Monthly Archives: April 2010

 Today is my birthday. I am so cute and sweet!

Today, April 29, is Tupelo Honey’s second birthday and her mom, Dr. West, and all her friends at Noah’s Ark celebrated with a big party. 

Tupe and her best friend, Yushay, got new party dresses. 

Be honest. Whose dress doesn't make them look like they have a fluffy butt?


Even though Yushay got a fabulous ensemble, too, Tupelo still demanded that she (and only she) be treated like a princess for the day.

You are so below me...even though you are way up there.


Tupelo Honey is so spoiled that she even got her own birthday cake, complete with a bee on top and a special message from her mom (from the Van Morrison song that Tupe is named for): “She’s as Sweet, She’s as Sweet, Sweet as Tupelo Honey.” The words from the song were followed by, “Happy 2nd Birthday.” Not every dog gets a cake on their second birthday, but they should.

Yum! Let me jump in with all four paws.


Happy Birthday, Tupelo. Yushay will be expecting another new party dress for her birthday and her very own cake, too.

Don't tell Tupelo (since it is her birthday), but my dress makes me look like I have angel wings. I must be an angel.

He doesn't look too spiffy right now, but at least he is no longer covered in blood!

He doesn't look too spiffy right now, but at least he is no longer covered in blood!

I went to pick up Bean Bag today from East Hilliard Veterinary Services where Dr. Tom Klein is the dental veterinarian guru. Bean Bag looks a little less than stellar in these photos, but he honestly looks better than the first time I saw him when his entire face was covered in dried blood (I didn’t look at him too long at that time, because I was horrified).

Anyway, I promise to take more photos as our little guy progresses. We think he and Apple Seed are brothers (they look exactly alike), but there is at least a four pound difference in their weight. I wonder if maybe Bean Bag’s jaw had been broke longer than we first imagined and he was basically starving to death, thus his deficient body mass. As Dr. Klein told me, he looks to be three months old, but is actually seven months old, the same age as Apple Seed.

Bean Bag is now at Noah’s Ark where he will spend the weekend. Next week he will see Dr. Klein again for a check up and perhaps another simple procedure. He is allowed to eat soft food and will be getting a bath so he will start to look like an actual kitten and not a dirty smear of fur.

As a side note, Bean Bag does have eyes–he just kept shutting them because of the flash on my camera.

Everyone at East Hilliard Veterinary Services loved Bean Bag and there may even be someone there who wants to adopt our little survivor. Keep your fingers crossed for this sweet baby, who was kneading his paws and purring in the carrier as soon as I began talking to him. After all he has been through, it is hard to believe he still seems so happy–but perhaps he knows the secret to happiness–being grateful for all the blessings in your life. He has certainly experienced a bushel of blessings this week.

I know I'm not much to look at now, but just give me a few weeks. You won't recognize me after I get on the B and O Recovery Program.

I know I'm not much to look at now, but just give me a few weeks. You won't recognize me after I get on the B and O Recovery Program.

Apple Seed, who looks to be Bean Bag's Twin, but is twice his size.

Apple Seed, who looks to be Bean Bag's Twin, but is twice his size.

Miss Dolly

Miss Dolly

In August of 2008, I helped our vet tech at Northstar Animal Hospital find a home for a kitty she had rescued from her brother-in-law after he tried to kill the cat with a 12 gauge shot gun. Ginya was keeping Miss Dolly, a gorgeous long haired dilute calico, at Northstar, where she roamed the offices doing as she pleased. But Ginya wanted to find her a wonderful home after the horror she had come from.

So I posted Dolly’s photo on our Petfinder site, thinking it would not take long to find her a home since she was declawed and very loving. An application came in, not for Dolly, but for two kittens we had at the PetSmart on Sawmill Road. When I began my initial background check on the potential adopter, I learned that her lease required that she have a declawed cat. Since we do not believe in declawing with Black and Orange and the two kittens did still have their claws, I began trying to figure out which declawed cats we had that might be suitable. Miss Dolly instantly came to mind.

I contacted Ginya and she wanted to make sure this was a really good situation considering all that Dolly had been through. I called the adopter and she did not know about the declaw portion of her lease. She was willing to adopt another cat that was already declawed and she and Ginya began making arrangements to meet.

