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NYC Pet Project: Stars of Our Hearts

By: Alex Lieber

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Our pets can read us like an open letter. They can usually tell our mood by watching the flash of our eyes and the movements of our limbs. Sometimes they read us better than we read ourselves.

Authors Edward J. Kaczmarek III and Michael J. La Rue challenged scores of New Yorkers to put into words what their pets already know. They coupled these letters with hundreds of stunning photographic portraits and published them in their book, NYC Pet Project (Good Books Publishing Inc.).

Kaczmarek and La Rue collected letters from a cross-section of celebrities and everyday people. What follows are letters and portraits of ordinary people whose lives are fulfilled by caring for companion animals.

Louise and Joe to Tasha, a Black Labrador Retriever Mix

Tasha,

They say we rescued you – but now, years later, we're not so sure who rescued who.

-        The front door, the back door, the kennel, the cage – all those doors might still be closed if you had not learned to open them.
-        Glen's stereo ... oh, perhaps we shouldn't mention that.
-        The spice cupboard you emptied ... ah! The backyard smelled like pizza for a week.
-        Your "excursions"; agonizing hours until the pet food store called: "Looking for Tasha?"
-        Putting your paw on our shoulder when we lie on the floor with you.
-        The poops – bigger than most lap dogs!
-        The singing – not ours but yours! To the saxophone or harmonica, no one sings the blues like you do.

We could go on and on. All the joy you give – how can we ever repay you? We love you Tasha

Louise and Joe


Cody on the Beat

Cody is a therapy dog "assigned" to Roy Gross, chief of the Law Enforcement Division of the Suffolk County SPCA. Cody rides in the sidecar of Chief Gross' Harley Davidson, and they visit hospitals and nursing homes to brighten everyone's day. The letter is from Chief Gross.

Dear Cody,

You are more than just a partner to me. ... When our unit was called into NYC on Sept. 11th to respond to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, I faced horror for which there are no words to describe. After the first few days I decided to bring you with me to help as a therapy dog, to help relieve the stress from the workers down there. Maybe I was a bit selfish. You made me feel better being there with me as well as helping others. You responded like a true soldier. I have been called a hero for my efforts at Ground Zero; however, you are my hero.

People say dogs are man's best friend. That is an understatement. You are not just my partner – you are truly my best friend, my other son. Thank you. I love you.


Jessica with Hailey, a German Shepherd/Retriever Mix and Megan, a Golden Retriever

Girls,

Thank you for teaching me what life is about, and thank you for reminding me when I forget. You are my angels.

Mom


Victoria and her rescued German Shepherd Mix, Jesse

The day we met, you looked so sad and skinny, shaking in the corner pen at the animal shelter. You had mange, kennel cough, and terrible memories from your first home and life on the street. It took several minutes before you even let me touch you! Finally, I was able to give you a hug. Ever since that moment, we have been inseparable buddies. ... Isn't it crazy to think I only had to pay a thirty dollar half-price special for years of your unconditional love?

I want to thank you for your company through many hard years in grad school and when I started my business. I knew no matter how late I went to sleep, you would have my covers warm and help my worries fade away with that wagging tail. You were also such a comfort during the horrible events of 9/11. It helped me keep my spirits up to watch you happily playing with your neighbor, a Boston terrier named Toben, while I watched CNN in fear of what might be next. ...

I hope in the coming years I am able to give you as much love and happiness as you have given me, but that is probably impossible. I love you, little Jess!

Victoria


Kayla and Her Hamsters, Zadoveme and Mashu

My name is Kayla Morrison. I'm 8-years-old. I love my hamsters because they love me. They are cute and soft. They don't bite either. Their names are Zadoveme and Mashy. Zadoveme is a boy and Mashu is a girl.

Kayla


Victor and Blaze, a Dalmatian

Dear Blaze,

You are totally Dalmatian; loyal, impulsive, and the most loving creature I have ever known. ... I love taking you for walks and seeing the pleasure your presence brings to people, of all ages. How often shouts of "pongo" is hard from children who are delighted by you.

I will always remember how you pull me and the wheelchair up hills (especially when we were in Maine). You save wear and tear on my shoulders. What a friend.

You've had to learn how to get through doors and tight spaces while allowing for the wheelchair, and it never made any difference to you. Not minding the difference is a lesson people could learn from their dogs. Thanks for all your love and adding pleasure to my life.

With love from your daddy,

Victor


Vangeli with his tabby, Bella

Bella, my bella ...

The pussy I love, cute and fluffy and so full of love. You can be somewhat bitchy when you need to be fed but all in all I'm glad we share a bed. If you weren't around my life would be empty my nights would be peaceful, but still you are the sweetest evil. The scratches the bruises are worth all the pain cause I've come to realize you are insane. And this is the way we're together to share each other forever and ever ...

Purr,

Vangeli


Shawn and Lucy, a Red-knee Tarantula

Dear Lucy,

I know you hear them, but please don't listen to what they're saying. Don't think for one second that they're right. And don't you believe that they really dislike you, because they don't even know you. If they did, I bet they'd agree with something I've known for the four years we've been together: TARANTULAS MAKE GREAT PETS.

Before you pass judgment on humans you have to understand that we have a long-entrenched (albeit unfounded) fear of spiders. ... So, to clear your good name, I'm doing my best to inform our visitors the truth about you. And the truth is that you're no more dangerous than a pet rock and, contrary to popular belief, your bite is no worse than a bee's sting. ... But no matter how I try, I can't seem to convince anyone that you're just a cute, furry teddy bear ... with eight legs.

Maybe that's it. Maybe it's the eight leg thing that gets them. ... Or maybe it's the eight eyes that freak everybody out. Or the 1/4 inch fangs that you use to inject venom into those hapless crickets you call "lunch." Or maybe it's the venom in those fangs, which paralyze and then dissolve the poor, defenseless crickets before they've even had a chance to chirp their last "goodbyes" to their families.

Could it be that everyone isn't so wrong for being grossed out by you? Could I have been deluding myself all this time, thinking I'd found myself the perfect Manhattan pet when in reality I'm harboring a creepy, hairy, carnivorous MONSTER??!!

Cool.

Yours truly,
Shawn.



The letters appear within the NYC Pet Project book in the author's actual handwriting.

Good Books Publishing, Inc. has provided some the content from the NYC Pet Project for inclusion in this website. For additional information on Good Books Publishing, Inc. or to order the NYC Pet Project book, go to www.nycpetproject.com or your local bookstore.

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