Tuesday, August 17, 2010

End of Summer Reading

I don't want you to think this has turned into a book review blog or anything but I do have two more books I have read this summer that I want to tell you about. I guess I need to create a book list on my blogs but I haven't figured out how to easily do that yet. There are lots of things I could be doing with my blogs and even when I get some help with it, it seems that after my helper has gone on to other things and I am on my own, invariably something comes up different than I was shown and I am stumped again.
But this is about books. In my quest for books that relate or connect in some way to the blogs I am writing I came upon two. The first one is "Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat. by David Dosa, M.D.
A couple of weeks ago I was startled to learn that one of my blogs about a rescue cat named Jake from Writing Outside the Barn had been picked up by Animal Planet and they wanted to come to Fort Collins to tape him going about his life for an episode of Cats 101. Jake was filmed in several places, one of which was a nursing home. He had recently passed his test to become a therapy cat and had also visited a rehabilitation center where he was given a great deal of attention. So I picked this book up to see how this writer dealt with this sitiation.
Dr. Dosa is a geriatrician who worked with alzheimer's patients in a nursing home. Iwas happy to see the cat was not romanticized and his visits to patients was not seen as a death sentence. But at first when the doctor became aware of the gift Oscar possessed he was skeptical. The book was written as he interacted with the patients and their families. By the time I finished the last page I was in love with this cat and his recognizble but still not explainable way of knowing when a patient or family needed some extra love and care. There is a possible physical link to the cat's ability but still, not that pursuasive.
Since my Dad was an Alzheimer's patient and needed special care I related to the stories deeply. And I remember when my Mom died while visiting family in Phoenix at Christmastime. I was chosen to go on a mission to fly to Colorado to retrieve her companion of many years who was waiting for her to come back, her cat Meisha. It was clear she never would. When I brought the cat in to my Mom she held her close. Meisha stayed by her for her remaining days. It was a comfort to her and to the rest of us as well.
I learned a lot about people in that situation, more than I learned while I was going through it. If you can open your heart to extraordinary connections between people and animals, you will be captivated by this heartwarming and comforting story.

One day, later in the summer I was visiting with a friend about how difficult it was for me to reconcile my hope to protect animals with the need to allow them their freedom and agency in the world. It is not a new dilemma. She suggested I read The Daily Coyote: A Story of Love, Survival, and Trust in the Wilds of Wyoming by writer and photographer Shreve Stockton.

Besides being a beautifully written book with its exquisite descriptions of the wilderness and Wyoming life near the Big Horn Mountains it is an extraordinary photo diary of the coyote puppy she raises after it had been rescued.
A New York City born girl who lived in San Francisco ends up in Ten Sleep Wyoming. How this happens will surprise and delight you. Her pluckiness and willingness to become a part of the landscape and people and to rough it makes an amazing story in itself. Her story will challenge everything you have understood about interactions with wild animals. Even I raised my eyebrows a bit. Her writing is down to earth and real as she brings in classic themes of love and freedom and applies them to her own life. However, nothing overshadows her actual relationship with the coyote, Charlie.
She winds her way honestly through the challenges her decision to keep the coyote pup entails, including her own safety as Charlie matures. She searches her way through it to an ending that provides reconciliation for herself, her current relationship, and Charlie.
This is strictly a personal account, and doesn't go deeply into the politics of raising a coyote in an area where all coyotes are shot on sight. But in a way, it keeps you on the edge of your seat to see how she contends with these dangers. Weaving throughout is a special account of an interspecies relationship between "Charlie" and her young cat, "Eli" that was absolutely magical.
This is an intense book, one I was not able to put down until I got to the end. And then I was disappointed. I wanted to know what happened next. And due to the website originally created by the author when she began to send daily pictures of the coyote to friends and family, I can.
Shreve bravely makes her way through her weeks and months with the coyote, in a new relationship, living a new pioneer kind of life along with the challenge of writing this book. At one point she quotes an uncle when talking about love. "Love is tolerance" she writes. After having been married to the same man for 46 years I can agree. Letting go shows trust, belief and respect. You can't get much clearer then that. I loved this book.