Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We're In Good Company!

We've been promoting Almost Perfect as the only book of its kind so far, devoted solely to a collection of disabled pets. There are several books devoted only to disabled dogs or other single species, or to one specific handicapped pet, and you should definitely check these out, too (especially our friend Frankie, the Walk 'n Roll Dog, who just got a great review over at Dawn Kairns' blog).

But so far, our book has pretty much been on its own as a nonfiction anthology with an "ensemble cast" of almost perfect critters. We were joined in August by a wonderful new book titled Where The Blind Horse Sings.

Unlike Almost Perfect, it's not solely devoted to physically disabled animals, but it does feature them prominently not only in its title, but in its true-life story of how owner Kathy Stevens created her unique Catskills Animal Sanctuary. Of course, it could also be argued that any animal that has suffered abuse is at least in some way emotionally handicapped, and clearly this is a topic broached at length by Where The Blind Horse Sings.

And I think that puts us in very good company.

Here's the review from Publishers Weekly (Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.):
Giving up a thriving 11-year teaching career, Stevens bought a disastrously rundown farm on a vast number of acres, and with sheer determination, boundless compassion and limited funds turned it into an acclaimed haven for abused livestock, the Catskills Animal Sanctuary. In her first book, Stevens, though she humbly claims "our job was to love and nurture them without expectation," presents the heartening story of the difficult work that has gone into saving more than 1,100 lives since the sanctuary's 2001 founding.

The blind horse of the title appears among an eclectic company of pigs, sheep, cows, ducks and other animals with improbably Broadway-sized personalities-personalities revealed as the bond between people and animals strengthens, and the distinctions between them narrow. The anecdotes are fascinating, sometimes miraculous, and their power is undeniable: "I would not have believed that a rooster would so crave physical closeness that he'd demand to get in bed with me or that as he was dying, a gentle old steer named Samson would lick my face over and over until he took his last breath. But this stuff happens all the time." Though sentimentality in this case is
de rigeur (how could a book about love for animals avoid it?), the ideas behind Stevens's stories-such as the inherent equality and nobility of all species-are affecting and thought-provoking.
Those of us in publishing know what an honor it is to get a glowing review like this from such a vaunted trade publication, and we extend hearty congratulations to Kathy and to her sanctuary. And welcome to the newly scrappy world of book publishing -- always an adventure!

Kathy's book represents a growing -- and welcome -- trend in global consciousness-raising around the real value of all living creatures...one that we're very proud to be a part of. We're all working for the same thing -- loving and humane treatment of ALL critters -- and what helps one of us helps us all. The visibility of Kathy's book will raise the visibility of all such books, including ours, for which we are grateful.

So now you've got a great idea to add to your holiday wish list. I know it's going to be on mine.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Meet Yu Chan, An Almost Perfect Turtle

A little over a year ago Yu Chan, a 20-year-old loggerhead turtle, became entwined in fishermen's nets in the Kii channel in Japan. Her wounds indicated she had also been attacked by a shark. She'd lost half of one forelimb, and a third of the other. She was brought to the Sea Turtle Association of Japan, which uses a saltwater pond near Kobe Airport for some of their work.

Loggerhead turtles are classified by the IUCN as an endangered species, and the organization treated her with according respect. After a period of recuperation, the plan was to release the turtle back into the wild. But some citizens of Kobe objected, saying it would be cruel to release Yu Chan back into the ocean in this condition. Without her full flippers, she would be vulnerable to predators and other hazards.

Kamezaki Naoki, Director of the Sea Turtle Association of Japan, explains: "We were thinking about releasing Yu Chan in the usual way, but some of Kobe's residents objected and said that it would be cruel to release a turtle that had lost its flippers. And they were right."

So, a fund was set up to help finance Yu Chan's recovery, including paying for prosthetic limbs for the turtle. The Sea Turtle Association consulted Japan's largest prosthetic limb manufacturer, Kawamura Gishi, and the company began work on the fake flippers.

The group knows it will be a challenge: There is no known successful case of artificial limbs being attached to sea turtles, which have fragile bones and use their limbs differently in water and on land.

"By promoting development of prosthetic devices, we want to apply them to other animals as well," said Erika Akai, a 27-year-old researcher at the association who has studied behavior of dolphins fitted with artificial tail fins in Okinawa.

Read more and watch a video about this fascinating story.

There's more about Yu Chan and a related story about the American turle, Allison, here.