Everything else on the application looked great. The adopter was a police officer. She had a younger son, but he was only with her every other weekend. Ginya wanted to make sure that the son seemed mature enough to be around Dolly, so she also met the son and the adopter. The adopter did not have a vet, because she had no other pets, so she agreed that she would just continue to bring Dolly to Northstar so she could see Ginya.

After Dolly had been in her new home for a few days, I made a home visit to check on her. The apartment was clean and Miss Dolly was clearly at home. She sauntered around the room, sniffing at a vase of fake flowers and watching television with the adopter’s son, who was having his lunch at the coffee table. All seemed peaceful and happy.

I took photos while I was there and sent them to Ginya, telling her that this was a very good situation for Dolly and she did not need to worry about her any longer.


I didn’t think any more about Miss Dolly until March 12 when I had an email from another rescue group, telling me that they had one of our cats. What? Surely there was some mistake.

The email informed me that a lady had brought in a cat that she had adopted from Black and Orange. The rescue group told her she should contact us, as we would want to get our own cat back, but the woman did not want to do that. Since they were afraid the woman was just going to dump the cat if they did not take her, the rescue group let her relinquish the cat to them, even though they were full.

That cat was Miss Dolly.

The email further stated that the woman said she had no time to care for the cat and that her daughter was “not nice to the cat.”

Okay, hold on a minute. Daughter? There was no daughter. Only a son.

After getting the email, I immediately wrote the rescue group back and explained that Dolly was posted on behalf of Ginya and I would need to contact her about Dolly, since I knew she would want Dolly back. I also did a bit of investigating to see if there were things I was not remembering. Was there a daughter? No, looking back through my records, I found the application which only mentioned a son.

The next email from the rescue group was even more upsetting. It said that the adopter had actually “surprised her daughter who didn’t know Mom was listening outside her room. The daughter was physically abusing the cat. Teachers at school had told her the child was a bit of a bully, but she didn’t realize how bad the kid was. Mom was crying and distraught and felt the best thing for Dolly was to get her out of the home asap.”

The email further said that Dolly was nervous, but after evaluating her, the rescue group felt she would come out of it and be fine in a few days. Kindly, they agreed to keep Dolly until we could figure out what Ginya wanted to do. Ginya had, in those two years since Dolly was adopted, taken a job at a vet clinic in another town and was no longer in the Columbus area.

When Ginya finally spoke to the other rescue group, it became clear that the daughter was actually torturing Dolly in ways that they did not want to go in to in too much detail. The cat, however, was obviously very scarred and traumatized. The rescue group agreed that they would keep Dolly and try to find her a home until Ginya could make arrangements to get her back in at the vet clinic where she was now working.

I felt terrible after hearing all of this. Obviously the daughter was from a new relationship that the adopter had entered into. How could I have known that Dolly would be placed in danger? I checked everything out so carefully.


But the worst news came just this week. Ginya wrote me to tell me that she was finally going to be able to take Dolly back. The vet clinic was empty so there was room for her. She had called the rescue group that had Dolly, very excited about getting her beloved cat back, the very first animal she had ever rescued.

Just after that happy email, I had another email from Ginya telling me that Dolly had died from the whatever had been done to her by the adopter’s daughter. She had kidney failure and elevated liver enzymes and she could not be saved. Ginya further told me that one of the rescue group’s volunteers had quit because they were so upset by what had happened to Dolly.

Ginya, of course, is distraught. Both of us tried so hard to make sure this was the perfect home for Dolly. How can I ever know that a situation will be okay for a cat we adopt out 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years down the road? How can I know that new people won’t enter a cat’s home and harm it? How can I ever trust myself with such an important decision–placing a cat in a home where its life depends on my instincts and judgement?

While I know I cannot foretell the future, that I am only going by the information I have on hand, I still feel deeply saddened by what happened to Miss Dolly. She deserved so much more. She deserved a life of happiness and ease after all she went through. With every cat we place, I try to make sure that is what they get. I am so sorry I made the wrong choice for Dolly.

