September 30, 2021

It has been quite a week for this introvert who doesn’t feel very comfortable doing a lot of self promotion. But, it is necessary for authors to do if they want more readers to find their book. So, this week I was lucky enough to do two different outreach events. First, I was interviewed by the delightful Julie Squires on her podcast, “Rekindling” (episode 135, published today). I also was invited to do an author presentation at the local library. I think it went pretty well! I met a lot of nice book lovers and got to chat about my characters and the purpose behind the book. I hope all who attended had a good time. If you are curious to hear the podcast, here it is:

June 4, 2021

Because my book includes characters who rescue animals and describes scenes of veterinary life, I thought my readers may enjoy hearing about some related real-life experiences of this author.

One very close to my heart is the story of the tiny, blind, feral kitten pictured above. My husband’s coworker found him in a chicken coop when he was just a few days old. Knowing I am a vet, she called us for assistance. It just so happened to be Easter evening. My beloved cat of nineteen years had passed away only a few weeks before, and I had told my family that I would need some time to mourn before deciding if we could adopt another cat. So, you can probably imagine where this is going.

I arrived on the scene a short time after being called and reached into the chicken coop to extract this dark, solo, newborn feline in the palm of my hand. Even with his eyes closed and his defenseless state, he hissed at me. I was shocked. I have fostered many stray cats, and all had been friendly until that moment. The difference between a stray and a feral cat is that a feral has had no positive interactions with humans ever. In fact, often for generations, a feral line of cats has been conditioned to fear people. When this is the case, the first time they smell a human, they hiss. This is a fascinating example of epigenetics (something my college biology students study).

The Humane Society of the United States takes a surprising, firm stance that truly feral kittens over the age of eight weeks cannot be made into good house pets and it should not be attempted. By that tender age, they will have already been made so wild, there is no hope to make them comfortable sharing a house with people. (Again, this is very different than for stray cats, who have known humans as good sources of food and attention throughout their lives, even if they lived outdoors without a true owner.) It is heartbreaking, really, but for older feral cats, the best thing that can be done is temporary capture so they can be properly vaccinated and sterilized, and then returned to the outdoor home they are comfortable in. But on that particular Easter evening, I knew I had a chance to give one feral kitten a comfortable, safe life.

Griffin, as we named him, was kept warm, snuggled often, bottle-fed kitten formula, burped and stimulated to eliminate on a regular schedule. The video below shows him enjoying a warm towel fresh from the dryer just after he finished a feeding. He quickly warmed up to human interaction. After a week or two, he was introduced to a new foster family of cats including a nursing mother and five litter-mates his own age. He learned important manners from his adoptive mother and siblings.

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We did keep track of Griffin’s birth mother, too, a gorgeous silver longhair we called Tulip, and when we were sure she wasn’t tending to any other littermates, we captured her for spay surgery and vaccinations. We attempted to reunite her with Griffin, but she had no interest in doing anything but eating my face and getting away from our home. I kept her in a porch for two weeks after the surgery while she healed, but she never showed any interest in being tamed and I ultimately determined with reluctance that the Humane Society was right and I didn’t want to subject her to a stressful life of captivity, so we released her to the same neighborhood where she had been found. She sunk a fang through my thick gloves as a goodbye gesture when we parted.

Griffin continues to be a loving and charming member of our family. He loves to be carried and will stand on his back legs with front arms extended asking to be lifted up just as a toddler might. He cuddles intensely with me, and has my heart completely. He gets along very well with another young cat we adopted as well as our family’s little rescued dog. I am so grateful that he was discovered and found his way to us. The picture below was taken today. He is now four years old.

May 25, 2021

This little bird was spotted on the sidewalk by my son while on a bike ride this afternoon. It was next to a busy road adjacent to the start of a bike trail; a high-traffic area. I went and found it right where my son told me to look, and watched from a distance for several minutes to see if a parent bird was tending to it. Strangely, there were no trees immediately nearby. I eventually walked to the closest tree and looked for a nest with no luck. So, I contacted the wonderful local non-profit Bird Rehabilitation group and carted him off for their expert care. He was quite hungry and cantankerous the entire drive, which I know are good signs! Fly high, young robin (I mean eventually, when you have all your feathers and stuff)!

May 21, 2021

It’s been five days and this little rab-let and I both refuse to give up. He is eating a recipe of formulas through a tiny french catheter. I am concerned he may not have gotten any colostrum. His eyes are still closed (and they should open at ten days of age). I still hope to place him in a rabbit nest with a mama taking care of other newborns, but I have had no luck finding one yet. We will keep on keeping on, and pray this little love beats the odds. UPDATE: I did connect with a neighbor who has an active rabbit nest. The two kits in it appear similar in age. We will place this little one in there and pray he does well. It is his best chance.

May 19, 2021

Three days ago, our family returned home and parked in the street in front of our house. My son said he thought he saw a mouse lying on the road next to our car. I looked out and saw a newborn rabbit on the pavement. Its eyes were still closed and its tiny ears folded back. There was some blood on and around it, but it was still alive. I picked up the poor chilled creature and cupped it in my hands to warm it.

My husband got out of the car on the curbside and exclaimed, “Here’s another one!” Sure enough, a second newborn rabbit was lying on the street at the edge of the curb. My daughter picked up that one to warm it and I told her we would have to find the nest to return them to because newborn rabbits do not fare well in human care.

As we wandered across our front lawn looking for the nest, we found three more rabbits of the same age without a home. We looked thoroughly in our yard and surrounding neighbors’ yards for the cozy hole they surely came from but could not locate it.

