Me: Good morning, Honey.

Honey: Hey there, Grammie.

Me: I am excited to share the story behind your illustration in "Forever Home." For full disclosure, I should let the readers know that I may be impartial in this interview, as you are my new "grand dog." :)

Honey: Good idea, Grammie.

Me and my "grand-dog"

Me: Tell me a little about your journey to find your forever home.

Honey: I was living on the streets of Texas, hanging out with a pack of stray dogs. It was a scary life, just trying to find food and shelter. Luckily, I was rescued along with a few of my buddies in the hopes we could find our forever homes. The ride up to Baypath Humane Society in Hopkinton was very long and tiring, but the people at Baypath were very nice. They checked us out and made sure we were healthy and ready to be adopted.

My forever family: Sean (Papa), Erica (Momma) and Honey

Photo Credit: Abigail Jean Photography

Me: Tell me how you met Erica and Sean.

Honey: Most of my brothers from the pack had been adopted and I was beginning to wonder if I had made this trip up for nothing. Erica and Sean wanted to adopt a dog and saw my picture online, along with a couple other dogs. When they came to meet me, Erica saw my sweet face and immediately fell in love with me. I do know how to work those big brown eyes! I started to feel the same way and had to let her know. First, I dropped toys in Erica’s lap to see if she liked to play. Check. Then I got closer to see if she was good at rub downs. Check. Then the final test, I licked her cheek. She let out a big, “Awwww.” That sealed the deal. :)

Me: I’m so glad they found you, Honey. You are a wonderful addition to our family.

Honey: (Tail wagging in circles.) From the first step inside their house, it felt like home. This is a video taken of me and my new "Momma" just a day after going home. Do I look happy or what?

Feeling sleepy and right at home.

Me: Tell me what a typical day is like for you.

Honey: I am Erica’s studio canine assistant. She works very hard as you know, illustrating, making music and all kinds of creative stuff. It’s important that I take care of her. My job is to be sure to remind her it is time to eat, go on a walk or visit the ladies’ room. I try to look as cute as I can till Erica has no restraint and I can get her out on a walk. I may even invite her by bringing her my toy for a little game of fetch. This aerobic exercise helps loosen up her drawing arm and I have a little fun. Win, win!

Me: I’m so glad you take such good care of her.

Honey: Don’t get me wrong, she and Sean take very good care of me too. I get snuggles and a full belly rub twice a day - when I wake up and before bed. Erica even treats me to a “Spa Day” where I get my teeth brushed and nails done. I am living the life for sure.

Relaxing on "Spa Day."

Me: I love the illustration in “Forever Home” of you and Sean arriving at the shelter.

Honey: It was scary to get off the bus with all the new smells and commotion, but the Baypath volunteers made me and my brothers feel loved and cared for from day one.

Arriving at Baypath.

Me: It was nice talking to you, Honey.

Honey: Thank you, Grammie. And thank you for buying me doggie ice cream and laying out a doggie bed for me when I visit. I hope you feel how much I love you when I put my head on your lap.

Me: I know Honey. :)

Honey: I love my forever family.

The beginning :)

Photo Credit: Abigail Jean Photography

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As all forever families know, there comes a time when your pet is suffering and because you love them, the hardest of decisions is made. Three years ago, my beloved kitties crossed over the rainbow bridge. First, Angel, then a few months later Camille. I still remembering loading the empty pet carriers, leaning against the car door and sobbing. Losing one was hard enough, but two felt unbearable.

L-R: Camille and Angel taking in the warm sun.

My sweet Angel's ashes arrived in a beautiful wooden box which I lovingly placed on my mantel. Camille was lost with out her big sister and was openly grieving with her calls and disinterest. She and I were two kindred spirits trying to console each other. Several months later, we had to make yet another hard decision with the help of our compassionate vet. Soon, Camille's ashes joined her sisters on the fireplace mantel.

It's hard to explain...I can only say I just wasn't ready to bury them. Their passing had happened all too fast. There was some comfort in still having them near me, in a strange sort of way, Most days, I forgot the boxes where there at all, till my dusting brought me to the living room mantle once again. Day by day life happened and I never got around to laying them to rest. Each spring I promised myself I would go out to where our first cat, Beardsley had been laid 17 years before, and say my final good byes when the ground thawed. Then spring became summer, summer fall, then winter. Year after year passed, and still they sat.

My #50preciouswords entry

Each time I saw the boxes, they reminded me of Angel and Camille's rescue story, and being a writer, I started playing with some words. I entered Vivian KIrkfield's #50preciouswords contest with a 50-word entry, entitled, "Two Plus Two. I knew right away that these 50 words could be expanded to a full manuscript and began channeling my emotions into what would later become my debut picture book, "Forever Home."

Working on the book made me feel closer to my sweet kittens, reminding me of their funny little quirks; Camille crawling up under my sweatshirt when I held the bottom out and getting stuck in the arm of my sleeve, and how Angel loved to squeeze into the cat bed made for one, just to be as close to Camille as she could.

Working closely with an illustrator like Erica Leigh, who actually knew and loved these kittens as I did, added so much to the art. Whenever a text appeared from her, saying she was emailing me some sketches, I'd leap to my computer, and open the file as fast as I could. Seeing the kitten's images for the first time was very emotional. As the illustration process continued, each page's arrival brought a smile and a tear wishing Camille, my writing buddy was still curled up on my lap purring and I could share this moment with her.

