Meet author and pet-lover Kathy Brodsky
Local author talks about her love of animals and the benefits of pet ownership
As a longtime dog owner, the author of several children’s picture books about pets and a licensed clinical social worker, Kathy Brodsky knows a thing or two about the benefits a pet can bring to a family.
The word “responsibility” often comes up, whether it’s a child mounting a sales pitch on what he or she will gain from a new pet in the family or a parent saying what a huge responsibility having a pet will be.
According to Brodsky, kids really can learn responsibility by owning a pet, and for many it’s the first time they are responsible for someone other than themselves.
“Pets are fun, funny and just great to have around,” said Brodsky. “They also show kids that having a pet is more than just playing with a pet.”
Dogs have been an integral part of the Brodsky family, especially when her two now-grown sons were young. Her sons not only learned about personal responsibility, but recognized that the care and upkeep of the family pet was also an additional responsibility for their mom.
Through her private practice as a licensed clinical social worker in Manchester, Brodsky has seen firsthand what a difference a pet can make for a child.
“Often, kids who don’t do so well interpersonally bond with a pet and the pet may become the person’s best friend,” said Brodsky. “Sometimes having a pet can help a shy child come out of him or herself and see that they don’t have to hide within themselves.”
Brodsky’s own love of dogs began at an early age.
“When I was a kid, I had a dog, a Boxer, who was terrific,” she said. “He greeted me every morning by scratching on my bedroom door so I’d let him in.”
As an adult, she and her former husband got a dog right before they moved into a house and she’s had a dog in her household ever since. There were two Rhodesian Ridgebacks and a Greyhound when her sons were still at home and eventually, a Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff) named Cali who was memorialized in her book, “Just Sniffing Around.” Her current dog is Sophie, a mischievous Cocker Spaniel rescue who has a nose for goodies and a real aptitude for finding them, regardless of where they might be hidden.
“My dogs have been the greatest company, especially since my kids moved out and have been on their own,” said Brodsky. “They have gotten me through many of life’s stresses. Who else is there to greet you, just bursting with joy, when you come home? Your dog!”
Kids especially enjoy that their four-legged family member is there for them, ready to listen to confidences, Brodsky said, and great fun to play with as well.
“Pets allow us to be who we are. We can be in any kind of mood and pets accept us. They sense our moods and they’re there for us,” she said. “They don’t judge us and because of that, we have a special connection with them that we don’t have with people.”
As the author of seven children’s picture books, many of which offer family pets as the central character, Brodsky has connected with many other pet owners who have reached out at book reading/signing events, school and nonprofit visits or simply via the internet to express their appreciation for her obvious love of animals and to share stories of their own pets.
She credits Cali with helping her to start writing picture books.
“When taking our usual walk, I noticed a pine tree that was crooked. That discovery inspired me to write a poem which became the book, “My Bent Tree.” Cali was also there for every moment of my next book, “The Inside Story,” said Brodsky.
Her third book, “Just Sniffing Around,” would be about Cali.
“Cali developed bone cancer in August 2008. Even though we did everything we could to help her live as pain-free as possible, in early December of that year, a month shy of her 11th birthday, Cali died peacefully in her sleep. It was a huge loss for all of us,” said Brodsky.
She wanted to write a book about dogs in general, but also something special for Cali. She dedicated the book to the French Mastiff, who also served as the model for the book’s beautiful illustrations, created by Brodsky’s longtime collaborator, Manchester illustrator and fine artist Cameron Bennett. The book begins with a dedication and image of Cali and a poem written by Brodsky the day after her dog died, titled, “We Are So Lucky to Have Each Other.”
The picture book has high appeal for dog lovers of any age with an emphasis on the special qualities that Brodsky feels these incredible four-legged beings bring to our lives. “Just Sniffing Around” ends with a series of discussion questions (as do all of Brodsky’s picture books), which lead to further conversation with children of all ages, touching on topics such as how all dogs help people, from service animals to family pets as well as questions to consider when thinking about your own family’s dog.
Interaction at speaking engagements prompted her to write her next book, “Purrsnikitty,” with a cat as its main character.
“Once my dog book came out, people said I simply must write a book for cat lovers,” said Brodsky, who created a competition to choose a cat as the model for its main character.
Entrants were invited to make a donation to a local animal rescue organization of their own choosing for each cat photo submitted. The competition raised almost $700 for local shelters. Another competition was held for a floppy-eared dog for the main character of her next book, “The Winner Is. . .,” about a dog who tries winning a cat contest only to learn the importance of being himself, and again, Brodsky asked for entrants to donate funds to shelters. More than $2,000 was donated to animal shelters as a result.
For Brodsky, the competitions confirmed what an important position pets play in the lives of their families.
“Pets add so much to families, and many life lessons show up for the first time when there is a pet in the house (responsibility, sickness, having a pet die),” said Brodsky. “Having a pet is really priceless. They add so much and ask for so very little in return.”
Kathy Brodsky’s latest books include “Stover,” the tale of a little pig who has big health and fitness goals and the December 2011 release, “A Horse Named Special,” an uplifting story about a service horse who helps change people’s lives. “Stover” and “The Winner Is. . .” are Creative Child Magazine award recipients of the Preferred Choice Award in the 2011 Creative Toy Awards. Brodsky is also the author of the adult book, “Moment In Our Lives, A Woman’s Eye View.” Learn more at kathybrodsky.com.
Pamme Boutselis is a MarCom consultant and a freelance writer. The mom of four grown kids, she now deals with the challenges of raising two insubordinate dachshunds. Follow her on Twitter @pammeb.