With all of this on my mind, I sent an email to Dolly’s adopter trying to figure out what was going on. She immediately wrote me back, telling me that she didn’t have a daughter and that she had only relinquished Dolly because she was working a lot of overtime and did not have time for her. She said she felt bad because Dolly was alone most of the time. She emphatically stated that neither she nor her son had ever hurt Dolly. Could there be a mistake? A mix-up? Might the rescue group be talking about another cat?

Hope sprang anew. Perhaps Dolly was not dead!  An error had been made. 

And so I sent over Dolly’s photo, asking if they were sure this was the same cat. I also forwarded the emails from the adopter. But once again I got the same story. And once again I was assured that Dolly had died.

What to make of all this. Was Dolly abused? Was there a mistake? We probably will never know, but my heart goes out to that poor cat. Finally, though, she is in a place where she will be at peace.


Good-bye, dear Dolly.

Good-bye, dear Dolly.

Cat-cus, a play on "Cactus" too emphasize "Cat." Leave it to Dr. West to choose a name we can hardly pronounce!Cat-cus, a play on “Cactus” too emphasize “Cat.” Leave it to Dr. West to choose a name we can hardly pronounce!   

The cats from the construction site are all on the path to a happy life. At last. These cats deserve to find a home of their own after being abandoned and watching the house they lived in be torn down.

Little Apple Seed is recovering from his upper respiratory infection and having a ball playing with his toy mice. He will go in next week to get neutered and vaccinated once he is completely well.

The lynx point Siamese girl went to Noah’s Ark on Monday to get tested. She was negative for feline leukemia/FIV and spent the night to get spayed on Tuesday. Dr. West called me after the surgery to tell me that our Siamese girl’s uterus was a mess and she thought that some time in her short life, she had had kittens. Light bulbs went off in both our heads. Was she the mom to the two boys? Dr. West put her age at around a year, while Apple Seed appears to be about 6-7 months old. He and Bean Bag (who Dr. Klein said only looked to be 3 months old in terms of body size, but was actually 6-7 months old when he looked at his teeth) could be her first set of kittens when she went into heat at 6 months old. She is actually just as small, if not smaller, than they are, so we, at first, thought she was one of their siblings, not their mom.

Dr. West decided that since the boys were “A” and “B,” becoming Apple Seed and Bean Bag, that the lynx point girl had to be a “C” name. Thus, she came up with the name “Cat-cus,” a play on “Cactus,” to emphasize “Cat.” The office staff has told her she is not allowed to name any more cats. 

Miss Cat-cus is doing well and is now in foster care where she will relax and gain her strength before we begin looking for her forever home.

And now to our broken jaw baby, Bean Bag.

I had a phone call from Dr. Klein yesterday. Dr. Klein is the feline dental specialist who worked on Naomi’s mouth. I’ll also tell you what he had to say about Naomi at the end of this posting. Bean Bag had at least four fractures. There was also a split in the roof of his mouth because he was hit so hard. Dr. Klein and his vet resident wired Bean Bag’s jaw together so it could heal and then they bonded his teeth on one side so he could not open his mouth. They put a feeding tube in the opposite side so he could be fed. 

This little guy is such a spitfire (remember, he was trying to eat hard food and play with a ball in his mouth even with a broken jaw). Dr. Klein said he came in the next morning to check on Bean Bag and he had pulled the bond apart and was happily opening his mouth. Dr. Klein said he had to be a strong little kitty to do that. They were going to re-bond his mouth yesterday afternoon and today he was going to return to Noah’s Ark for a prolonged stay. 

Dr. Klein says he thinks he will heal just fine.

Dr. Klein also updated me on Naomi. Naomi, it seems, had not just one hole in the roof of her mouth, but three. One of the holes healed on its own. The second one was the one Dr. Klein put a flap of skin over to close it. The graft did not hold and so yesterday, he went back in and was going to put another piece of skin over the hole. That’s when he discovered the third hole. As he cut into the skin to make a flap to cover the original hole he had tried to fix, he noticed that he was not hitting bone, but air. The third hole had a piece of skin over it already and thus he had not discovered it until then. 

