Author Stormie Conway shares personal experiences, fun animal facts, and some of her favorite animal encounters in this discussion about her new release Stormie’s Heart and the healing power animals can have.
“…beautifully written…a powerful true-life account of survival of the human spirit through an incredible bond with animals. You’ll be quickly caught up in Stormie’s world of comedic mishaps, Divine interventions, inner torment, and ultimate freedom that will leave you forever moved…”— Gina Bores, Goodreads Reviewer (review on Stormie’s Joy)
About Stormie’s Heart:
From ferrets to horses, to rabbits and dogs, animals have incredible healing power. In her new collection of essays, pet-sitter Stormie Conway looks at how animals have impacted her life and shares the antics of her furry and feathered animal friends. From hilarious to heartfelt, Conway’s essays not only entertain but also remind us how much humans connect with animals.
- What is it about animals that inspires you to write about them?
Contrary to Simon & Garfunkel’s song, “At the Zoo,” animals aren’t political. They couldn’t care less about who’s in the White House or what party controls the Senate. And they have no interest in mudslinging, assigning blame, or making excuses. In short, they love without condition or judgment, and they impart wisdom passed down through the ages, according to their species and breed. All we as humans need do is listen to and learn from the so-called lesser creatures of the earth. Lessons abound about forgiveness, empathy, integrity…
- Who is the most favorite animal you’ve cared for?
Difficult. Each animal, whether of the family Canidae (dogs), Felidae (cats), Equidae (horses), or Mustelidae (ferrets), possesses its own charm and endearing qualities. Given that acknowledgement, Duncan the Corgi has got to be near the top of my favorite charges with his charismatic nature and intelligence. And Bear. Well, there’s just something about that old German Shepherd. Of the fifteen ferrets I’ve owned, I find it impossible to pick a favorite. But at core level, I’m a horse person. And given that indisputable fact, I would have to admit that my horse Flame—remembered in my first book, STORMIE’S JOY—holds, and will forever hold, a special place in my heart.
- Who was the most challenging animal you’ve cared for?
All animals present some degree of challenge in that their personalities and reaction to stimuli are unique unto themselves. That said, I find the timid ones to be the most challenging…and the most dangerous. I don’t believe any animal is born “bad,” but if the circumstances in which a creature has lived have been harsh enough, the “fight or flight” instinct becomes necessary for survival. And any animal (or person) that has honed these instincts must be approached with caution and heightened awareness to its body language. An animal may not at first accept or even recognize the efforts of a well-intentioned human if the creature’s emotional and psychological wounds go deep enough. Dior, a poodle from STORMIE’S JOY, and Kevin, a cat from STORMIE’S HEART, epitomize the damage that can be inflicted upon an animal’s psyche, thus requiring due diligence on behalf of its caretaker when dealing with them.
- You’ve owned many ferrets and they are featured prominently in your book. What is it about them that fascinates you?
Besides being adorable with their bandit-like masked faces, ferrets are the perfect pet for someone who wants the best of both worlds in a dog and cat, and who may have limited living space. Ferrets are kept in a cage except when allowed to run free for an hour or two a day. They are instinctively litter-trained within their cages, so they don’t need to be walked—although they can be—much to the amusement of passers-by. They don’t bark. In fact, they make little noise at all except for a kind of chittering when they play. And unlike most cats that remain aloof until their mood moves them to interact with people, ferrets are always ready to play. Their natural comedic antics provide hours of laughter.
- What is the one animal that you haven’t cared for yet that you would like to?
I think it would be awesome to care for a wild animal, either a non-releasable one that I could keep in-house like a raccoon or a possum, or one in a sanctuary like a bear or a sloth…or even a dolphin.
- What tips would you give to someone who is new at caring for animals?
You can’t go wrong with patience. Give an animal time to understand and assimilate what you ask of it. And, equally important, always be cognizant of an animal’s body language. It will speak volumes in no uncertain terms about what’s going on inside its head, and how best to deal with it for the safety and well-being of all parties concerned.
- Describe your favorite animal encounters.
Which was the most rewarding?
I loved seeing Laika, the out-of-control rescued Ridgeback learn my commands, especially on-leash, as quickly as she did. In one week, she transformed from a character whose personality and attention span were akin to the Tasmanian devil of Looney Tunes fame to a moderately well-behaved and joy-to-walk dog.
Which was the most challenging?
The three chickens, hands down, proved to be the most challenging. I’d never dealt with such creatures before, and their idiosyncratic needs and personalities provided for a constantly on-my-toes rollicking good time.
- If you could be any animal, which would you choose to be and why?
I would choose to be an animal whose human loved me and treated me as one of his/her family.
- What are five fun facts about animals that most people don’t know?
- Some, if not all animals, can sense when they can get over you, as the mini horses and chickens did.
- Evidence from firsthand experience indicates that some animals watch, comprehend, and “enjoy” television, as did Rockey, one of the dogs for which I cared.
- Ferrets are like kids in that when left to their own devices for too long a time (which can be mere minutes) and make no sound, odds are that they’re into something they shouldn’t be. Better check before one of your socks goes missing.
- An animal, like a child, plays off the emotions of the people in its life. If you’re running around and raising your voice, the animal will react with hyperactivity and nervousness. If you’re mellow and speak to it in calm tones, even when giving the animal commands, it will not only listen more attentively, but learn and obey them more quickly.
- Most animals have a few surprises up their fur or feathers, as the case may be. Some, like Duncan, are exceptionally cognizant of every move you make, and won’t allow you to “sneak” anything past them.
- An animal behaviorist once told me that animals respond to touch—all kinds of touch. For the purposes of this response, I refer to gentle touch. You can’t touch an animal too much. Every time your dog, cat, horse, whatever comes within arm’s reach, a pat or a quick scritch reassures them, calms them, and reminds them that you are there and you are in charge. Animal contact works wonders on human biorhythms as well.
Animals represent and model in so many ways the very best that humans can be.
About the Author:
Stormie Conway is a writer and licensed paralegal. Upon retiring from the corporate world in 2009, she obtained her Veterinary Assistant certificate and launched a successful pet-sitting business. Her previous book, Stormie’s Joy, has garnered excellent reviews from readers.
When not writing, she enjoys cooking, horseback riding, and hiking over dirt trails through sleepy woods. She lives in Sussex County, New Jersey, where she is working on her next book.
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