This is Peter. I picked him out from the SPCA nine years ago. He had a heart-shaped nose and crossed eyes, spending most of the visit chewing on his tongue. When I bent down to pet him, he threw up on my feet. It was love at first sight.
Adopting Peter was no easy task. I was 19, moving into my first apartment straight out of dorm-life, and decided I wanted a kitten companion. The day I was to move out I headed to the shelter in search of my new best friend. The roads were slick with ice and on the radio I learned that a travel ban had just been placed into effect.
After choosing Peter and having him get sick immediately after, the people at the SPCA said they would have to keep him for observation and there would be no guarantees that I could adopt him. They would not let me give my donation and “hold” him.
So I drove home in the snow, focusing on the move – that had to happen by 11 p.m. – at hand. I got to my dorm, loaded my car, and dropped half of my life at the new apartment. On my way back to college to pick up my last bit of things, the SPCA called. The doctor looked at Peter, said he was fine, and let me know that they’d be open for another half-hour. So I drove in the travel ban with intentions to pick Peter up.
As I was signing the final papers, the woman’s smile turned into a frown while letting me know I had to be 21 to adopt a pet. After pleading for awhile, she agreed to make an exception and let me adopt so long as my mom verbally signed off on the adoption.
There was one catch: my mom did not want me to adopt an animal. Looking back, I completely understand her cause for concern. I was just a kid and didn’t understand the responsibility of taking care of another living thing, nor had I ever helped with my childhood pets.
Without any other option, I told the woman to call my mom. And when she asked her if she was aware of me wanting to adopt a pet and if I had her permission, my mom replied, “Yes, I know about it. And I support it.”
My mom and I have always been exceptionally close, but that moment sticks out like a sore thumb as one of the most notable times that she went to bat for me.
I’m so glad that she did too because Peter has been my right-hand man for almost a decade now. He’s taught me love, compassion, responsibility, and – in a way – prepped me for motherhood. And now he’s the best “big brother” to Fox, constantly drawing smiles from him just from walking into a room.
The number one question I get about Peter centers around his name. It usually sounds something like, “Who names a cat Peter?” Truth be told, I didn’t! He came with that moniker and I tried to change it. Since he didn’t answer to Peter quite yet, I deemed him Oliver, and it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I stopped mid-sentence and realized I had been calling him Peter all along.
So, when I received a copy of the children’s book Oliver Poons and the Bright Yellow Hat, I was struck not only by the name Oliver but also by the resemblance of the two felines.
I couldn’t wait to show Fox his new book. His two favorites things in one: a book filled with pictures of cats!
Author Lauryn Alyssa Wendus came up with the idea to write this lighthearted, rhyming children’s book while overcoming a two year battle with Lyme disease. With inspiration from her cat Oliver Poons and her mother Lois (who also happens to be the book’s illustrator), Lauryn was able to create a fun and smile-inducing experience for children of all ages.
I talked with Lauryn about her motivation, the process of producing her first children’s book, and her experience working alongside her mom. Here’s what she had to say.
Q&A with Lauryn Alyssa Wendus
Please tell me about your relationship with your mom.
My mom and I have always been close, but have definitely discovered a new facet to our relationship in working together. In the beginning of my illness, I needed almost constant care and support, which she provided. I started writing the Oliver Poons stories simply as something fun and lighthearted to fill my time in bed. As an odd neurological symptom, I began writing with my left hand out of the blue (previously always right-handed) and when my mother came to visit, she asked what I was doing. After seeking an illustrator on my own and not sharing the same vision, I asked my mom if she would give it a shot. She sort of laughed at me at first — she hadn’t even picked up a pencil to sketch in a number of years, but I had seen her old drawings and thought she was capable…And so the journey began! It’s worked out well because we’ve been able to develop the characters together, and it gave us a new focus outside of my illness. We’re very different and have different skills and viewpoints on just about everything, which can sometimes have it’s sticking points (I think like any honest mother-daughter relationship!), but has also fueled the creative process in a really unique way.
How has Oliver and writing helped you overcome your battle with Lyme disease?
The real Oliver has helped me through my illness because he always gives me something to smile about! He’s a very silly cat with a lot of personality and has been by my side every step of the way. My mom would have to physically carry him downstairs to make sure he ate a lot of the times because he was sometimes a little too devoted to his care-taking 🙂 Oliver brought me a smile on the worst days, the project of writing and working with my mom has given me something positive to work on as I’ve been healing, and now we hope that happiness is shared through the book to others and we’re also using some of the proceeds to help launch my other website – differentwork.org to help people repurpose their skills & network on a person-to-person level to create new work (similar to what my mother and I did).
What message would you like readers to carry away from your book?
I think I’d like readers to take away the power of a smile! It’s a simple, silly story, but it’s been really cool to just see people smile from something that brought me a bit of joy during an otherwise difficult stretch!
If you would like to purchase a copy of Oliver Poons and the Bright Yellow Hat for your little one or someone you know, visit the book’s website. For more information on Lauryn, visit LaurynWendus.com.
Seriously though, look at how much joy this book brought to my little man’s face!