Author makes a book for furry, feathered friends
March 22, 2006
Many people in Park City would agree, pets are part of the family. Among other animals, dogs, cats, birds and bunnies all find prominent places in people’s homes. Some furry or feathered friends act as guards; others serve as aids; still others provide entertainment, and almost all offer companionship, but each plays a particular role, carving out a niche in the fabric of a family. Recently, one woman, Emily Scott Pottruck, decided to take a look at the niches those pets find.
The result is the book, "Tails of Devotion," which looks at the connections between people and their animals. In the book, Pottruck poses a simple question to 58 different families:
"If you and your pet could communicate by paper, what would you say to each other?"
The resulting pages are printed in the book, along with photographs of the pets and families from which they come. The pieces range from business-style memos to full letters and small, short collections of verse. Among the participants are a few notable figures, including the families of actor Robin Williams, former pro football player Ronnie Lott and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. All of the pet lovers, though, hail from the San Francisco Bay-area where Pottruck makes her home and all have special connections with their animals.
All of the letters go toward a common cause as well.
"One-hundred-percent of the proceeds from the book go to animal-welfare nonprofits," said Pottruck.
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This weekend the author will visit Park City for a pair of book signings at the Spotted Frog Bookstore and Dolly’s Bookstore; the proceeds from the books she sells will go to Friends of Animals of Summit and Wasatch Counties and the southern-Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society.
While the primary benefactors from the book are a group of San Francisco animal-welfare organizations, Pottruck said she came across the Utah groups when she and her husband started to build a home in Park City.
"Because she’s is going to be moving here, she did some research to find out who the local animal rescue groups were," said Charlene Brewster a member of the Friends of Animals board of directors.
"We were able to be introduced to some people at Friends of Animials, and through them we met the folks at Dolly’s and the Spotted Frog," said Pottruck.
With the newfound connections, she decided to set up the signings, which will run this Friday from 7-9 p.m. at the Spotted Frog and this Saturday from 3-5 p.m. at Dolly’s. In addition to Pottruck, the events will also include the author Amy Tan, who in addition to writing the foreword for "Tails of Devotion" penned "The Joy Luck Club," the best-selling collection of linked short stories.
Pottruck said Tan, a friend of hers, was actually instrumental in the events that inspired the book.
"Six years ago, one of my dogs, Andy (a five-and-a-half-pound Yorkshire Terrier), was attacked by a huskie and almost died," explained Pottruck, "and it was one of the most traumatic experiences in my life."
While the Andy was almost eaten and nearly killed, he survived, but only after Pottruck pleaded that vets who thought his back was broken not euthanize him. In the wake of the events, Pottruck said she discovered something.
"Amy Tan posted [the story] on a Yorkie chat board, and I got all these e-mails of support from complete strangers," said Pottruck.
There, she said, she discovered an instant community.
"I can’t begin to tell you what that meant to me," she added. "There was something very supportive about that."
She said the idea stuck with her until last year, when she turned 50. Already working and volunteering with several San Francisco-area nonprofits, she decided to tackle a new sort of project. "Tails of Devotion," with its philanthropic aim, was the result.
"I wanted to do something in a different way," said Pottruck.
The hard part of the job, she said turned out to be the obstacles that faced her in the world of self-publishing. From choosing paper and photographers to designers and a typeface, Pottruck said making the book turned into a daunting project.
"I have huge passion for the people in the [animal-welfare] organizations," she said, "and that kept me going, because I had no idea of what I was getting myself into For every problem solved, two others came up."
But, she added, the good will that formed the book’s foundation helped carry her through.
"The beauty of this project," she said, "is that there are so many animal lovers out there that, when they heard it was a totally nonprofit project, they rose up to help."
She said she was amazed by the number of people who opened their doors to her, telling her their stories.
The joy, she said, was to travel to the animal lovers’ homes, meet the pets, collect the stories and take the pictures. Ultimately, said Pottruck, after hearing all the tales of pets and their caretakers, the work took shape, with input from all sorts of pet lovers with all sorts of animals, from lizards and horses to pigeons.
"This is not a dog and cat book," she said. "It’s a pet book. It’s a family book."
The work will be on display and on sale this weekend with the appearances by the Pottruck and Tan.
"I think it’s going to be a good event," said Brewster.
"I hope that this will resonate with people in Park City," concluded Pottruck.
Emily Scott Pottruck and Amy Tan will be in Park City to sign "Tails of Devotion" Friday, March 24 from 7-9 p.m. at the Spotted Frog Bookstore and Saturday, March 25, from 3-5 p.m. at Dolly’s Bookstore. For more information about the event at the Spotted Frog, call 575-2665. For more information about the event at Dolly’s, call 649-8062.
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