This week for Talkie Tuesday we are thrilled to feature Laurel Hunt, author of Angel Pawprints: Reflections on Loving & Losing a Canine Companion and Angel Whiskers: Reflections on Loving & Losing a feline conpanion, and the blog Bark, Wag, Love. Laurel has been kind enough to offer one Pet Blogs United reader a copy of Angel Pawprints. Entry information will be at the end of the post.
On your website, you say that your personal mission is to further understanding of the human-animal bond. Tell us more about that, and how that came to be your mission.
I think my interest in the human-animal bond began when I was first impacted by pet loss. I had two dogs die of cancer within weeks of each other. The first dog, Marmaduke, was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, which is an aggressive cancer of the blood vessels, but with the help of an oncology veterinarian, she gained several months of good quality life. During that time as her caregiver, I bonded very closely with her. When she died, I had no previous experience with the loss of a close loved one, and I was devastated. Then just a few weeks later, one of our other dogs, Molly, was also diagnosed with an abdominal tumor, and she died from surgical complications. So it was a double whammy.
I learned quickly that people do not talk about pet loss and grief, and at the time (early 1990s) there were few resources available to help. My boss actually said to me, “You spent a lot of money on that dog!”
Then I began a quest for other comforting poems relating to pet loss, and they just began to appear. They validated my feelings and I felt less alone.
Gradually, the idea emerged of compiling these poems as a way of paying tribute to my dogs, and to help others experiencing pet loss.
Tell us about your books, Angel Pawprints and Angel Whiskers. What inspired you to write them?
Angel Pawprints began as a way to compile all the wonderful poems and tributes to dogs I discovered following the loss of Marmaduke and Molly. This was before such poems could be found on the internet, and I discovered them through about four years of searching through antiquarian books at flea markets, estate sales, and dog show vendors. Most of them were out of print and if not republished, would be lost forever. Although I read some books on pet loss, I did not find them as helpful as these heartfelt tributes.
My original concept was to compile a booklet of poems and tributes – I didn’t envision anything fancy. As I thought about how to illustrate it, I discovered that there were many old postcards and photos of dogs with wonderful images, so I began rummaging through boxes of old photos at the flea markets. Then I had fun matching up the images with a poem or a story. For quite awhile my dining room table was covered with the project!
I approached a few dog book publishers but they were not interested, and ultimately I decided to self-publish Angel Pawprints. I had no expectations for it other than to serve as a tribute to Marmaduke and Molly. Little did I know it would change my life!
An editor from Hyperion saw it in the local bookstore and called me. Subsequently, Hyperion bought the rights to Angel Pawprints and asked me to compile a similar book for cats, which was Angel Whiskers.
It became an incredible journey, and I realized that the human-animal bond and pet loss are part of my life’s calling. Whenever I come across a moving poem or story of pet loss, I like to post it on my web site.
What is the best thing to say to someone who has lost a pet recently?
I think the best thing to do is to acknowledge the loss in some tangible way. Send a sympathy card, mentioning a special memory you have of the pet, if possible. I treasure the sympathy cards people have sent me, and I’ve kept them all. Consider making a donation in memory of the pet to a humane organization. Encourage the person to reminisce about the pet, and simply listen. Validate the person’s loss by saying something like, “He was a wonderful dog. You loved each other so much. I know you will miss him.”
Can you share a favorite story about you and a special pet?
I’m very aware of the plight of older dogs that become homeless through no fault of their own. They have a hard time being adopted, because everyone wants the puppies and younger ones. I must admit, I hesitated when it came to adopting an older springer spaniel, Dixie, whose family was dealing with a terminal illness and couldn’t care for her. But Dixie turned out to be the best dog, just sweet as she could be and no trouble at all. We had her for about three years before she died, and I have special memories of her. She lay on her dog bed and slept while I was working on Angel Pawprints. When we buried her in a pet cemetery, I read some of the poems from the book.
Are you currently working on anything new?
Yes, I have been publishing some articles on fundraising for animal shelters and pet therapy programs. I am also completing a memoir about the dogs who inspired Angel Pawprints.
Laurel had generously offered one lucky PBU reader a paperback copy of Angel Pawprints.
Mandatory entry: Visit Bark, Wag, Love and tell me something you learned. Don't forget to leave your e-mail address in your comment so we can contact you if you win.
Contest will be open until Friday 11/26 at midnight EST.
Thank you so much to Laurel Hunt for this great interview and giveaway.