Since he didn’t want to open up the third hole, Dr. Klein used a few stitches to repair the original hole. He is going to order a “septal button,” which will fit up into the hole and keep materials from passing from Naomi’s mouth into her nasal passages. The septal button is used in human babies with cleft pallets who are too small for surgery. This piece of material will remain in Naomi’s mouth the rest of her life. Dr. Klein said he has used this in two other cats. One cat has had it for 9 years with no problems. We are hoping the same will be true for Naomi.

I am always so amazed at how resilient cats are. Sometimes one dose of an antibiotic seems to work miracles for them. Bean Bag, Cat-cus, and Naomi are truly examples of creatures who value life and want to live. We can all learn a lesson from them.

Is that a cat's head in a basket? No it's Michael (there is a body attached somewhere).Is that a cat’s head in a basket? No it’s Michael (there is a body attached somewhere).

We are sure you all remember Michael. He is the kitty that arrived at Riverside Drive Animal Care Center last November and could not urinate. He ended up having a surgery to remove his penis, because he continued to become blocked (these blockages are very dangerous and can kill a cat). 

After his surgery, Michael went to Noah’s Ark, where he is currently the greeter cat. You can find him most days hanging out in the main lobby or lying on the front desk. He usually tries to find a basket to crawl in and will sometimes even allow you to pet him (if he’s not in an amicable mood, you’ll get a swat to the hand).

You must always check out Michael’s nails. He wears Soft Paws in a myriad of colors. Usually, he has a rainbow on the tips of his toes. 

Michael went from being a kitty with a very poor prognosis to the president of the Noah’s Ark Social Committee (however, being that Michael is  not always the most social cat, he may need to learn how to take the dogs for walks or clean a few cages if he loses his front desk job).

Are you looking for me? Darn, don't I blend in here?

Are you looking for me? Darn, don't I blend in here?

Apple Seed, now safe, and not breathing like Darth Vader any longer.Apple Seed, now safe, and not breathing like Darth Vader any longer.

Last Thursday, a friend of ours, Alfred, who does construction work, called Joe in a panic, because there were three kittens hanging around the site he had begun working at–a site with lots of trucks and semis and heavy equipment. Alfred was worried the kittens were going to get run over and was especially concerned about one of the kittens who appeared to already have something wrong with it.

On Friday, I stopped by the construction site, but it began storming and pouring rain in curtains of water, so I stayed in the car looking for any signs of the kittens. I did see one black and white fuzzball hiding beneath a truck parked near the house. That made me really worry, since kittens are famous for climbing up into engines or on the wheels of vehicles to find warmth and to get out of the weather.

After talking to Alfred later in the day, Joe and I met him back at the construction site on our way home from dinner with my parents. I brought along canned food, but no carriers to collect the cats, as I planned to assess the situation, see if our local humane society had room for them, and return the next day when it was light out (we were wandering around the construction site in the dark).

Only two of the kittens were there. The one Alfred thought was hurt was nowhere to be found. One kitten was black and white, while the other, which Alfred had described as being white and very shy, was actually a lynx point Siamese (a cross between a tabby and a Siamese). She had big, beautiful blue eyes, and she was a bit frightened, until I cracked open the cans of food and then she scurried just a bit closer. I was able to pick her up with no problem and she was soon purring so hard her chest rumbled like a diesel engine.

The little black and white guy had an upper respiratory infection and sounded a lot like Darth Vader as he breathed. Even when I put the soft food in front of him, he did not respond until I smeared a bit on his mouth. Obviously, he could not smell it and had to taste it first to realize it was something to eat. Once he knew that, he dug in with gusto.

I worried about leaving these little guys behind in the dark and cold–we were supposed to get frost that night. But Alfred was worried that if we took them, the other injured kitten would not show up. I had been around the house and barn calling for the other kitten with no luck. I had even found a box that I thought I could safely put the kittens in and hold them on my lap to take them home. I was nervous about leaving them behind.

Alfred told us that the kittens had been living in an old house on the property. Earlier in the week, the construction crew had begun to demolish the vacant, sagging structure, causing Alfred’s initial concern that the kittens would be harmed in the process. The people who had lived in the house had moved out several months ago, leaving the kittens behind. When the new owner bought the property and began construction on his new house and barn, he noticed the abandoned kittens and began feeding them. He did not, however, want to keep them.

