Tag Archives: Gwen Cooper

Endings and A Hope for New Beginnings

The year is winding down, and it’s been quite a year for me. I guess it was my turn. You’ve probably had your own years with lots of ups and lots of downs. I feel a post brewing about mine, but I don’t feel up to it today. Maybe I’ll write it for New Year’s Eve.

So I’ll show you some other endings: the sunsets in Arizona have a lot of pink and red in them. I took this one at a truck stop along the 10, and the sky was a vivid burgundy. I wish the color here were more true.

This one is typical of almost every December night. Sometimes there are palm trees silhouetted across the pink and dark blue sky.

OK, those were the endings of the day. Now for the hope of new beginnings!

I know a few “special needs” cuties in Phoenix that need a home for Christmas and beyond.

This is Betty. She was born in 2007 and has lived at the shelter for years. Yes, that says years. She is overweight, although you can’t see that from this glamour shot.

Why is she overweight? Maybe because for a very long time she was confined to a cage without exercise. She now gets to roam free in the cat roaming room with the other cats.

Betty (I think she needs a name change) had gotten a reputation for once in a while biting someone. I haven’t been so honored (yet), but I am trying to figure out what causes her to do so. I think it’s when she gets mad because she is being touched when she does not want to be touched. A volunteer might be petting her for a long time and then starts to forget she’s petting her, which means she is ignoring her. Betty might bite a bit to get her to stop over-stimulating her or to pay her attention. Anyway, several of us brush her and she likes it. When I sit on the floor at the shelter, she crawls into my lap and likes me to pet her and then stop and just let her sit there for as long as she likes.

Betty needs a home with an experienced cat person who wants to give someone who needs a chance THAT CHANCE. Betty will reward that person with loyalty and demonstrative love.

Lisa is a sweet black cat with a wonky left eye. Her vision is fine, but the eye itself is scarred so a bit cloudy-looking. Her official name is Lisa Left Eye, but I refuse to call her that. In this photo, I think she’s praying for a home.

Here is Lisa again:

Finally, here is 4-year-old Slupe, a darling Calico that has been at the shelter since long before I started there (which is now almost a year!!!).

Slupe doesn’t like living in a shelter environment and desperately needs a home of her own. Recently, she has lost fur in a few patches on her body, and I think it’s a reaction to stress. She loves to play in water and hide in boxes. She enjoyed playing with the kitten Scarlet, but Scarlet was just adopted so now Slupe needs a human friend and a home. Slupe is considered special needs because she has not been adopted for so long.

Even if you don’t have the right home for one of these adorables, please share their photos and stories in case you know someone who can! They are available here:

HOME ‘FUR’ GOOD

10220 N. 32nd Street
Phoenix, AZ 85028

602-971-1334

info@homefurgood.org

On a cat-related note, I gave my daughter my Homer’s Odyssey book to read. I wrote about it in this post Cat Heroes. Now I see that there is a sequel out about the blind wondercat Homer!

homer

I can’t wait to read about Homer’s life as a celebrity :). Raising Betty, Lisa, or Slupe would be a piece of kibble compared with raising lively blind Homer.

Our shelter’s cat newsletter contained the following very important Christmas tip for cat owners:

This holiday season be careful with all those curling ribbons, tinsels and other Christmas decorations. According to Pam Johnson-Bennett, “Cats have barbs on their tongue that point toward the back of their mouth. These barbs are used fo r both grooming and removing the meat from the bones of their prey. These barbs are the reasons cats cannot easily spit items out of their mouth; things get stuck. This is why toys with thread and string can be dangerous if left unattended.”   Pam also warns us about real pine needles being toxic to cats as well as the tree water, so you should never let your cat (or dog) drink it. You can use netting or Sticky Paws for Plants over the reservoir to ensure your pets don’t have access to it. To read more about how to deter your cats from nibbling on tree brunches or Christmas lights and more, read Pam Johnson- Bennett’s article here http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/how-to-keep-your-cat-away-from-the-christmas-tree/

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope yours is full of peace and joy. And for everyone, I wish you much peace and joy in your lives. See you next week!

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Photographs, Writing

Cat Heroes

Two weeks ago, I finished reading two memoirs about cats: Homer’s Odyssey, by Gwen Cooper, and A Street Cat Named Bob, by James Bowen (and Garry Jenkins). They are similar to a book I read a few years ago, Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron (and Bret Witter).

All three books feature special pet cats (that happen to be male) and were written by the pet owners. Two of the books were either ghost written or written along with the cat owner. Only Gwen Cooper is a writer, and her book shows it as it’s the most well written of the three.

