I received one of these books, Unlikely Loves, as a birthday gift.
The book is about unexpected, friendships between animal species. (My mom knows me well.) All of the 43 stories within the book are unique and truly heartwarming as was this quote from Dr. Tara Brach in the preface.
I read the cover to cover in just a few evenings. Out of all the stories, I think the story of the abused, crippled horse and her bull protector is my favorite.
This pic shows a very young bull, named Lurch, with his friend Chance, an abused horse, left permanently crippled by it. Lurch appointed himself the bodyguard, and ate, slept and stayed by his side as he learned to walk again!
I must admit it was hard to choose just one.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting the author, Jennifer S. Holland, in cyberspace, and I asked her about her books and her interesting career.
This was our conversation:
LV: What inspired you to write your three books?
I’d say a combination of my love of animals, my curiosity, and my appreciation of surprises in nature. I was at first curious about the phenomenon of animals crossing species boundaries to make friends (based mostly on seeing cute photos circulating on the Web), and I wanted to find out more about it. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this occurs pretty often, even in the wild sometimes, and I knew readers would love to hear the stories behind all those cute images along with some of the explanations from animal behavior experts. I sought cases from all over the animal kingdom and all over the world, to show how widespread the phenomenon is. And I was thrilled at how people responded to the first book, so the second and third followed naturally.
LV: Out of your three books, is there one book in particular that you’re the most proud of?
It’s hard to pick a favorite “child” but right now I’m most proud of Unlikely Heroes–the newest book. The stories are quite varied and really amazing–about animals not just being “friends” but doing something helpful or courageous for another being. Animals are capable of a lot of things that we used to consider human-only abilities and feelings. I love finding stories that illustrate that.
LV: When you were a child, did you dream of working with animals when you grew up?
Definitely. I loved animals and of course thought about veterinary sciences and animal rescue work. But I also loved writing, so I think even way back when I was little I was thinking I’d write about animals someday. I was intrigued by archaeology for a time, but my strongest leanings were toward becoming a marine biologist. Although I didn’t end up doing that, my current work exposes me to all kinds of creatures (as a science writer) and I didn’t have to spend years studying one thing.
LV: I understand that your family includes dogs and lizards! That would seem like an odd combination to a lot of people. Why lizards?
We keep snakes and geckos in addition to our dogs–mainly because my husband used to breed green-tree pythons. For a while we had around 40 snakes! The geckos started out as just a small colony, just for fun. These are crested geckos, which are a really cool species from New Caledonia that make good little pets. But that colony grew and grew (crested geckos lay eggs quite often) and now I have numerous tanks filled with them. I hope to sell some and give some away in the near future.
LV: Your book, Unlikely Loves, says that your dog saved the life of one of your pet lizards? Can you tell us about that?
I used to own a chameleon named Hank, and one day he escaped from his tank. These animals need warmth and moisture, so I figured, sadly, that Hank probably wouldn’t survive long and that we were unlikely to find him before he perished (if ever). But on the second day I noticed my shiba inu, Tai, was walking around with her mouth slightly open, like she had something on her tongue. I put my hand out and told her to “drop it” and out falls Hank! He was alive–and probably only because Tai’s mouth was warm and moist. And also, of course, because for some reason Tai didn’t chew him up, instead carrying him very gently. She saved his life! I can’t say that she did it out of kindness or any other feeling, but perhaps she sensed this was a living thing that was out of place and needed help. Who knows what goes on in the mind of a shiba inu, but I was very grateful for her actions!
LV: I understand you have experience working at National Geographic. How fascinating! Can you tell us more about your career and what stories you’re most proud of?
I’ve been really fortunate to have so many amazing experiences working for Nat Geo–including traveling to a wide variety of locations to write about all kinds of animals. A few fun ones: We did a story about the marine live off of Ireland–not a place most of us think to go scuba diving! It was really incredible to see all the hustle and bustle of creatures that survive in the cold waters there. I also spent a couple of weeks on the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef, which was just beautiful. I was writing about how the corals are responding to the changing climate and ocean chemistry. Our little team had its own boat and so much freedom. I was scuba diving every day, as much as I liked. It was fantastic!
In addition, I’ve gone diving with various shark species (including tiger sharks), have trekked around in the wilds of Ecuador looking for frogs, have climbed huge strangler fig trees in Costa Rica, have camped out in the forests of Papua New Guinea, have met cobra catchers in Vietnam, etc. I’m heading to China this year for an article about pandas. My career has been quite an adventure so far. I hope there is much more to come!
LV: Looking back on your professional career, is there anything you wish you would have done and would change if you could go back in time?
So far I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve done and feel I’ve grabbed most opportunities that were presented to me. There was one trip to central Africa (while working on a Nat Geo story about animal venom in medicine) that I had to miss because I was recovering from illness. It was a hard decision to stay home and probably the right one, but I still sometimes wonder whether I could have pushed myself and gone.
LV: If you were told that you had to be reincarnated as a non-human animal, what animal would you choose to be and why?
My mother always used to say she’d want to come back as a pet in her own house…and I think that’s not a bad choice. Pets in my family are treated pretty darn well! However, I can also imagine being a dolphin or a hawk or any other animal that swims or soars with great speed and grace. That would be a lot of fun.
LV: If your house was on fire, what are the things (living or non-living) you would grab as you ran out the door?
Pets would be first (particularly the dogs and one very rare blue snake), then artwork. I love art and have a collection of paintings and sculptures that mean a lot to me. I’d also grab the computer drive that houses our digital photographs and the backup drive to my laptop and/or the laptop itself! I’d hate to lose all the projects I’m working on now–articles, book ideas, etc.
LV: What story does your family always tell about you?
I’m not certain, but I know they’ve all been very proud of some of the crazy adventures I’ve had writing for Nat Geo–diving with sharks, experiencing zero gravity on the “Vomit Comet,” spending weeks camping in Papua New Guinea, etc. I suspect those are the things they bring up—that and the success of my Unlikely series. My father loves telling people that two of the books (Friendships and Loves) were on the NYT bestseller list at the same time!
LV: What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
Write a novel
LV: Do you have any new books in the works?
I am in the process of convincing my editors at Workman to give the green light to my latest idea. So, I haven’t started writing anything yet but I am doing preliminary research to prove the concept–and to show that it would be a perfect book to follow the Unlikely series. Fingers crossed!
Enter Our Giveaway!
When I spoke with Jennifer, I asked if she’d be willing to give away a copy of her three books and she graciously agreed. So, my friends, I’m giving away one copy of each of her three books to three lucky winners.
The contest begins at midnight on 3/17 and ends at midnight on 3/23. Three winners will be chosen at random and receive one of three “Unlikely” books.
Enter once or several times — it’s totally up to you.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Oh, and one last thing. This is NOT a requirement for entering the contest, but I hope you will consider making a donation to Rocky Ridge Refuge. They do incredible work saving horribly abused animals and finding them good, forever homes. I’m sure their vet bills are enormous and they appreciate every penny donated. Thanks, my friends!
[Update as of 8:56 a.m. on 3/23/15: The winners are: Kelly Paquet, Amy Mace and Linda Shore.]