Puck Needs Help.

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Okay, I already posted today, but this is something that can’t wait, so I’m adding it now:

Kayla and Puck

I’m posting about a cat named Puck, who I learned about on Twitter. I’m telling you right now, I don’t know this cat, I don’t know Kayla, his mom, and I can’t even vouch for the veracity of the story. All I can tell you is that I read the blog post at the end of this link and I thought, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

So I’m choosing to believe the story, because I can’t imagine anyone being so crass as to make up something like this just to get money. I’m sure it’s possible, but I don’t want to live in that world. So I’m sharing it here for those of you who will understand.

Kayla is a student at Oberlin College, about 2,000 miles away from home, where her beloved cat, Puck, lives with her parents. She learned via an email that he was gravely injured in the kind of accident I think any cat owner can imagine happening to their own beloved pet.

Read the rest for yourself and respond as your heart moves you.

From Chop Shop to Edward Scissorhands

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Warning: This one’s a little hard to take,
until you learn of the happy ending.

“We got this phone call from Escambia County Animal Control and they asked us if we could take a dog whose feet, ears and tail had been cut off,” said Nikki Headley, co-manager of New Beginnings, Destin, Florida’s newest no-kill shelter for disabled pets.

Eddie was brought to a shelter in Pensacola on July 5 by a woman who found Eddie wandering the streets as a stray. The dismembered pooch had a friendly demeanor that did not match his tortured appearance.

Escambia County realized the dog they had affectionately dubbed “Chop Shop” had a slim chance at being adopted in his condition, so they contacted the shelter. Read the rest of the story – It’s truly one of the many examples of how disabled pets overcome situations that most humans would find completely debilitating.

Ivan – A Love Story

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Every once in a while, Barb Techel over at Joyful Paws lets loose with one of her “Occasional Paws” feature stories. I just had to share this recent one about Ivan the Beagle, because it so perfectly embodies what we’re about here at Almost Perfect Pets.

Those of you who’ve been following for a while might recognize Barb’s name – we featured her blog a bit ago: You know, the one about Frankie, the Walk & Roll Dog. Frankie’s another example of the absolute best that can be brought out of a difficult situation. Barb wrote about her wheeled dachsie in her own book, too!

You know, when I started this blog, I wondered how I was going to keep up with it among all my other obligations. But I’ve come to realize that I look forward to coming here and sharing with you all the beauty of what can happen when humans learn to look past the disabilities to the shining, pulsing vibe of pure love and, yes, joy that just emanates from special needs pets. It’s such a balm against all the bad news that threatens to beat us all down each day, and I’m happy to be able to spread some of the good stuff around this place.

When I got the idea for Almost Perfect, I never dreamed how it would change my life. I just thought it was a neat idea for a book. But through this project, I’ve met some of the most incredible, dedicated, loving and just downright decent human beings I will ever know. And you know who you are. 🙂

Frankie, the face of inspiration

I feel truly blessed to have stumbled upon the wonderful community that has arisen around this topic. Barb was right on when she named her blog and her website “Joyful Paws.” Thanks for sharing all the wonderful stories with us all, and for being part of the solution, Barb!

A Neat Publication For You to Check Out!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

When Almost Perfect came out last year, one of the first publications to let readers know about it was Bay Woof, a free monthly newspaper for San Francisco Bay area dog lovers.

This kewl color paper ran an excerpt in its December, 2008 issue of Bay area resident Vicki Tiernan’s essay about her dog Ruby, which is the cover story in our anthology. Yes, that’s the irrepressible Ruby, proudly brandishing her branch-sized version of a “stick.”

Ruby’s entire personality was equally outsized, as is the heart and soul of Bay Woof, editor Mindy Toomay. Mindy felt the hopeful, inspiring message of our little book was important enough to include in her popular publication. We’re inspired by her dedication to all dogs, especially those in her beautiful City By the Bay. And we thank her for allowing us to grace the pages of her fine paper.

If you’re ever in the Bay Area, be sure to pick up a copy. It’s available free at all kinds of places around the city!

Catch me on Steve Dale’s Pet World Radio this Saturday!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Hey, Y’all –

Well, Steve did call me and we had a nice chat about disabled pets and our book, Almost Perfect. Turns out it was not live, but being taped, so sorry if anyone tried to tune in and couldn’t figure out what was going on.

What a nice guy. He really cares about critters. And boy, 15 minutes sure flies by fast when you’re talking about things you care passionately about! I was bummed not to have the chance to give out our Web address, but hey — Steve mentioned the book title quite a few times. Thanks, Steve!

