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An anthology of eleven true-life stories from writers in three countries, about the boundless love and inspiration brought by adopted special needs pets to those brave enough to welcome them into their hearts and homes.
Everyone loves a story about well-muscled retrievers barreling after thrown balls or elegant, longhaired cats commanding the attention of all
in a room. But what about those less fortunate companion animals, whose experiences have robbed them of the wholeness of their “perfect” pet peers? After all, it’s easy to be happy when life has been safe, kind and protected, but it takes a special kind of critter to triumph over brutal circumstances that would make most people give up.
In Almost Perfect, eleven writers share true tales of courage, ingenuity,
perseverance and inspiration on the part of companion animals that have
become disabled either through birth defects or injury.
Meet Simon, a three-legged barn cat whose indomitable spirit and unquenchable purr propels him through an unbelievable string of difficulties. And Cagney, a severely crippled rat who serves as muse to a surprised grad student. Then there’s Pink, a Mexican Hairless dog with remarkable healing powers.
You may laugh, you may cry, but you’ll certainly never forget these heartwarming stories of animals who have overcome physical handicaps
to live happy, productive lives that enrich those of their human companions.
Edited by Mary Shafer
25 B&W Photos / 6 x 9 Trade paperback
Retail $12.95 USD
Excerpt – My Tuesdays with Tux
Tuesday, 9/13. I pick Tux up from the shelter on Tuesday, my day off, right after lunch. Once his carrier is in the car, he is determined to tell me how unhappy he is about traveling in the car, enclosed in a carrier. The only thing that subdues his yowls is when I stick my fingers into the cage so he can rub his chin on them.
After I stop the car in the garage, Tux stops making noise. The carrier rests on the garage floor for less than a minute, while I open the entrance to our backyard. I want to avoid carrying him through the house, which might stress out Tux and my two cats inside the house. His demeanor changes dramatically once I set the carrier on the grass and open the door.
He immediately crawls out, with big eyes and alert ears. He struggles across a couple feet of patio and onto the freshly mowed grass, stretches out as long as his forelegs will allow, and vigorously kneads the grass. This is one happy kitty. Straining the few inches toward my hands, he rubs them appreciatively with the side of his head. I can read gratitude in those big, intelligent, golden-brown eyes.
Excerpt – Love Is Blind: Colbi
Lots of people fall in love over the Internet. It has become such a common occurrence, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when I succumbed.
I gazed at his photo attachment on my e-mail. He had dark, pleading eyes and a sweet face, and my heart melted. The funny wrinkle to all this was that the e-mail was from a representative from the Nova Scotia SPCA and the photo was of a six-month-old, husky-shepherd pup. He had been rescued from a horrendous puppy mill situation and was in need of a home.
I’m a soft touch, ask anybody. My houseful of cats and dogs is testimony to that fact. So when the pup’s sad face filled my computer screen, I was a goner. I began the paperwork that would allow me to bring him home.
Excerpt – Love Conquers All: Grover
She had called late one evening, asking if we could find room in our home—and our hearts—to foster an injured kitten that had been found on a city street. Our own animal “inventory” was at its limit with three cats and a dog, but mention “kitten” and “injured” in the same sentence, and there is no discussion.
“Bring him over.” We would foster him until we could find his forever home.
Laura, the volunteer, arrived carrying a smelly, yowling creature inside a normal cat carrier…but there was nothing normal about its contents.
Excerpt – An Unlikely Hero: Simon
I first met Simon at the barn where my younger daughter stabled her horse. Simon hip-hopped fearlessly among the horses; his spotless, fuzzy white fur glowed eerily against the dirt floor and dusty gloom of the barn. He balanced his hindquarters on a single leg to propel himself along and headed confidently toward our feet. His leg had been amputated above the hip some years previous, either due to a mishap or a tangle with another animal. The same incident was responsible for his tattered ears and missing teeth. As barn cats go, Simon had been well-cared-for by his original owner. He had been neutered, his injured leg had been surgically amputated and, as we found out later, his vaccinations had been kept up-to-date until about two years previous, when the barn changed owners.
One of his three remaining legs had been broken when he got caught napping under the tractor mower. The new owner didn’t want to be bothered with the cat; my daughter quickly had talked the owner into giving Simon to her—meaning, to me—for mending. And so, Simon became another of our rescued creatures, joining a long parade of flying squirrels, woodchucks, dogs, cats, goslings, pigeons, raccoons, ‘possums and bunnies. We nurtured them until they could safely return to the wild, or they lived out their lives with us—sometimes a few minutes until they died in our hands, assured only of a violence-free death, or a decade or two, as was the case with the dogs and cats.
Excerpt – The Healing Touch of the Xolos: Pink
Nancy Gordon of San Diego discovered that when she put her Mexican Hairless Dog on her neck or wrist, the heat from the dog’s body was strong enough to ease the pain of Nancy’s chronic fibromyalgia. She wasn’t the first person to discover this.