Once the house was torn down, the kittens basically lost their shelter and were now running around outside, trying to find a warm, safe spot away from all the construction traffic. Two of them (the lynx point girl was too smart) were so friendly that they were constantly running up to the workers and getting in the way of feet and tires and dangerous equipment.

Although, I didn’t want to, we did decide that the best solution was to leave the kittens at the house to see if the third one would show up in the morning. I worried the whole way home about them, but planned to stop back early in the morning to collect them. In the meantime, I contacted Carol at the Union County Humane Society to see if they had room for three kittens. Carol assured me that she would make space for them. “What is one more kitten or three?” she said. I promised to bring them to her the next day.

Saturday morning, Bobbie and I returned to the construction site, carriers and food in hand. Alfred had told us that there would be no one there and with the quiet, we should have no problem finding the kittens. But when we arrived, a backhoe was digging up the former house site, someone was mowing the lawn, and a semi was parked in the driveway.

We got out and began searching for the kittens, who were nowhere to be found. The night before they had been sitting by the garage, but today, that area was absent of kittens. We trekked around the house and barn, calling, “Here kitty, kitty,” to no avail.

Then I walked to the front of the house and there on the porch was the black and white kitten from the previous evening and the missing kitten. The lynx point girl was noticeably absent with all the noise and commotion.

The missing kitten was also black and white, but when I saw him, I knew something was horribly wrong. His entire face was covered in blood and he was lying lethargically in the gravel.

I called for Bobbie. I was too big of a coward to put the injured kitten in the carrier. She marched forward and took care of the situation, while I stood with a hand over my face, horrified at what we had found.

It was obvious these guys were not going to the humane society. Instead, we rushed both of them, the bloody, battered kitten, and our Darth Vader breathing friend, to Noah’s Ark, where Dr. West was on duty.

Dr. West took one look at the bloodied kitten and sucked in a deep breath. “What have you brought me now?” she asked, followed closely by, “What are you trying to do to me?” Her next words would seem prophetic looking back. “It looks as if someone hit this baby in the face with a shovel.”

Both kittens were boys and since we did not have names for them, they became A and B, later re-christened to Apple Seed and Bean Bag. Apple Seed, our Darth Vader imitator, had a horrible upper respiratory infection. But other than that, he was very healthy. Little Bean Bag, however, was in very bad shape. He had a broken jaw. 

Dr. West told us that if the little guy tried to eat or showed any signs of being a fighter, she was not going to euthanize him. And, once he was cleaned up, this kitten, who was in unimaginable pain, did try to eat and began to purr and make “air biscuits.” Well there was no way Dr. West was going to take the life from a kitten who so desperately wanted to live. In fact, after a bit of pain medicine, little Bean Bag tried to eat hard food and played with a ball by grasping it in his mouth. Dr. West said it was as if he didn’t even know he had a broken jaw!

Later in the day, we finally retrieved the lynx point Siamese girl. Alfred had gone out to look for her and was sitting on the porch petting her when Joe and I arrived. 

When I had called Alfred earlier in the day to tell him the kitten had a broken jaw, he said that he had been afraid there was something seriously wrong with it. In fact, he had called Joe to get me involved because one of the other workers had said, “Should we just club it to death and put it out of its misery?” Alfred stopped the worker from doing that, but I wonder now if something happened with a shovel, like Dr. West thought, before Alfred got involved. 

This story will be ongoing. For now, Apple Seed and the lynx point girl are safe (Dr. West has now named her “Cat-cus”–a funny spelling of Cactus to accentuate the “Cat” in the word). Apple Seed is with me, getting antibiotics, playing with his toy mouse, and happy beyond belief. Cat-cus is getting spayed today and will soon be ready to be adopted into a home where she will never, ever have to worry again.

Bean Bag went to Dr. Klein, Naomi’s dental savior, yesterday to have his jaw repaired. We found out last night that he had multiple fractures and the surgery was quite intense. As soon as I know more about our little guy, I will post updates. 

I can only hope that his injuries were due to a mishap with a car and not a shovel. I can forgive an accident, but not intentional cruelty.

I've got a snotty nose, but other than that, I am feeling fine!

Apple Seed says, "I've got a snotty nose, but other than that, I am feeling fine!"


