A. The name of the book is Tears and Tales: Stories of Human and Animal Rescue. The genre is pets, non-fiction and it consists of the various animals the author has met during his lifetime. Some of those rescued animals are still with him and some have even saved him from himself when spirits were low and he was contemplating suicide.
2. Who wrote the book?
A. Russell A Vassallo wrote Tears and Tales and has had the distinguished honor of receiving three awards for his work. One reviewer felt the book rated more than five stars.
3. What would the animal think of the author?
A. Since there are several animals mentioned in the book, it would be difficult to answer this question briefly. Sweet Pea would be flattered. After all, she was a waif without a home who found permanent residence with the author and his wife. Spunky, on the other hand, would slobber you with affection and ask for a treat. The mere wrinkle of plastic sets him drooling. Several of the animals have gone to their great beyond which gives the author rise to lament their passing and inspire others to appreciate their pets with deeper love.
If I had to single out the most eligible to speak , it would be Sweet Pea and she probably wonder how he found out all those things about her and then recall that she told him a good deal about her past life. And she’d be grateful for being rescued by him and probably say that he is a kind and loving man who sometimes suffers from depression and is not always happy. She loves when he plays with her and especially when he rubs her belly. She would probably say that it took a lot of time for him to accept her and for her to win him over, but that now, they have a bond between them and she is happy being loved.
4. Tell us about the animal. How would you describe their appearance?
A. Sweet Pea is exactly like her name, kind, loving, fond of children. She has deep, expressive eyes and she skitters away from farm machinery because her left rear leg was broken when she was hit by one. Pea is a small, white dog with light brown patches, head like a border collie and a habit of raising her front leg when she is on the scent of something. She is a better mouser than any of our cats and she has a natural herding instinct.
5. What part does the animal play in the book?
A: The story, “Git”, is based on true events and speaks from the animal’s point of view. It is the story of a man deeply grieved by the loss of his Dobe, Tribute, and unwilling to suffer the same heartbreak again. He fixes on a feral cat he is coaxing to come and take food. When the food starts disappearing without the cat being around, he lays in wait to find the culprit only to find a ragged, starved young dog, recently birthed, standing in his driveway eyeing the food dish.
The characters play themselves. There are no heroes. The villain is whatever family so mistreated this dog and then abandoned her after taking her pups away. In a sense it is a story of a man searching for peace and comfort and a young dog seeking a home.
6. Is there a specific reason why the animal is in the story?
A. Without Sweet Pea there would be no story. She is the central character. Whether or not she finds the home she is seeking, and whether or not the grieving pet owner permits her to stay is something the reader can discover by reading Tears and Tales. The book is one to be read and reread dozens of times. I have read it more than fifty time during the editing process and it never ceased touching me.
However, this is a collection of short stories so there are many animal characters within its pages. Sweet Pea is not the only animal spoken of. There is Spunky, the shar pei/pit bull mix, and Lonesome Dart, a horse with a loving heart, and Willie, a talking horse, and Tribute, and Frenzy (some of the names have been changed in the stories but they are all real animals.
7. What time period does the animal live in?
A: Most of these stories occurred after 1992 and continue to the present time.
8. Where is the animal from?
A. Sweet Pea was born in Casey County, Kentucky. This is rolling and hilly farmland cut from English and Irish stock. In all probability she was born on a farm and kept as a potential hunting dog. However, she was gun shy and of no hunting use to the owner. When she came into heat and became pregnant, the owner had no use for her and did not want additional dogs. He waited until she gave birth, destroyed the pups and abandoned her on a rural road not far from the author’s farm. But as I said, she is not the only animal contained in this book. Most of the others also came from Casey County. One of them came from much higher up. (The Cardinal).
9. Does she live in the same place now?
A. Most of the animals contained in my stories still reside with us on the farm. Some have gone on to their reward and to that place where they wait for us to join them.
10. Tell us about the place where the animal lives.
A. Their location is a 240 acre farm in south central Kentucky. About sixty acres are cleared and the animals have a good deal of land to roam upon. The dogs are permitted to run loose because they never leave the property. The horses have paddocks that range from two acres to twenty. There are running, spring-fed creeks that supply them with water and high ridges that protect them from harsh winds.
11. What special skills does the animal have?
A. Sweet Pea is just great with children and she’s not bad on mothering our pit bull/ shar pei. She is really a very amiable animal, capable of taking care of herself and a loyal companion. When I was in the hospital recovering from colon cancer it was reassuring that she’d be home waiting for my wife and ready to protect her if anything was amiss. Above all, she is a survivor. The other horses are used as trail horses and as companions.
12. How do those skills or abilities affect the animal’s part in the story?
A: I don’t think Sweet pea would have survived in the wild if she weren’t a survivor. She seems to possess a natural skill to hunt and find food. There are days when I still see her burying an extra doggie bone, just in case. Pea isn’t one to waste energy. She knows when to rest and she knows when to hunt. She’s a natural companion in the field and there is nothing she loves better than gong out on the trail with the horses.
13. Tell us about the animal’s past. Can you share one really good experience and/or really bad experience? I know that bad experience can be tough, but it would tell us more about what they’ve been through.
A. Sweet Pea suffered an injury to her right rear leg that was never treated. Although she is active and unparalleled in the field, she tends to run with the leg up when she is over-active. It is speculated that she was hit with some kind of farm implement and it broke her leg. The bone never mended properly.
14. Who is the most important person in the animal’s life? Tell us about them.
A. My wife Virginia has grown very close to Sweet Pea. When I was in the hospital recovering from colon cancer surgery, Sweet Pea was always there, waiting for Virginia when she arrived home. It was comforting to Virginia to have an animal accompany her into a dark house. It was comforting to me knowing she had some kind of protection.
15. Is that person in the story we’re talking about?
A: No. The story revolves around my first contact with Sweet Pea. At that point in time Virginia had never seen the dog and my contact was limited to noticing my cat food disappearing in huge quantities, given the fact there was only one cat. I was actually watching to see if it were a possum or a raccoon stealing the food. It turned out to be Sweet Pea. I actually did not take readily to her. I had just lost my favorite Dobe and did not want the heart break of another dog. It took her time to wear me down.
16. How does that person impact the animal’s life?
A: Sweet Pea and Virginia walk at least twice per day. On occasion Virginia will mount up and ride the trail, with Sweet Pea right behind. At night they sit together on the couch watching television. Virginia is the primary caregiver, doling out the medications and monitoring Pea’s feeding habits. And, on occasion, Sweet Pea rewards her by bringing home a mole or a baby possum.
17. What do you see in the animal’s future?
A: Well, we’ve had her for ten years and estimate she is about twelve. In her present condition I don’t see any reason she can’t make it to twenty. And a dog could not be happier anywhere.
18. Is the author going to write another story that includes the animal? Or is this book part of a series?
A: Tears and Tales is not part of a series. But the author is working on a second animal book in which Sweet Pea appears again. He hopes to have this book out some time in 2009 as he has just completed his third book, Street Wise: Mafia Memoirs due out in August of this year.