In Homer’s Odyssey, the reader meets Homer, a tiny blind kitten when Cooper first took him home. I think Homer’s narrative is perhaps innately the “weakest” for memoir structure, based as it is only on Homer’s disability and his life with Cooper, but Cooper’s beautiful writing shapes a well-crafted story that begins when Cooper herself was young and underemployed. Later, when Homer and his two sister cats were home alone during the 911 tower attack and Cooper couldn’t get home to them for days, my heart was thudding for the poor cats because I’d fallen in love with Homer, as well as Scarlett and Vashti, thanks to Cooper’s writing.

In A Street Cat Named Bob, Bob is a street cat who lives with a street musician in London and becomes famous online for sitting very calmly while Bowen plays his guitar or, later, sells magazines. Bowen was a recovering drug addict who was able to pull his life together when he began to focus on making a better life for Bob. Although Bowen claims not to follow a 12 step program, it’s clear that Bob becomes Bowen’s “higher power.” The story is engaging because Bob is such a larger than life figure as seen through Bowen’s eyes. Although the book was written with a professional writer, the book is the least well written of the three and needs editing. I even found at least one run-together sentence. The story didn’t move quickly enough in a few places, but I enjoyed it and would love to meet Bob and James. Most important, it’s rewarding to see a man turn his life around because of his love for an animal.

Dewey is a library cat who saves the town library. In Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, Vicki the librarian meets Dewey when she finds the kitten who had been thrown into a frozen book chute overnight. Because the book begins with the tiny kitten saved from a horrific fate, I am immediately drawn in and engaged with the story. This is also true of Homer whose original owners wanted to euthanize him because he was blind. Bowen met Bob when Bob was already an adult cat, out on the street, so he’s never an adorable kitten in the story. But Bowen’s growing attachment to Bob is what hooks the reader.

Are these books about cats or about humans? Are they memoirs of the humans or biographies of the cats?

All three books have been successful.

Nevertheless, a few of the reviews on Goodreads didn’t like the feel good nature of the books–i.e., that a stray becomes an important part of keeping the library alive in small town America. I say those reviewers have hard hearts.

Some reviewers criticize these books for being memoirs about the writers’ lives.  Ahem. All three books are memoirs about the pet owners, although the focus is on the cat and the owner’s relationship with the cat. Well, a memoir by its definition is written by a human being about an aspect or time period of his or her life. When we write about someone else’s life and not our own, it’s a biography.

Why are these books not just biographies of cats? Why are they also memoirs by and about the humans? I feel that this is the way these books work best and someone who wants a pure story of an  animal should go read Bambi, which is an amazing orphan tale about a wild animal who doesn’t live with a human (although the original and non-Disney version does show what happens when one deer is taken in by humans).

Adult animal lovers enjoy memoirs such as the three I read because of the relationship between the animal and the human. It’s the human (sometimes humans) who grows and learns during the course of each story. The cats are amazing catalysts (sorry for the pun), muses, inspirations, and higher powers. But their ability to inspire the reader is innate to the animals. The story has to come from what the human learns from the cat. This is what makes a memoir like these more than merely a children’s story about a child thinly disguised as an animal, such as the Olivia (the pig) books. More than a biography of an animal, such as Smokey the Bear.

Or am I wrong? Is there a successful adult story about a real life animal where the plot is completely focused on the animal and not a human? I don’t mean a political satire like Animal Farm. 

The success of these books stems, in part, from the marriage of memoirs and feel-good animal stories.

One last thought about the reviews of these books. The reviewers who criticize these books for being about the lives of the pet owners tend to be very judgmental about the writers. They find them to be whiny or self-absorbed or boring–or a combination. I suspect that these complaints are because they don’t want the human intruding on the story of the animal or because they only see the story through their own narrow, darkly filtered lenses (their own self-image and their own lives). These reviews are more revealing of the reviewers than of the books or the writers, to my way of thinking. They also don’t understand that the books are structured this way because that is the way you tell a story and sell a book. There has to be conflict and resolution. There has to be suspense and pacing. I found myself getting angry at these reviewers.

What does that reveal about me ;)?

***

On a completely unrelated note, I am bummed about Doll God sales, but for a weird reason. The number of people who have told me that they have bought it (including multiple quantities) is in no way reflected by the actual total the publisher tells me that have been sold. Maybe half? So are half the people who have said they bought it not telling the truth? Is Amazon not sending correct reports to the publisher? The publisher provided me with a royalty update, so the problem isn’t with her. Any thoughts?

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Filed under Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Children's Literature, Doll God, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Poetry book, Publishing, Reading, Writing