Most of you won’t recognize the name LifeCare Alliance, but you will recognize the name of their largest and most successful program for seniors: Meals on Wheels.

I have supported LifeCare Alliance ever since they brought my grandma meals when she was living on her own (for the first time in her life) in an assisted living center in Hilliard. Even after she died, I made sure to always participate in their “Meals for Moms and Dads” programs each year. For Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, my mom and dad always find a card in the mail saying that several senior moms and dads received a meal due to a donation that Joe and I and my sister, Bobbie, always make.

Because I believe LifeCare Alliance does a ton of good for seniors and because I have donated, I always receive their newsletter. In the most recent Winter 2010 newsletter, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they now offer a program called “The Pet Care Program,” which works to keep pets with their senior human companions. The article was called, “Taking Care of the Entire Family.” I think that is lovely. For many older people, their pets are their only family and it is nice that a large organization, such as LifeCare Alliance, recognizes that.

The newsletter explained that “The Pet Care Program enables homebound and older adults to keep their companion pets with them. Pets provide the psychological, emotional and socialization support that homebound individuals need to live happy lives and achieve a successful level of aging.”

The newsletter further asked that if you know someone “who needs help taking care of their pet or you would like to donate pet food or pet care supplies” to contact The Pet Care Program, which is sponsored by LifeCare Alliance, at (614) 278-3130.

I know the volunteers with Meals on Wheels will even take pet food to people who they deliver human meals to. So if you are looking for a good group to support or you have an elderly relative or friend who could use some help with their pet, please contact the people working with The Pet Care Program. 

To learn more about LifeCare Alliance, visit:

Goth Kittens? Give me a break. Mutilated is more like it.Goth Kittens? Give me a break. Mutilated is more like it.

I first heard about the “goth kittens” a few months ago on a Care2 blog titled “Pet Accessories Gone Wrong.” I couldn’t agree more that there is something wrong with piercing three month old kittens and labeling them as “gothic.”

Yes, you read that right.  Dog breeder, Holly Crawford of Pennsylvania was piercing kittens not only through the ears, but also on the back of the neck. She also used a rubber band to cut off blood flow to the tail of one kitten so the tail would fall off.

And, you guessed it, these “goth kittens” were black in color, mimicking, I suppose, in Crawford’s mind, those people who dress in black and sport various bits of jewelry through many different portions of flesh in the goth subculture. So, of course, it only made sense that to be true gothic felines, the tiny kittens required multiple piercings, as well; piercings that were done by Crawford using a 14-gauge needle that is usually reserved to puncture the thicker skin of cows.

I cringe to think about the pain associated with this practice, especially for those kittens that were pierced through the back of the neck. As Kayla Coleman noted in her blog on Care2, the neck on a cat is very sensitive. A mother cat will hold a kitten by the back of the neck to make it submissive so she can carry it. By “scruffing a cat,” or grabbing it by the skin on the back of the neck, you can essentially do the same thing to a cat and cause it to become more submissive. This practice is often used in veterinary clinics to control scared or aggressive cats. But eventually the “scruffed” cat is released, the pressure eases, and the cat returns to a normal state. A constant pressure on the back of the neck, via the piercing, must have produced a constant state of submissiveness in the tiny kittens. Who knows what kind of mental distress that may have caused.

Although Crawford maintained that the needles she used were sterile and she watched to make sure the pierced sites did not become infected, I think she did more damage to these tiny creatures than she can ever know. Once the kittens were “healed,” she then sold them online for hundreds of dollars.

Crawford was charged with animal cruelty and sentenced to a year of house arrest on April 12. To read more about the details of her trial, go to: Gothic Kittens

To see a video of the actual kittens from when they were rescued back in December, go to: Gothic Kittens YouTube Video. Happily, they had the piercings removed and all look very happy and healthy.

Sadly, these kittens are just one of many in a long line of animals that humans have inflicted strange cosmetic practices on to make them look good in our eyes or behave in ways more in line with how we think they should behave. We dock the tails and ears of dogs, because we don’t like the way these body parts look in their natural states.

There are even some people who have testicular prosthetic implants surgically placed in their neutered dogs to keep the dog looking “macho.” Called “neuticles,” these devices have no actual value to the animal, but make some humans feel better about the “look” of their male dogs.

