We Have A Winner…

Posted on by Mary Shafer

…in our Khyra Khares Khontest! Well…actually, two. Or three, depending on how you look at it. 🙂

The beautiful Scout and Freyja over at Loving For A Living were the first to reply, saying the project will be called the UGA Veterinary Training Hospital, and they’re trying to raise $10 million. But then I realized my question was, what was the name of the FUND, not the project itself.

That correct answer came in with the next entry, which was from Jan, when she correctly identified it as Billy’s Building Fund. And I figured: Well, they’re both winners. And of course, Khyra will win a copy for having gotten this all started in the first place!

So, three copies of Twelve Days of a Canine Christmas will soon be winging their ways to these lovely folks and critters. I love a contest where everyone wins, and we all certainly win when we’re looking out for each other and for those who can’t look out for themselves, don’t we?

Thanks to everyone who entered, and who sent comments and well wishes. Khyra, you certainly do have lots and LOTS of friends out there! No surprise there, sweet girl. Give your mom a high five and you can both do the happy dance together! We’ll continue to visit Khyra’s Khorner regularly and to keep doing what we can to help fight the good fight.

It’s Nice to Share.

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Hey, Y’all –

Sorry I’ve been AWOL for two weeks! I took a much-needed brief vacation to beautiful Cape Cod (the New York Thruway at this time of year is just full of incredible scenic beauty!). Then we weren’t back even a week when both humans here at Hill House came down with God-knows-what; some kind of flu.

Is it the H1N1 or “swine flu” form? Not sure (and is it just me, or does that name read “hiney” if you look at it really quickly? Like “hiney virus” or “hiney swiney?” Okay, I’m done. No one’s ever accused me of being overly mature…), but I can report with absolute veracity that I don’t recall having been this sick in years…

But I’m back now, easing back into the work routine. In that vein, I thought it would be nice to steer away from some of the heavier stuff this blog has been dealing with lately. Instead, I’d like to share with you one of the blogs I follow.

Khyra’s Khorner is just a lovely little blog where Khyra, the Siberian Husky (and sometimes her mom) share their many, varied and interesting thoughts on pretty much everything dog, occasionally about cats and other critters, and often about their humans, as well. I’ve never met Khyra or her mom, though we do live in the same state of “Pawsylvania.” But I hope someday we DO get to meet, because these galz are both just sweet, kind and thoughtful beings who really care about others and use their blog to try to help many critter-related causes.

I learn so much about so many things on Khyra’s blog (and did I mention the truckload of great photos she always shares with us? You can’t help but be buoyed by the fantastic furries she features!). One of those things I learned about was that the University of Georgia’s Veterinary School is in desperate need of funds to build a new teaching hospital. I think this is such a great cause that I’m making this offer:

Go visit Khyra’s blog and find the link called “Let’s Build A Hospital.” Read all about it, and check out all the other kewl stuff there. Then, come on back here. The first one to email me with the full answer to this question – What’s the name of the fund and how much money are they trying to raise? — will earn a copy of “Twelve Days of a Canine Christmas” by Betty Linkinhoker, for themselves and one for Khyra.

It’s a great little gift book and just my way of saying thanks for caring about this very important effort, and for Khyra’s khonstant khalling of our attention to these khinds of things that really matter. So get in the holiday spirit and enter our Khyra Khares Khontest! And while you’re at it, if you can afford a little gift of your own to the hospital’s fund drive, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

Another new book to check out!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Well, it may be a bad year for lots of things — including the publishing industry at large — but it’s certainly been a good one for books about special critters! Here’s the latest in the bumper crop:

TO THE RESCUE: Found Dogs with a Mission will be available from Skyhorse Publishing on November 1. This beautifully designed hardcover has a Foreword by daytime talk show host Bonnie Hunt.

It’s the latest book from animal adoption activist Elise Lufkin, author of Found Dogs: Tales of Strays Who Landed on Their Feet (1997) and Second Chances: More Tales of Found Dogs (2003). In these touching stories, illustrated with poignant photographs by Diana Walker, people give their rescued dogs much more than just a good home: They train them to be certified service animals, whose missions include visiting hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes, guiding the blind and deaf, and detecting narcotics, bombs and even bed bugs.