Character sketch of our kittens

In August the first batch of books was published. Erica Leigh and I felt satisfied that we had honored our sweet kitties with the best book we could make. In the fall, we attended a fundraiser for Baypath Humane Society who rescued them, and raised $200 which was spent on donations of food, litter and toys for their new batch of kittens.

When my second order of books arrived this week, I flipped through the pages of their story, and felt like life had come full circle. Their story was written, money raised and plans were being made for reaching out to class rooms to discuss adoption and community helpers. Angel and Camille's story was touching hearts and making a difference.

Decker and Maddyn enjoying their new copy of "Forever Home."

This week, on an extraordinarily warm November day, I sat in the back yard enjoying the breeze and glanced at the corner where Beardsley was buried. "It's time," I said out loud to my husband, "time to lay them to rest." I headed in to the living room and gently picked up their boxes and carried them out side to where Scott was preparing the ground.

Scott laying Angel and Camille to rest.

After I said my good byes and thanked them for their love, I read a book called " When You Love a Cat" by M.H.Clark. What a beautiful poetic understanding this book has of what it means to love a cat. I was grateful that M.H. Clark's book gave me the words I needed at that moment.

"When You Love a Cat," by M.H.Clark.

I am so grateful for Angel and Camille who lit up our lives with laughter and love for seventeen years. As hard as the good bye was, we are better for having been their "Forever Home." This Christmas, many little children will wake up to my book and share some time curled up on a lap of someone they love. Imagining this warms my heart.

Sample pages from "When You Love a Cat."

If you would like to share Angel and Camilles Story with your little loved one, please visit: Happy Holidays!

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I hold it true, whate'er befall; I feel it when I sorrow most;

'Tis better to have loved and lost. Than never to have loved at all.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

I am feeling a mixture of emotions today. Tomorrow I will attend the funeral with full military honors for my 97 year-old friend, Tom. I’m sad because I will miss my dear friend, but mostly, I am filled with gratitude that our lives intersected, and my granddaughters and I were able to know and to love him for so long.

My dearest friend, Tom.

Through the years I have had many adopted grandparents as friends. My granddaughters, Hadleigh and Miller have accompanied me on these visits since they were infants. Five years of so much love and laughter. There is something very special about the elderly and children. If I had to explain it, it would just be plain and The years on their faces melted away as they watched the girls toddling around from table to table, or when holding a little baby in their arms. It has been magical.

L-R: Me, Tom, my husband, Scott and Carolyn

One very dear friend of mine was Carolyn. When I came to visit her at lunch one day, she introduced me to her new friend Tom. From that time on, during our lunches, I sat at their table listening to Tom’ stories (many long and grand) and watched the love between my granddaughter’s and Tom grow.

When we arrived each week, they would run right over to Carolyn and Tom’s table and Hadleigh would sit up on his lap. He loved introducing Hadleigh and her new baby sister, Miller to anyone who passed by as his “adopted granddaughters.”

Hadleigh and Tom

Hadleighs sister Miller and Tom

One of his favorite things to do was to ask the waitress to bring a dish of strawberry ice cream for his little friend. Hadleigh and Tom would sit quietly like two little children, savoring the cold sweetness together. Tom and strawberry ice cream became forever entwined in Hadleigh’s mind. Each week the same scene played out over and over again.

Strawberry ice cream with Tom

After Tom’s fall, he was in a wheelchair. Hadleigh would “help” wheel him where he wanted to go. In the activity room, they played catch with the beach ball or tossed rings at pins or spent quiet time putting puzzles together. Tom became part of our family. The memories of these moments we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

Hadleigh helping Tom

Playing ball

When his friend, Carolyn moved to a nursing facility and eventually passed away, it was a hard time for Tom and for Hadleigh and I. But our friendship continued. Sharing our stories of times with Carolyn helped us both through the grief.

Tom and Carolyn

Carolyn meets Hadleigh for the first time.

During the pandemic, I would come and sit on the patio outside the activity room window and visit with Tom at a safe distance through the screen. During this long year, Tom missed my girls and they missed him. I remember one visit when we sat outside on the front porch. Tom didn’t seem to recognize me, but once I brought out pictures of Hadleigh and Miller, he knew who they were and really got a kick out of seeing the recent videos of them playing. When he saw my granddaughter Ella‘s red hair, he launched into wild stories about his brother in Scotland and all of his escapades and seemed confused when I tried to steer the conversation back. So, I figured maybe it was time to go.

When I grabbed his hand and said “Tom, I love you. I’ll be back to see you soon,” he said, “wait a minute there’s something I have to tell you.” I thought it was going be something confusing, but instead he looked me right in the eye and said “I want you to know that you are my family and that I really love you.” My heart burst open. What a gift that was. Over the years and many visits, we had gone from total strangers to family.

Our last visit with Tom

Our last visit was a few weeks before he passed, when I was finally able to bring Hadleigh to see Tom again. She was so excited to see him and hoped strawberry ice cream was on the menu :) She opened up the box of her favorite mermaid puzzle and she and Tom sat for an hour putting pieces together and talking. This was followed by splitting a homemade vanilla cupcake I had brought. I will cherish the picture I took of the three of us forever.

To read in his obituary what a full and long life he had is amazing. I feel so grateful for the time we spent together and that my granddaughter’s now have a wonderful, adopted grandfather to remember sharing strawberry ice cream with. God bless you, Tom. We will miss you.

Tom and our dear friend Scotty, who also passed this month. Hadleigh and I will miss them more than I can express. So blessed to know and love them both.

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