Friday, August 21, 2009

Children's book stars found pet who helped couple through difficult time

This is too wonderful to not share!

From the Greenville News
By Ann Hicks • Arts writer • August 20, 2009

She's been known to stop her car and pick up just one more abandoned animal looking for help. But being helped by an animal in return is quite another twist on such a tale.

The story of Bogey, the plantation cat – as magical as a combination “Harry Potter” and “A Midsummer Night's Dream” – is told by first-time children's book author Jean Hunt in “Cat Tails and Spooky Trails.”

Hunt will meet the public and sign copies of her book Saturday at the Metropolitan Arts Council.

Shy, but determined to tell why she had to pen this, her first book, at age 74, Hunt tells how she met Bogey on the Lowcountry plantation she and her husband, Julian, bought in 2006, at a time of a profound challenge in their lives.

The Greenville couple bought the plantation to ease their daily trips to a Charleston hospital for cancer treatment. They moved into a small cottage at the site.

“This unpleasant situation turned into a wonderful, magical adventure,” Hunt says, “as this cat walked out of the woods one day after we got back from the hospital and adopted us.”

Bogey came out of the woods where he lived one afternoon and began walking reluctantly toward Hunt, who kept talking to him. Hunt was so delighted with the animal's response that she made a quick trip to the grocery store and bought a case of Fancy Feast to keep him in vittles.

That night Bogey returned to the Hunts' cottage in the company of two of his friends, a raccoon and a squirrel. The astonished Hunts watched the trio come up to the porch to eat the cat food. “It was frightening at first,” the author recalls, “because I thought the raccoon would hurt Bogey.” But her husband suggested they wait, because he felt “something going on.” Sure enough, Hunt says, the three took turns eating, then sat on the porch steps together “like three old men.”

Soon, the Hunts were introduced to the three friends' routine. The squirrel would arrive first in the morning, chattering in the tree tops, “doing all the squirrel things up in there,” Hunt says. Then, Bogey would appear, eat and run up the tree to sit with his friend uttering squirrel noises.

“Bogey would look at us while he was chatting with the squirrel,” says Hunt, who named the squirrel Wiggles and the raccoon Randy and assured them posterity by including them in “Cat Tails.”

They only fussed when Randy's urge to wash his paws in Bogey's water bowl enraged the cat, says Hunt, who watched the interaction in total amazement.

In her book, Hunt's alter ego is a 6-year-old girl named Mattie, a city girl who likes only dogs until she discovers that friendship with an all-knowing cat lets her in on the mysteries of the marshy woods.

The couple's return to Greenville from the Lowcountry, following the “good news” they received from the hospital, also meant making provisions for someone to come twice a day to take care of Bogey, who to this day lives at the plantation.

Back in Greenville, Hunt looked for an artist to paint Bogey's portrait because during those precarious months in 2006 he'd meant so much to the couple. It was to be a Christmas present to her husband, says Hunt, because Bogey “changed our whole life.”

That included the daily walks the cat took them on to the marsh and the many times Bogey, while occupying one of the Adirondack chairs on the porch, would motion with his head to the couple to observe some action such as flyovers by blue herons, wood storks or bluebirds. Those scenes reminded her of a play with characters changing every afternoon, says Hunt, a nature lover by heart. “We really took the time that cat made us take,” she adds matter-of-factly.

The search for an artist ended after someone recommended portraitist Caroline Lott to Hunt. Lott says she asked the reason behind the commission before she accepted it, and as Hunt told her Bogey stories, Lott couldn't stop listening because they were so engaging. The artist was sold on the idea, traveled to the Lowcountry and spent days taking hundreds of pictures of Bogey, the live oaks draped in Spanish moss and the teeming marsh.

She also urged Hunt to consider writing down for her family these incredible Bogey stories, including how the cat greeted them every time they returned to the cottage from another treatment by jumping on the car's hood and pressing his paws and nose against the windshield.

“You had to laugh at that sight,” Hunt says, smiling.

After Lott finished the Christmas-gift portrait, the women became a team as Hunt dictated and Lott typed each episode that the artist would later illustrate.

Hunt says she never intended to write “just a cute children's book.” But rather, “to pen one that awakens in children the love of nature and the appreciation of animals.”

The profits realized from the sale of “Cat Tails and Spooky Trails” will be donated to the Greenville Humane Society, and children attending the meet-the-author event at MAC will each receive a Bogey paw-print stamp.

6 comments:

  1. Wow! What a precious story! I'm entranced by Bogey and his friends. Would love to read that story.

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  2. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Betty

    http://adoptpet.info

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  3. Betty, Thank you for being a part of my blog. I love knowing I have readers (must be the English Major in me!).

    I loved this story, and with all the heavy stuff I write about, I thought it would be welcome breath of freshness.

    I confess. Cameron and I have 22 cats. It was an accident of the goddess and chaotic acts of other's abandonment that blessed us. 19 are in the house full time, the other three as much as I can keep them there. Never intended to have so many, but they are a blessing.

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  4. what a great story...see if nancy our librarian cant get the book for the library here in west.

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  5. There will always be special people who help abimals in need, but to read a story about an animal who helped people in need is beyond words. Good luck to the Hunts. And Bogey, you're a star.
    Maureen Hume www.thepizzagang.com

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