BOOKS: Animals and the kids who love them

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  November/December 2011:

Animals and the kids who love them:
Extraordinary true stories of hope, healing and compassion
Edited by Allen & Linda Anderson
New World Library (14 Pameron Way,  Novato,  CA  94949),  2011.  194
pages,  paperback.  $14.95.

Take out a hanky because some of the stories in Animals and
the kids who love them:  Extraordinary true stories of hope,  healing
and compassion choked me up.

Among my favorites is “Childhood Horses Saved My Life.”
Nanci Falley,  now president of the American Indian Horse Registry,
always wanted a horse.  At ten years old she finally got her wish,
an aged mare named Molly.  The horse became a trusted companion as
Falley struggled to cope with her affluent but alcoholic parents.
Molly “was my rock,  and I felt more secure with her than I had in
years,”  recalls Falley.  She “kept me sane and distracted me from
thoughts of killing myself.”  A fifth-generation Texan,  Falley has
made room at her Rancho San Francisco,  near Lockhart,  for rescued
animals including dogs,  cats,  donkeys,  horses,  geese,  ducks and

Another story in Animals and the kids who love them begins
with an Alzheimer’s disease victim named Dan,  who frequently forgets
having let his dog Maya outdoors and neglects to let her back in
during a frigid Minnesota winter.  Adopted by Pam Thorsen,  Maya at
first followed her  everywhere,  fearful of being shut outside again.
Soon,  however,  Maya reattached herself to Thorsen’s 18-year-old
daughter Britty,  who is autistic and mentally challenged with Down’s
syndrome.  Maya accompanied Britty to the school bus and greeted her
in the afternoon when she returned home.  “The kids on the bus and
the driver loved it,” says Thorsen.

If Britty plays on the swing set,  Maya is there too.  Maya
and Britty watch TV and listen to music together.  At night they
sleep in the same bed.  Britty sneaks food scraps to Maya,  who waits
underneath the kitchen table for her handouts.  “She has added an
amazing dimension to our family as our daughter’s constant
companion,” concludes Thorsen.

Simon,  a kitten born with severe abnormalities,  was
abandoned under a dumpster in Rifle,  Colorado.  A shelter volunteer
responded to a call about Simon and begged the caller to refrain from
stomping on him.  Instead the shelter treated his numerous congenital
deformities,  including pectus excavatum or funnel chest,  depressed
sternum,  and abnormal curvature of the spine.  His hind legs are
paralyzed and he cannot urinate on his own.  Caretaker Dianna Richett
says she expresses Simon’s urine three times a day and that “he
proved to be good natured and patient” about the procedure.

An attorney and shelter volunteer,  Richett eventually took
Simon to classrooms as part of a humane education program.   In 2009
they became a registered therapy team serving a Denver facility that
provides after-school education for children in public housing.
There Simon connected with Clara,  a shy girl who had protected her
dog from a menacing group of teens who tried to shoot him.  As Clara
and Simon spent time together,  Clara opened up.  She told Simon
about her hope of becoming a lawyer to help protect people and
animals from abuse.

Each story in this book celebrates a special relationship.
–Debra J. White

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