In a world where cruelty and neglect impact the lives of children, adults, and animals alike, it’s truly inspiring to read about these dogs who bring comfort, assistance and happiness to others in need. Check out some great examples of such stories in this piece by TIME magazine. I like the second one, about Fred.

Fred was discovered, thin and mangy, in a park.
Now he visits elementary schools as a service dog.

It’s an incredible book, and another great idea for holiday gifts…especially since ALL proceeds are donated to animal shelters and welfare organizations! Can’t beat that: Kewl book AND good karma, all in one package!

In fact, as far as I can tell, there’s only ONE thing wrong with this book: That I didn’t think of the idea first! LOL. Put it on your wishlist, folks, and know you’re doing a Good Thing. Which reminds me…we should make sure Martha knows about this…

Take THAT, Michael Vick!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

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Because the press can’t resist any level of sensationalism, it pretty much seems like any story involving a pit bull has some measure of horror to it. They usually don’t bother to cover the ones where the pit bull is the hero, but this one’s different. Yes, there is an element of horror, but in the end, the dog prevails.

According to yesterday’s Chicago Tribunal:

By all accounts, Red is a great dog. The 7-year-old pit bull knows more than a dozen commands – verbally and through hand signals. He is playful, smart, protective. And that last attribute almost got him killed.

Back in July, two gunmen attacked and robbed Red’s elderly owner in his West Side garage, beat him severely and tied him up. Then they burglarized the man’s home, where Red was. And they shot the dog. The attack is still under investigation, according to the Chicago Police Department.

“I guess Red was doing his job, defending his master’s property, and they shot him in the back, paralyzed him,” said the victim, a man in his 60s who asked that his name not be used.

Go to the full story to read more, where you’ll find a heroic Red beating the odds to survive and, finally, thrive. Who’s the man now, Michael Vick?

PS – I had written here about never buying another pair of Nikes OR Reeboks. I have since been informed that, though both seriously considered giving Vick an endorsement deal, both withdrew their offers after he was convicted of dogfighting and animal cruelty. So, I stand corrected.

We’re In Good Company!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

We’ve been promoting Almost Perfect as the only book of its kind so far, devoted solely to a collection of disabled pets. There are several books devoted only to disabled dogs or other single species, or to one specific handicapped pet, and you should definitely check these out, too (especially our friend Frankie, the Walk ‘n Roll Dog, who just got a great review over at Dawn Kairns’ blog).

But so far, our book has pretty much been on its own as a nonfiction anthology with an “ensemble cast” of almost perfect critters. We were joined in August by a wonderful new book titled Where The Blind Horse Sings.

Unlike Almost Perfect, it’s not solely devoted to physically disabled animals, but it does feature them prominently not only in its title, but in its true-life story of how owner Kathy Stevens created her unique Catskills Animal Sanctuary. Of course, it could also be argued that any animal that has suffered abuse is at least in some way emotionally handicapped, and clearly this is a topic broached at length by Where The Blind Horse Sings.

And I think that puts us in very good company.

Here’s the review from Publishers Weekly (Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.):

Giving up a thriving 11-year teaching career, Stevens bought a disastrously rundown farm on a vast number of acres, and with sheer determination, boundless compassion and limited funds turned it into an acclaimed haven for abused livestock, the Catskills Animal Sanctuary. In her first book, Stevens, though she humbly claims “our job was to love and nurture them without expectation,” presents the heartening story of the difficult work that has gone into saving more than 1,100 lives since the sanctuary’s 2001 founding.

The blind horse of the title appears among an eclectic company of pigs, sheep, cows, ducks and other animals with improbably Broadway-sized personalities-personalities revealed as the bond between people and animals strengthens, and the distinctions between them narrow. The anecdotes are fascinating, sometimes miraculous, and their power is undeniable: “I would not have believed that a rooster would so crave physical closeness that he’d demand to get in bed with me or that as he was dying, a gentle old steer named Samson would lick my face over and over until he took his last breath. But this stuff happens all the time.” Though sentimentality in this case is de rigeur (how could a book about love for animals avoid it?), the ideas behind Stevens’s stories-such as the inherent equality and nobility of all species-are affecting and thought-provoking.

