Thursday, February 20, 2014

Odie's Backstory: Difficulties of Adopting Stray Animals

There is a deeper backstory to the day I found Odie, more than what I described in Odie the Stray Kitten. Some information was just not relevant to the children's story but it could be significant for someone taking in a stray animal.

I first heard Odie in the barn that morning, behind the pile of hay. But it sounded more like a scream than a cry. It sounded like he was in pain and I thought for sure he was diseased, infested, or dying of something. He was screaming so loudly that it spooked the horses. My first thought was "I can't keep a cat that scares my horses."

He came out from behind the hay pile and was in fact very friendly. But he still continued to scream. He let me pet him, my other cat Bandit was curious and friendly with him. Just like in the book, I brought Odie some food and left the cat carrier open on the ground. He walked right in without any pushing.

I had to call off work. And I never took personal days. I didn't make up an excuse, I told my boss exactly why I wouldn't be in that day. He allowed it, and if he hadn't, too bad. I was taking this poor kitten to the vet either way. I called around to local animal hospitals and found one with an opening that morning. I loaded Odie up and off we went in the big blue truck.

He truly did purr the whole time he was at the vet's office. He purred so much that the vet had trouble hearing his heart. The vet guessed him to be about 16 weeks old. He was tested for feline leukemia (among other diseases) and I was told that if he was positive, he had to be an indoor cat because he could easily transfer the disease to other outdoor cats. That would have been a problem because my husband is very allergic to cats and we absolutely cannot have any furry indoor animals.

Odie turned out to be FeLV negative, and his diagnosis was "just cold and hungry." I knew I had to keep him. We stopped at a pet store on the way home so that I could pick up a few things for him: dry kitten food, wet food to help him gain some weight, a few extra bowls and a small litter box.

For this kitten I did several things that day that I typically do not do: I took a personal day from work and I spent a lot of money. But it had to be done and I don't regret it. Odie has grown up into a loyal, sweet, energetic barn cat and is always getting into trouble. He is now the main character of my first published indie children's book Odie the Stray Kitten and all of the future Odie Series books.

Each stray animal's story is different and adopting some strays can be more difficult than others. The ASPCA provides good information on how to go about adopting these animals into your family.

ASPCA: Stray and Feral Cats

This is the more complete version of Odie's story. As I have said before, the animals write the stories, I just edit them for children.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Odie in the Classroom

This past week I had my first experience reading Odie the Stray Kitten to an elementary school classroom, and I hope to make this a regular occurrence. I began by introducing myself and telling the students that I had been writing stories for a very long time. I started writing stories about animals when I was their age, as soon as I could write. And it has continued for over 20 years. I spoke about the real Odie and how his life inspired me to write this particular story and that I felt it was one of the best I had written. It was the first story I had turned into a book.

The students had recently been working on their writing, especially editing and revising. So I talked about how many times I had to edit and revise the story and about how the biggest revision was the perspective of the story. Before I began reading the book, I asked them to think about who was telling the story. Of course I was the one reading it, but I wanted them to understand whose words were on the pages. Changing the perspective from third to first person (Odie is the one telling the story) was by far the biggest revision of the book.

I read the book to the class and it seemed to almost take on a whole new life as I read it to a room of seven and eight year-olds. The students were genuinely interested in what happened to Odie and they were captivated by the illustrations.

I gave them time to ask me questions, some of which were obscure, but still relevant. Then I showed them a poster board I had created with pictures of the real Odie and the other characters from the book. I felt like the students enjoyed this part of my presentation the most. This was the next best thing to having the real Odie in the classroom (Odie would not be a fan of that). This way the children could see the real animals and hopefully it helped them to realize how animals do have stories to tell. For me, the animals write the stories, I just edit them for children.

This was a very positive first experience taking the book to the classroom. Later that evening I received a message from the teacher telling me that she already had a parent comment on how much her child enjoyed the book and my presentation in the classroom. This meant more to me than anything. If my writing can inspire one child to begin writing his or her own stories or to become more aware of animal welfare, then I have done my job with this book.