You can catch the show either by visiting WLS’ On Demand Weekend Radio or by going directly to Steve’s site. He says the shows remain posted for a week.

Hope you have a chance to catch it!

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Listen for us on Steve Dale’s PetWorld Radio Show!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Okay, y’all. Here’s one I owe to Ms. Vicki for “suggesting” I send a copy of Almost Perfect to Steve Dale, longtime pet champion, now at Chicago’s WLS radio station. Apparently, he dug it, because I got a call today asking if I’d do an interview about the book today at noon CST. Gee, I think I could manage that…

Steve Dale

For those of you not familiar with Steve’s show, it’s called PetWorld Radio, and it’s VERY popular. Steve hosts this one-hour weekly talk show, syndicated to over 65 stations throughout the U.S. and Canada. During this fun and informative hour, Steve chats with leading pet book authors during his “Pick of the Litter” segment. (Wow — I’m a leading pet author — woo hoo!)

He also talks with veterinarians about issues that affect the quality of life of our furry family members. Most importantly, Steve helps listeners with pet issues from cats missing litter boxes, to dogs that are too anxious to be left alone. Steve’s compassion for animals is legendary and he wants your pets and you to have a happy home.

Regular features include “Real People, Real Pets” which involves Steve chatting up regular folks on the street with irregular questions about their pets, and “Vets on Pets,” the only radio segment officialy endorsed by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association). And each week, he travels the globe to bring you the latest and strangest “Animal News” segment.

Steve just joined WLS 890 AM in Chicago with his show. “Steve Dale’s Pet World” airs at 2 p.m. Saturday, with an additional hour available on-demand at wlsam.com.

He says we’ll be chatting for about 15 minutes, so hope you can listen in. I’m flattered to be invited.

No More Homeless Pets

Posted on by Mary Shafer

One of the most incredible groups working for the humane treatment of companion animals is Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah. You may be familiar with the organization through the TV show Dogtown on the National Geographic Channel. (If you’re not, you don’t know what you’re missing!) Word Forge Books, our publishing house, is a member of Best Friends and supports the work of this incredible group of dedicated professionals and volunteers.

I especially like the organization because, unlike many rescue operations, not only does Best Friends NOT discriminate against special needs animals, it actually welcomes them. After all, Best Friends is what’s known as a shelter of last resort, meaning they take the most difficult-to-place animals no one else wants and everyone else has given up on. (However, I want to make clear that not every person or group who sends animals to Best Friends wants to do so; often, they simply don’t have the resources to deal with such demanding cases.)

Still, that means Best Friends often takes in disabled, neglected and abused pets…and that makes them some of our…best friends.

Photo ©2009 Best Friends

Recently, in the March/April 2009 issue of their magazine (a beautifully produced member benefit), Best Friends featured a story called Going the Extra Mile: Transporting pets out-of-state for adoption is a growing trend, in the “No More Homeless Pets” section. It’s about the increasing movement to enable homeless pet adoption by transporting them from areas of high concentration with few adopters to areas where people looking to adopt are more plentiful but have fewer animals from which to choose. I think of it as the “bringing the mountain to Mohammed” approach, and it’s just brilliant. I guess it’s only become feasible recently to do such transport; otherwise, why didn’t someone think of this before? It’s such an obvious no-brainer!

Anyway, I’ll leave the whole story for you to enjoy at their website, but I wanted to feature here some information from this article’s sidebar. It’s great stuff, very actionable on both an immediate and an extended basis, and it’s something you can print out or bookmark to use later and to refer friends to, who seem interested in helping but don’t know where to start:

How You Can Help
Here are just a few ways you can help transport animals to their forever homes:
• Find out which animal shelters and rescue groups are in your area. Ask around, do an Internet search or try the phone book. Most of the groups will need volunteers for various aspects of transporting animals, including scheduling volunteers and driving “legs” of a journey. Contact them.
• Help spread the word about transport needs. Social networking sites are loaded with animal lovers. Working with the shelter or rescue group, post messages on the Best Friends Network, Twitter.com, Facebook.com, LinkedIn.com, MySpace.com, Craigslist.org or online forums. Send text messages to your animal-loving friends by cell phone.
• Know who wants to help, and stay in touch. Many transport requests are urgent, so it’s important, in advance, to build a list of volunteers that includes basic contact information such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Keep e-mail alerts short and to the point, and write in all pertinent information, including necessary contact phone numbers and addresses and photos of animals needing transport.
• Provide temporary lodging or transportation. Rescuers often seek overnight foster homes for pets on the way to their destinations. Also, they may need someone to take them to and from a foster home or a veterinary clinic.
• Volunteer to drive or to be a passenger. You can also donate the use of your own van or SUV.
• Donate pet carriers, fluffy pads for carriers, pet food, and cash toward fuel costs.
• Walk the dogs before a trip or help load the vehicle.