The dogs have an ancient history as healers. In their native country, Aztecs placed the dogs in their beds, to function as heating pads. They draped them over their necks, knees and hips for relief from arthritis. They named the breed Xoloitzcuintle, derived from combining the name of the Aztec Indian god, Xolotl, and the Aztec word for dog, itzcuintle. The word is pronounced “show-low-eats-queent-lee.”
Nancy’s first dog, named Toaster because of the warmth she generates, was willing and eager to help Nancy. When Toaster had a litter of puppies, Nancy kept one female she named Pink, for the color of her skin. Pink watched her mother and did what Toaster did, learning to become an even more proficient service dog. She carries things for Nancy, picks up things she has dropped, and helps her undress by tugging off a sleeve or pant leg. Pink works ’round the clock for Nancy, and is happy to do it. Without her, the handicap of fibromyalgia made Nancy’s life difficult.
Excerpt – Battle for Life: Krieg
The runt of the litter was lying on a flannel baby blanket—his silhouette so thin, only the yellow of the blanket defined him at all. Mostly black with a little touch of tan, his fragile-looking body didn’t stir when Marie sat on the bed. His ears were curled up and folded under, his nearly-blind eyes were opaque gray.
The breeder said, “He’s not for sale; we’ll keep him until he dies. The vet told us he has about four months.”
On the heels of the breeder’s last syllable, Alison pushed past her mom and jumped on the bed next to the puppy. She paused as she absorbed the appearance of the ill-fated creature, then handed her mom the chosen puppy she was holding and said that she wanted the exiled dog instead.
Excerpt – The Thanksgiving Miracle: Idgie
Shelly asked why the kitten was running loose in the store. The associate explained that she felt sorry for the tiny female, because all her siblings had been adopted and she was now alone. The associate was giving her a rare bit of freedom outside the display cage.
“I can’t believe she hasn’t been adopted,” Shelly remarked. “She’s so cute, and obviously playful.”
“No one wants a blind kitten,” the associate explained. “She was born that way.”
“No way!” Shelly replied, incredulous. She watched the critter tooling around the floor at breakneck speed, obviously unimpeded by any disability.
“Really,” the associate assured. She scooped up the kitten and turned its head toward Shelly, who then saw the two empty, pink sockets where its eyes should have been.
Excerpt – A Shot of Undliuted Love: Arrow
When Wendy got to the shelter and finally had the chance to meet the two buddies, she was happy to see that, in spite of whatever trials they had been through, they were sweet-natured and friendly. The animal control officers had been able to get the broken pieces of chain from their necks, but no collars or identification were found. And they sure needed a bath! Wendy easily led them to the covered back of her truck and transported them to her grooming shop.
The Lhasa seemed to be in good shape but Wendy noticed that the spaniel was limping a little, so she put him right up on the table to check him over. As she lifted him up, her hands felt large indentations on both sides of his body.
What the heck? she wondered. As she pushed away the matted fur for a better look, she was shocked to find holes as big as her fist in each flank! She got right to work shaving the fur around the wounds and bathing the dog. She could not believe how sweet and docile he was during all this handling. He didn’t growl or carry on, not even once. As soon as she had finished, she bundled him up and drove him down to the animal hospital, all the time wondering what in the world could have caused such an injury.
Excerpt – A Most Remarkable Muse: Cagney
“I know…what about a rat?”
The sales clerk had to be joking. Who owns vermin as a pet?
“Stay right there, I have just the thing!”
My husband and I had come in looking for a small pet, something to keep me company while I struggled to finish my thesis in our small apartment.
“Here!” the clerk said, plunking a small, furry rodent into my hands.
He was a full-grown rat, brown and white, and he sat in my hands with his paws clinging to my thumbs.
He didn’t struggle, just blinked at me, looking slightly bewildered at all the commotion around him.
I blinked back, completely speechless. I was holding a RAT! We stayed like that for a few moments, each of us holding the other, neither one sure what to do with the other.
Excerpt – Pink Ears, Red Tape: Fritz
The little guy showed up at the kitchen door of our farmhouse and didn't hesitate for a second when I offered him a meaty meal along with our thirteen house cats. The pure white kitty, about a year old, took a quick look around our place and decided it would be suitable to his needs.
After eating his fill of chicken, he made his way around and headed up to our bed. As boldly as that.
My husband and I named him Fritz. My feather pillow became his favorite spot, and rarely was there a night when he didn’t share it with me.
Excerpt – Inspiration in our Midst: Ruby
A recent sunny day drew me to Fort Funston, a stunning coastal oasis overlooking the bluffs of the Pacific in northern California, for a leisurely stroll and roll with Ruby, the twelve-year-old Canine American who owns my heart and my deepest admiration. Ruby now roller-commutes on wheels that stand in for rear legs. Those legs, once awesome in their power, are now ravaged by degenerative myelopathy (DM), a disease similar to multiple sclerosis in humans.
On that stroll, we encountered a man who was entranced as he watched “RuRu” sail around on her wheels, ears perked excitedly so as not to miss a single note of the symphony she lives for: ocean, gulls, people.
“Well, nothing's going to keep you down now, is it?” the man exclaimed, as she left him in the dust. He then smiled at me with great warmth and said, “Thanks for getting her out here. She inspires me.”