Who doesn’t love a story in which the underdog triumphs? In The Book of Lua, the underdog is actually a cat, and her story is one of remarkable perseverance and love. In this book, Lua’s caretaker, Dania Sheldon (aka Mum), channels Lua’s voice from kittendom to present day (age four). Their journey spans initial despair, rehabilitation and treatments, acceptance and, ultimately, the triumph of spirit. The narrative’s tone never strays close to self-pity, despite such unpleasant realities as Lua having her bladder manually expressed on a thrice-daily basis. Tears and frustrations are included honestly, while events such as climbing the apple tree or experiencing snow for the very first time are recounted with humour and charm. Real-life characters—humans, cats, bats, hummingbirds, ravens, eagles, deer and reluctant mice—all play their part in Lua’s exploration of her home, sweet home on Gabriola Island.
Then there are the dragons. Some might challenge Lua’s assertion that “dragons exist.” On the other hand, most of us, adults and children alike, have come face to face with our very own dragons: frightening, intimidating, even traumatic. In Chapter 5, life lessons abound with the mix of dragons, bats, eagles and ravens that inhabit Lua’s world. Although some of these dragons embody the giant fire-breathing beasts of Lua’s and our imaginations, the resident little brown bats seek to trouble this notion and instead offer her some food for thought: “How dragons behave usually depends on how they’re treated.” This is just one of the talking points this book offers to its readers.
As an educator of 30 years, I welcome literature that provides an opportunity to challenge my students (and myself), and Lua’s story has many facets to explore. When reading this story with children, one might ask if the bat’s statement always holds true… and the debate would be on. Lua’s very existence begs a discussion regarding euthanizing physically challenged animals and people. Rich conversations about individual differences and similarities, whether physical or emotional, feline or human, will naturally flow from each chapter. Near the back of the book, readers are provided with links to organizations that offer adoption opportunities for cats of all abilities and information for those providing special needs care.
This book also contains remarkable photographs documenting Lua’s life events, her companions (feline and otherwise), and yes, even a fire-breathing dragon. But it is the images of Lua with her noble grace that captivate the reader’s heart. I look forward to sharing Lua’s experience, resilience and wonder with students, if only to consider the life she has been allowed to fully live. Perhaps there will be some who are inspired to reach out a hand to another creature in need. As the Beatles remind us, “We get by with a little help from our friends,” and what better lesson could be learned?
Jane Fairbairn, North Vancouver, BC
I was drawn to read The Book of Lua in part because I share my home and heart with a semi-paralyzed cat named Hammy.
Hammy came to the Rest.Q Animal Sanctuary in 2016 when he was approximately a year old. Six months earlier, a car accident had left him paralyzed from the waist down. In addition to the spinal cord damage, he was covered in open wounds and had continence issues. His owners surrendered him as they couldn’t meet his complex needs. His situation really was a matter of life and death. Despite the trauma he had experienced, Hammy continued to fight for survival. We decided to give him a chance for a better life.
Since arriving at Rest.Q, Hammy has flourished. After a few months at the Sanctuary, he came to live as a foster kitty in our home and now has three feline siblings. He is able to scoot around so fast and can climb up scratching posts just to prove he can do it. He loves his people and gets so excited when it is time to go outside. He wears special pants to manage his incontinence, but they don’t hold him back in the least.
Hammy has such a zest for life. Supporting his therapy and recovery has been an extraordinary experience for everyone involved. The Book of Lua has forged a kinship between Dania, Lua and our family. The book provides a valuable insight into healthy, uplifting perspectives for understanding those with different abilities. It shares wisdom about how to overcome our anxieties and worries in a way that harnesses the essence of possibility.
Lua shares many traits with Hammy, but each is also beautifully unique. That’s the bonus that comes with The Book of Lua. Humans and their critters can relate to the exploration of Lua’s life and find inspiration from Dania and Lua’s shared journey. From chasing dragons to meandering through the orchard and on to stalking mice, Lua’s journey carries a personal message for all.
Importantly for us, The Book of Lua offers a perspective into Hammy’s view of the world and how important it is to accept our differences and focus forward with positivity. The value of life and its blessings, along with acceptance of challenges, are core themes that Dania and Lua speak to in their book.
Anyone of any age who has faced a challenge in life will find comfort, encouragement and humour in The Book of Lua. This is a special book for those who share their lives with special animals and their humans. Thank you for your courage, Dania and Lua.
Jenelle Cooper, Rest.Q Animal Sanctuary, Galiano Island, BC. Jenelle works at the ARK vet clinic with Dr. Elisabeth Jahren and shares her home with four cats, including Hammy, who, like Lua, cannot walk. Jenelle feeds feral cats on a daily basis and participates with animal care chores at the sanctuary. She is a committed animal rights advocate and believes in education as a tool to build community capacity for appropriate animal care and well-being.