See? So much of this is stuff you can do easily, on an irregular basis, or just when you have the time (I know you’re busy). None of it is glamorous, showy work — leave that to the celebrities — but it’s all necessary, and it’s all appreciated by and tremendously helpful to those who spend most of their time doing this work on behalf of our fellow species.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by the apparent inability of one or two folks to do anything positive about the problem of unwanted pets, think again: There’s lots you can do, and all of it matters. I’ll leave you with the immortal wisdom of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Rock on, Marg.

Contest Winner Announced!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Hey, thanks to everyone who wrote in with their guesses on who’s older, Idgie or me. The correct answer — according to my source — is that it’s me, by 4 years.

The first one to send the correct answer was my friend and fellow creative, Tony Gleeson. Tony’s a professional illustrator, bibliophile and all-around good guy. I’ve known him now for going on 20 years, and the weird thing is…we’ve never actually met.

One of Tony’s lissome creations…

We got to be friends after connecting via letters to the editor to a long-extinct trade mag called Graphic Design: USA. (That was back in the earl 90s, before I came to my senses and realized I’d never be a top-o-the-line designer and instead belonged behind a keyboard). We were both bemoaning the arrival of desktop publishing, which took away all the sensuousness of the design/illustration trades. And yes, these were actual SNAIL MAIL letters! There was no such thing as email yet, and we were both still phobic about computers. We both laugh about it now, because neither of us could make our livings without one.

But I’ll always just smile when I think about how long we’ve known each other now, and how many really personal things we’ve shared…yet without ever having actually met in person. What a long, strange trip it’s been…and continues to be.

So, here’s to Tony, also a critter lover, and his fabulous sense of humor. You won, buddy — and your book is on its way.

Thanks for participating, everybody — we’ll do it again soon! Till then – HAPPY SUMMER!

Double Birthday, and the gift is for YOU!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Bewildered birthday girl: 48??? I don’t THINK so…

Today I turn 48 years old. I have no idea how that happened. But at least I’m in good company!

The Birthday Queen awakens from her nap on the windowsill.

Joining me in our birthday celebration is Idgie, who turns 7 today. We don’t really know what her actual birthday is, since she’s a rescue, but we figured it was sometime in June — so why not celebrate with Mom?

Some of you know that Idgie is one of our four special needs cats, and the one I wrote about in my essay, “The Thanksgiving Miracle” from our latest book, Almost Perfect: Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them. That truly was a miraculous holiday, and Idgie continues to be the best gift the universe has ever given me. I will always be thankful for her and all the things she’s taught me.

We’re going to celebrate with a small can of “naughty” wet food (instead of Science Diet) for Idgie (and no, she’s not fat — that’s all fur. She only weighs 9 pounds!) and tostadas at my favorite Mexican restaurant for me. Wish I could claim the same fur thing, but alas…

Anyway, two years from today — when I turn 50 — I’m giving myself the long-awaited gift of a storm chasing vacation in Tornado Alley. So now that I’m on the far side of 40, I’ve got something HUGE to look forward to. Twisters have always terrified me, so I figure the only way to get over that is to face one, up close and personal. It’ll either kill me or I’ll get over this lifelong fear. And yes…I will be wearing a Depends. LOL!

If I can figure out how to do it, I’ll also be blogging that trip from the road. So stay tuned, critter lovers and fellow weather weenies, and buckle your seatbelts — it’s going to be a bumpy ride! (apologies to Bette Davis)

Meanwhile, to celebrate, I’m offering a free copy of Almost Perfect to the first person who emails me (admin AT wordforgebooks.com) with the correct answer to this question:

I’m 48 and Idgie is 7, in human years. Who’s actually older, and by how much, in cat years? (I reserve the final judgment on this, based on the source I subscribe to, so no arguing.) Remember to include your snail mail postal address so I can send your prize. Good luck!

Case solved?

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Does this look like the face of a serial cat murderer? Think again.

I’m somewhat relieved to report that authorities believe they’ve caught the serial cat killer in Miami. Read the rest on Gina Spadafori’s Pet Connection. I say “Somewhat” because they don’t know if this is the guy for sure, they don’t know if he’s the only one, and — worst of all — if he IS the one, what does it say about a world where an 18-year-old kid could derive pleasure from this sort of thing? Exquisitely sad, no matter the outcome. ::sigh::