We brought them inside and put them in a pet carrier with a heating pad beneath. I contacted a number of wildlife rehabilators (8, to be exact), but they all told me the same thing: they were not taking neonate rabbits. You see, these guys have a less than 10% chance of survival, even in expert human care. Great. I wish Leigh was a real person and not just a character in my book, I am sure she would have stepped up.

So, here I am, three days later, $100 into supplies, attempting to care for these helpless babies. Some have died as I knew they likely would, but even if only one survives, it will be gratifying. Come on, little ones. I hope I will have a happy update to share on this blog next week.

March 6, 2021

As I logged onto social media this morning, I immediately noticed that many of my friends had a new frame on their profile pictures. It reads: “NOMV: Not One More Vet”. As I read on, I saw that vet med now has the distinction of being the profession with the highest suicide rate. I got the sick feeling in my stomach that I always do when I think of the bright, young, amazing veterinarians that have taken their lives too soon. I know of three in the last week. Younger than me, with children younger than mine… It really hurts. It has to stop. I pray that my book helps raise awareness. I hope that awareness leads to some positive changes. I pray for peace in the souls of the vets we have lost, their surviving families and coworkers, and the vets who remain and keep on keeping on. I see you. You are loved, you are important, we need you here. Don’t leave us.

January 28, 2021

Into the Fold has a set of characters from across three generations. This element came very naturally to me as I have spent my whole life being close to others who were born decades before or after myself.

Growing up, I frequently chose to spend free time visiting with my great-uncle Herman, then in his eighties, who loved animals and nature as much as I did. He taught me the names of birds by sight and sound. He walked me through his garden and taught me about the plants. He helped me nurse back to health an injured chipmunk we discovered together. Our more than seventy-year age difference did not challenge our friendship. If anything, it deepened it. We saw past each other’s wrinkles or messy braids to the kindred souls beneath the surface.

Another example of elderly adults important during my childhood are my dear neighbors, Herb and Betty Powell. My brother and I visited them every day through a decade of our formative years. Herb and Betty listened to our frustrations, fed us assorted forbidden junk food (Orange Crush was the best!), played games with us and made us laugh. Betty owned a ginormous tricycle, just like the character of Leigh does, that she rode around with my brother and I following on our much smaller bikes. I will cherish those memories all the days of my life, and I hope when I am old(-er) and gray(-er), some neighborhood children may gain half as much from me.

Most important of all, I was very lucky to have two grandmothers who lived close enough to share Sunday dinner with my family every week while I grew up. I did not realize how lucky I was to have that consistent contact and loving guidance until I left home. Both of these strong and amazing women were immigrants (one from Austria, the other from Germany) and had endured unthinkable pains. Still, what I remember most is how they laughed easily, gave hugs at once both firm and soft, and shared delicious home-cooked foods that no one will ever make as well as Oma and Grandma did. (The character of Hazel embodies these qualities in a way I think many readers will find familiar.)

In addition to my fondness for friends of older generations, I also have always reached back to those younger than myself. I think I enjoy children for the same reasons I enjoy animals: they do not pretend to like you, they act on their honest feelings, and when they show affection it is genuine and feels so affirming. Some of the smartest, most insightful things I have ever heard have come from the mouths of children. Looking at the world through their eyes is a gift. Listening is the way to receive it.

As I approach the age of fifty (gasp), I find myself reaching out to younger adults and feeling so grateful for what I learn from the unique perspectives a newer generation has to offer. Whether they are family members, neighbors, or students in my college classroom, I learn so much from listening to voices from all different generations. Naturally, the characters in my book do the same for one another.

Jan. 10, 2021

Didn’t we all have an English teacher or writing instructor who at some point gave us the advice to write what we know?

Of course, my book is a work of fiction and no specific people or actual real-life events are included as they happened. That being said, many of the characters in my book have little pieces of me in them, and a good number of the situations were inspired by either my own personal experiences or those shared with me by others. Leigh’s passion for wildlife reflects my own, and her recounting of raising the squirrel orphans was a treasured memory of mine. The incident involving the rabbit nest, lawnmower and crows really happened to me as a child and I remember every detail vividly. And yes, I do watch nature shows like a complete nerd.

The Biology professor in me loves to share information about nature, animals and ecology. I weave these elements into the book and think the science is shared incidentally enough that the reader won’t even notice they are learning while lost in the story.

Carrie’s first day at the vet clinic was based on my own first experience as a volunteer at a small animal clinic. As an undergrad deciding if I wanted to go to vet school, I thought I would simply observe for a day. Instead, I was swept into a surgery room almost immediately and asked to hold bloody body parts attached to the patient on the table. After the surgery, the vet offered me a job as an assistant. Needless to say, I was hooked and applied to veterinary school shortly after.

Because of all of the amazing animals I have known in my life, I felt driven to include a number of lovable animal characters. My family currently includes two entertaining, highly affectionate, but decidedly naughty cats and a quirky little dog who is spoiled like she deserves to be. I have never owned a bird, but my neighbors did, and PeeWee was quite the ham, prone to blurting out human phrases at the most timely moments. I wanted the character of Crouton to embody some of that sassy fun. We have a number of squirrels living in our yard, including an exceptionally bold female who teases our cats and dog relentlessly – that’s Fiona, of course!

I won’t give all of my secrets away, but there are many more moments in the book that mirror my own life — but NOT the gross and embarrassing things! Those moments are purely fictional and did not happen to me. Especially not being hit in the head with anal gland fluid.

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