Those of us in publishing know what an honor it is to get a glowing review like this from such a vaunted trade publication, and we extend hearty congratulations to Kathy and to her sanctuary. And welcome to the newly scrappy world of book publishing — always an adventure!

Kathy’s book represents a growing — and welcome — trend in global consciousness-raising around the real value of all living creatures…one that we’re very proud to be a part of. We’re all working for the same thing — loving and humane treatment of ALL critters — and what helps one of us helps us all. The visibility of Kathy’s book will raise the visibility of all such books, including ours, for which we are grateful.

So now you’ve got a great idea to add to your holiday wish list. I know it’s going to be on mine.

Meet Yu Chan, An Almost Perfect Turtle

Posted on by Mary Shafer


A little over a year ago Yu Chan, a 20-year-old loggerhead turtle, became entwined in fishermen’s nets in the Kii channel in Japan. Her wounds indicated she had also been attacked by a shark. She’d lost half of one forelimb, and a third of the other. She was brought to the Sea Turtle Association of Japan, which uses a saltwater pond near Kobe Airport for some of their work.

Loggerhead turtles are classified by the IUCN as an endangered species, and the organization treated her with according respect. After a period of recuperation, the plan was to release the turtle back into the wild. But some citizens of Kobe objected, saying it would be cruel to release Yu Chan back into the ocean in this condition. Without her full flippers, she would be vulnerable to predators and other hazards.

Kamezaki Naoki, Director of the Sea Turtle Association of Japan, explains: “We were thinking about releasing Yu Chan in the usual way, but some of Kobe’s residents objected and said that it would be cruel to release a turtle that had lost its flippers. And they were right.”

So, a fund was set up to help finance Yu Chan’s recovery, including paying for prosthetic limbs for the turtle. The Sea Turtle Association consulted Japan’s largest prosthetic limb manufacturer, Kawamura Gishi, and the company began work on the fake flippers.

The group knows it will be a challenge: There is no known successful case of artificial limbs being attached to sea turtles, which have fragile bones and use their limbs differently in water and on land.

“By promoting development of prosthetic devices, we want to apply them to other animals as well,” said Erika Akai, a 27-year-old researcher at the association who has studied behavior of dolphins fitted with artificial tail fins in Okinawa.

Read more and watch a video about this fascinating story.

There’s more about Yu Chan and a related story about the American turle, Allison, here.

Sticky gets a new home!

Posted on by Mary Shafer


It’s been a bad month in Philly for animals. Among other things, some stupid dude duct-taped a small gray tiger cat from neck to toes and left her to die. Thankfully, he didn’t finish the job by covering her breathing apparatus, and someone called animal rescue, so she was saved.

Here’s the happy story, telling how “Sticky” was rehabbed and adopted by some kind family.

This is the kind of thing that helps me remember that for every evil, cruel slimebag roaming the Earth, there is a kind, decent, compassionate person worthy of being called “human.” And some days, I really need to be reminded of that.

For instance, on the day I learned that the Philadelphia Eagles stooped so low in search of a Super Bowl berth that they would hire Michael “The Dog Torturer” Vick. I never liked the Eagles for any number of reasons (not the least of which is that I’m a Packers fan) before, but now I just cannot stand them.

Is this the kind of message we want to send to our children? That winning is more important than decency? Vick is NOT a rehabilitated criminal, and he is NOT sorry for what he did. He’s only sorry he got caught. This little charade he’s currently on — where he delivers talks against dogfighting to high schools, etc. — is just that: a farce. As soon as all the brouhaha dies down around his being picked up by the Eagles, that will stop cold, I’m sure.

The fact is, though, that not everyone will forget. Some of us are determined not to. Like these folks, with their “Ethics Over Athletics” signs, protesting outside the stadium on the day of the first game in which Vick appeared (he’s still not allowed to play yet):

You GO, protesters!

