothing’s Forever”, I’ve been writing and re-writing and putting new songs together, songs that will mark a different time here in this place that I love, a place that’s changing every day, but still so much a piece of me.

There will be stories in these songs about loss and hope, love and home and work and the rain pouring down on a hot summer day.

But before I move on to the next project, I want to finish this one. I need to make “A Girl Needs a Dog” come to life.

IMG_8905 So here’s the plan. I need your help. I want to see you with your pooch in action and I want to feature you in a video for the song. You know your dog is the best, so why not show her off?!

So here’s the task my loyal listeners with loyal canine companions. Send a video clip (video is preferred) or photo of you and your dog (or your sister and her dog, or your wife and her dog, or your daughter and her dog…you get the point) working, playing, getting into trouble or just hanging out to jessieveeder@gmail.com and I will feature them in a music video for “A Girl Needs a Dog.” 

To thank you for your help in this effort, the first fifteen women who shares her video/photo will receive a free “A Girl Needs a Dog” t-shirt featuring a sketch of the beautiful one-eyed pug. Simply include your address and size in the email (M, L, XL, 2XL)

The rest of you will receive a free track of the song as a thanks for sharing, and of course, world wide fame for you and your beloved pooch in the video.

Thank you for helping to make this song come to life and for celebrating and taking such good care of all of those awesome dogs out there.

I’m sure they’re so happy to be taking care of you too.

I can’t wait to see you all on the big screen.

Peace and puppy love,

Jessie, Hondo and Gus

Jessie and Dogs