We also cut off a cat’s toes at the joint to keep them from tearing up furniture by doing what comes naturally to them–scratching. This, too, is a type of mutilation that, unlike piercing kittens to produce a “goth” look, is socially accepted. It’s more common name is declawing.


My favorite books as a child were the C. S. Lewis Narnia tales. My grandma bought me the seven book collection one summer while I was staying with her. I was horrified by the enormous price, $19.95, but grandma didn’t blink an eye since it was for me.

I loved the series, not only because I dreamed of entering a wardrobe and being transported to another world, but also because the stories featured talking animals as many of the main characters. Most of these animals were noble and courageous, traits sometimes lacking in their human counterparts. I became more upset when an animal was harmed in Narnia than when a human fell victim to the same fate. I also felt so sorry for the “dumb,” speechless animals that lived beyond the boundaries of Narnia, back in the “real world.”

Of course, like most girls, I was also “horse crazy.”  I remember hearing my bus driver ask a teenage girl who rode my grade school bus route which she would rather have, a car or a horse? The girl hesitated, but eventually picked the car. I was flabbergasted. Who would ever turn down a horse for a car?

Because of my equine infatuation, many of the books I read, such as Misty of Chincoteague and The Black Stallion, featured the amazing beasts.


The first book I ever remember crying about was Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows. I was stretched out on our couch, cuddled under a blanket, when I reached the last page of the tale of Old Dan and Little Ann, two loyal and loving coonhounds. The ending recounted that the two dogs were buried side by side upon death and between their graves grew a giant red fern. As the story explained, only an angel could plant a red fern and where it grew was considered, in Indian legends, to be a sacred spot. I buried my head under the blanket so no one in my family would see my tears, and tease me, as I finished the book.

The second book that made me sob was also a story about animals, Old Cat and the Kitten by Mary E. Little. The story resembles much of what I encounter today. A young boy begins taking care of an older tomcat and a kitten, but when his family must move, the cats are slated for abandonment because the boy’s father is allergic to them. You cannot know how many times I have heard that same story echoed, not in the pages of a book, but in my real life.

I still have Old Cat and the Kitten on my bookshelf. Mom bought it for me through a book club at school. Even now, when I pulled it down to look at it and read the last few pages, a giant lump formed in my chest and I had to close the cover to stop the emotions.

That is the power of a writer. And of our connection to animals.

From Jack, the faithful canine in the Little House books, to all of the animal characters in Beatrix Potter’s tales, I always found an author’s portrayal of these creatures to be fascinating and, at times, heart breaking.

Much of what I write, also, of course, features animals. If you, too, have a love of animals and of writing for children, check out a contest on the Guide to Literary Agents blog: Dear Lucky Agent Contest for Middle Grade or Young Adult Fiction.


BarkPark Bert, will always, in our minds, be standing at the edge of the pond, barking his joy.BarkPark Bert, will always, in our minds, be standing at the edge of the pond, barking his joy.

If you spent any time at BarkPark, the dog park that donated one million dollars to area animal welfare organizations and was heaven on earth for many dogs that had never known happiness until they passed through its gates, you will clearly remember Bert. Bert was the dog who always stood at the edge of the BarkPark pond, front feet and legs partially submerged in the water while his back end usually stayed firmly planted on land. Sometimes, he would get all four paws wet, but he would never venture far from the shore. From that position at the water’s edge, Bert would bark a canine song of happiness, a song that expressed the exuberance of every other dog in the park. 

I had an email this week from Bert’s mom, Marcia, letting all of Bert’s friends know that this beloved dog passed away on April 6. Bert had been battling lymphoma for eight months. Bert died sitting outside gazing at his pond, while Marcia and her husband, Lennie, held him in their arms. 

Although, BarkPark closed at the end of the season in 2008, Marcia plans to hold a memorial BarkPark to celebrate Bert’s life, which touched so many people. 

We send our thoughts and prayers to Marcia, Lennie, and the rest of their canine family as they mourn the loss of a very special dog. Good-bye, BarkPark Bert.


To read more about all the good BarkPark has done (and continues to do) for local animal welfare groups, and to see more photos of very happy dogs, visit,

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