But the folks I really admire are the ones from the Philly ‘burbs, at Main Line Animal Rescue. They put their money where their mouths are with this full-page ad they ran in the Inquirer:

Woo-hoo! Talk about pay-to-play! This is one scheme I’m all for.

We need to keep up the pressure on the Eagles and the whole NFL. Every time Vick makes a play, instead of putting him up on the stadium big screen, they should show this guy, holding up a 60-lb. chain, used to “condition” fighting dogs. Three guesses what that little euphemism really means…

We can only guess at the number of dogs that have been maimed and tortured and turned into disabled animals over the years — if they weren’t just outright killed — by these kinds of practices. I’d very willingly take that chain to Vick myself. Let’s see how big and bad a man he is when someone turns his tactics back on his shameful self.

But then, I don’t think I’d want to touch him, for fear some of the ugliness might rub off. I’ll just have to concentrate on believing that the Karma gods know what they’re doing and will take care of him in their own time.

Happy Birthday, Super Man.

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Christopher Reeve, Actor and Activist, 1952-2004

Today would have been Christopher Reeve’s 57th birthday. Though I enjoyed the first Superman movie and his time-travel romance, “Somewhere In Time” (best part: the soundtrack), I can’t say I was a huge fan of his film work.

Oh, he was a good enough actor. But it was what he chose to do after he became paralyzed by a fall from a horse that I consider his most important life’s work. At a time when many would have simply given up and given in, Mr. Reeve became his strongest, most passionate self. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he and his wife (who, tragically, followed him in death not long after he died in 2004) created the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

One part of that foundation is its Paralysis Resource Center (PRC). This is a collection of publications, films and other informational items from which people can learn about paralysis is all its forms. Through these resources, families touched by this physical challenge can learn that they’re not so all alone, and can make informed decisions about how they will handle their situations.

My publishing company, Word Forge Books, is very proud that our latest title, Almost Perfect, is one of the many books in the loan library of the PRC. We’re honored that the Foundation found our little book worthy of inclusion in such a significant collection. We’re in quite distinguished company there, among some of the most important books ever written on the subject.

And all because one man refused to allow the loss of movement in most of his body to stop him from contributing something of real value to his world. Amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it, isn’t it? His is the human version of so many stories we know about disabled animals who wouldn’t even imagine allowing their disabilities to define their lives. Bless this incredible man for making the spreading of this message the most important story he ever told…and this time, he wasn’t acting.

So, happy birthday, Chris. You were—truly—a SUPER man.

P.S. Thanks to our ever-alert Roberta for bringing this to my attention.

A Dragon Lives Forever…But Not So, Little Girls

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Mary Travers, 1936-2009

Late last night, just before shutting down my computer, I learned I had lost someone who was very important in my early life.

Mary Travers, one-third of the trio “Peter, Paul and Mary,” left us yesterday. She had battled leukemia for years, and I’m glad she’s no longer suffering. But oh, how I will miss her, and them together.


PP&M’s music is THE soundtrack to my childhood, and their songs were especially comforting during times of family upheaval. When things got loud and scary, my little sister would bring her albums into my room and we’d put them on my portable “close-and-play” style record player. We’d shut the door, crank up the volume, and for the length of an album side, we would feel safe and less stressed while we listened to their beautiful harmonies and uplifting songs.

Particularly — and why I’m posting here — we loved “Puff, The Magic Dragon.” It was the song that introduced me to the concept that an animal’s love could, indeed, make life wondrous and rewarding. It taught the lesson not to take for granted those whom you love, and who love you. And I will always be grateful for this ever-present spot of gentleness in a world that often feels like the tumble cycle in a dryer full of rocks.

I read a beautiful tribute to her this morning, and it moved me to want to post something of my own.

Thanks, Mary, for all the peace, love and awareness you brought into my life. May you now soar free and sing for eternity, perched on the gigantic tail of an emerald-scaled Puff; for a song once told me, “A dragon lives forever…in a land called Honah Lee.”

And so I will leave you with this video of the young trio singing “Puff.” The sound quality’s not as good as later versions, but this is the one I fell in love and grew up with. They’re all in great voice, with full octave ranges before they were ravaged by time and other influences. And don’t we all want to be remembered as our best selves?