One of the first Indie Authors I met via Twitter, Russell Blake quickly became one of my favorite people in the world with his hilarious tweets and his no-nonsense approach to me getting off my ass and writing (the words “Shut up and start writing” quite often spring to mind when thinking of Russell). His work however, quite quickly made him shoot up in my respect for him as not only an author, but as a friend. I’ve happily promoted Russell and his exceptional novels as often as my busy life allows me. So when The Quillective Project came about and Four Paws became a book rather than just a dream and an idea, knowing Russell’s affinity for helping our furry friends, I could think of no one else better suited to write the “FourWord” for The Quillective Project’s 2013 anthology, a poetry collection to benefit The Humane Society of Dallas’ no-kill shelter Dog and Kitty City.
When I was approached by my friend Amber Jerome~Norrgard to write a foreword for a poetry book, to say I felt out of my depth is to trivialize my reaction. I know about as much about poetry as I know about quantum mechanics, which is to say, nothing, and then some. I’m akin to a dwarf star, wherein I suck any goodness or knowledge of the form out of anyone within my orbit – a negative vortex when it comes to poetry appreciation.
Perhaps that’s an exaggeration. But I do know that the only time I’ve ever written anything that rhymed, on purpose, was around sixth grade, when I tried my hand at bawdy limericks – apparently to great effect, even if it did get me a trip to the headmaster’s office. Who knew that innocuous possibilities like Dave, cave and save could be that scandalous, all within six lines?
But I digress.
I’m a sucker for a furry face, so naturally when I heard that the profits from this collection were going to a charity that benefits animals, I couldn’t refuse. Having rescued about fifteen pooches since moving to Mexico almost a decade ago, and either fostered them back to health or found good homes for them, it’s a cause near and dear to my heart. Besides dogs, I’ve rescued a seagull, a pelican, several cats (and I’m horribly allergic to cats, which they seem to sense and delight in, taking every opportunity to rub against me), and my latest nemesis, a sparrow I have named Bird who is as demanding as any Middle Eastern despot. I actually looked up the lifespan of sparrows after I found her, maybe a week old, unable to fly, having somehow fallen out of the nest, with cats eyeing her like she was the only blonde at the bar at two a.m. Turns out my commitment to Bird is going to be twelve to fifteen years, which is longer than I think any smart money thinks I’ll last. Anyone that doesn’t know what a one-ounce ball and chain a baby sparrow can be needs to rescue one – that’s all I’m going to say.
I’ve found puppies left in cardboard boxes in the middle of nowhere, their eyes barely open, the owners having decided that allowing cruel nature to have its way with them was all in the scheme of things. I’ve helped set broken legs and wings; I carried one wild dog I’ll never forget into the nearest vet after he had been shot eight times, stabbed twice, and had his hips shattered with a bat. I spent six months nursing that dog back to a life that was moments from departing his fragile form, and been the better for it. I’ve seen suffering, and I’ve never understood the evil that men can do to the defenseless that they’re supposed to protect. And I can honestly say I’ve never met a truly bad dog, only ones that were trained to be violent by…humans.
Mexico is a harsh environment for its human population, and for animals it’s far worse. The society is different than the U.S., where pets are viewed as parts of the family. Right or wrong, here, for the most part animals are viewed as, well, animals, and owners think nothing of letting their dogs run free, to acquire a host of horrible diseases or be hit by cars. Illness or injury is met with indifference – the dog either lives, or dies. It’s how nature works.
It’s not because the people are mean or evil. It’s because their societal mores are different. There’s no safety net here, no state-sponsored shelters – the only state-sponsored effort I have ever seen was a truck with a cargo box on the back with the exhaust plumbed into the box, so any strays that were picked up expired before it made it back to the garage for the night. I wish it was different, but it is what it is. In a land where many humans are barely living hand to mouth each day, the life of a dog just doesn’t have the same weight.
While I can respect diversity, I will say that I’ve done what I can to change hearts and minds of anyone I come into contact with in my circle, and I think I’ve had some success. But it’s never enough, and there’s an endless stream of animals that need just a little kindness and some compassion to make it. Having been fortunate enough to travel a lot during my life, I’ve seen animals all over the world in sorry states and met incredibly generous and conscientious people who donate their time, money and emotions to bettering the lives of the less fortunate animals around them. Whenever I think we as a species would be better served ending our reign on the planet, I think of those selfless souls and reconsider my harsh judgment. I’m constantly surprised by how good people can be, although I’m never surprised at how good our furry friends are.
Pets make us better humans. There’s no doubt about it. They teach us unconditional love and acceptance, and offer a glimpse of the divine in their non-judgmental gaze.
I know squat about poetry. But I know a good cause, and I know that Amber is a caring soul, a kindred whose love for animals is shared by me. I’m humbled that she approached me – a broken down carnie barker with a bad attitude who’s been fortunate enough to sell a few books – to write the introduction to a wonderful labor of love that represents the best we as humans have to offer.
The authors appearing in these pages have donated their time, energy and spirits to creating something remarkable. It’s with sincerity that I say I hope you enjoy reading it as much as they enjoyed writing it. And since the proceeds go to charity, everyone wins, including those that don’t have a voice other than a bark or a yelp.
If that isn’t a win-win for everybody, I don’t know what is.
Enjoy, and thank you.
Russell Blake is the bestselling author of eighteen novels, including the thrillers Fatal Exchange, The Geronimo Breach, Zero Sum, King of Swords, Night of the Assassin, Revenge of the Assassin, Return of the Assassin, The Delphi Chronicle trilogy, The Voynich Cypher, Silver Justice, JET, JET II – Betrayal, JET III – Vengeance, and JET IV – Reckoning. His nonfiction includes the international bestseller An Angel With Fur (animal biography) and How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated), a parody of all things writing-related. Blake lives in Mexico and enjoys his dogs, fishing, boating, tequila and writing, while battling world domination by clowns. You can follow Russell on Twitter and visit him at his website.
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