My Journey With Ernie: Lessons from a Turkey Dog

Professor Heidi Speece discusses her published book about a rescue dog named, Ernie

There are a lot of professors at CNU who are not only teaching students on a day-to-day basis, but are also involved in their own research or publications outside of their university work. 

The Captain’s Log interviewed one professor, Heidi Speece, on the publication of her own book, “My Journey With Ernie: Lessons From a Turkey Dog.” 

On her website,, it says that Speece received her Masters from the University of Pittsburgh and teaches high school English. At CNU, she teaches public speaking in the Department of Communication. 

In her book, Speece talks about the adventures of rescuing Ernie Bert. The book description on her website says, “In a sleepy town in Virginia, Heidi Speece was a high school teacher in search of something new. The overachiever with a penchant for “to do” lists had grown bored with life. She knew she needed a change, and she found it when she rescued Ernie Bert — a mischievous golden retriever living on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey.

“Heidi thought things would calm down after the elaborate rescue mission that covered two continents, four states, and five thousand miles to save the Turkey Dog. She was wrong. Within his first week in America, Ernie Bert committed a felony, became a social media star, and turned his human’s world upside down. Along with Heidi’s eccentric mother and a host of other colorful characters, the self-proclaimed perfectionist quickly lost control of the life

she had so carefully planned.”

When asked whether or not rescuing Ernie Bert was last minute or planned out, Speece responded that, “…It was planned out, I saw a news story about these dogs called ‘Turkey Dogs’ who roam the streets in Istanbul and I have always wanted a golden retriever.” 

She then went on to say that “…there were a number of golden retrievers who were in Turkey and I found a rescue in Northern Virginia that adopted and brought these dogs over here. It was planned but it did take about four months before we could get him over here.”

Some may wonder when her passion for wanting to rescue dogs began. When asked if she had wanted any pets growing up, Speece explained that her dad was a veterinarian and so she had always grown up around animals and that her family adopted most of them. 

When she had rescued Ernie, he had originally just been named Ernie; however, Speece said that she had added Bert to his name because, “…I loved Sesame Street as a kid so he was named after Bert and Ernie.” 

According to her book,  Ernie Bert is quite the character, as he has done so many astonishing things within his lifetime. 

“Ernie has done a lot of cool things…he has stolen a pizza from Santa Claus, he almost stole a football from the homecoming football team, and he has appeared on national television before,” Speece exclaimed. 

She also added, “I definitely would adopt again… the story of the Turkey Dogs had touched my heart and I think any dog up for adoption would be amazing to rescue.” 

Not only does Speece share the wild and wonderful story of her dog, but she also explains what the experience of writing and publishing a book was like for her. 

When asked why she wanted to write her book, she explained that, “I loved writing to begin with and I always wanted to write a book. When I first adopted Ernie, he was so mischievous and so loveable and we had so many adventures together that I thought it would be a really fun story to write about, as well as helping to promote pet adoptions.”

Speece then talked about how nervous she was about the feedback her book could receive after it was published, “I think any author would be nervous about negative feedback, but people have been really lovely and kind and it’s helped raise awareness and I was really excited by that.” 

The writing process for Speece’s book took about three years. 

“It started out as a draft then after a year, it went through an editing process which took about another year, and then I had to choose the cover art and work with publishing,” she said.

Lastly, when asked if she was planning on writing more books in the future, she said, “I would love to write another book. I have a couple ideas in my mind… some are fiction, some are nonfiction…[I] just have to settle on the right one.” 

Speece’s book, a 2022 Webster Award Finalist, is available on Amazon as a paperback and digital on the Amazon Kindle. A majority of the proceeds will be donated to animal shelters and rescues.