It is my pleasure today to introduce you to Dawn Kairns, the author of Maggie: The Dog Who Changed My Life.
This book is a deeply moving story of the powerful connection between the author and her soulmate dog Maggie. This kind of a relationship tends to happen only once in a lifetime, and those of us who have been fortunate enough to share such a special relationship with an animal will find ourselves going down our own memory lane as we savor this book. Maggie enriched the author’s life in ways she never could have imagined when she took that little black Lab puppy home with her. Maggie’s joyful exuberant spirit touches all who come into contact with her. Maggie opens the author’s heart and teaches her about trusting her intuition and listening with her heart. Interspersed with well-researched information about pet health care and advice on how to deal with the grieving process following the loss of a pet, this book shows us that animals are so much more than just pets. They are spiritual beings who are on this planet to teach us about joy.
Please join me in welcoming Dawn Kairns to The Conscious Cat!
Dawn, “Maggie” is your first book. How did you become a writer?
Writing was always a natural way for me to express myself, really, even as a child. When I felt my parents didn’t understand me, I wrote letters to express my feelings in ways I couldn’t always do verbally. I had a diary, of course! I have written informally in journals for years, more as a spiritual and personal growth practice. In my 30s I began the practice of writing all of my dreams in notebooks.
I did write and have published several articles in nursing and health journals when I was an R.N. and as a family nurse practitioner. After Maggie died, I began writing articles about dog behavior, and of course began my book in her honor, even though in those first days after Maggie died, I didn’t realize I was starting a book. I was merely writing everything I could remember about her as a way to cope with my grief. It was only over the next several months that I decided to turn my writings about my life with Maggie into a book. It was in that time that I knew my writing needed some work, and I took a course through the Institute for Children’s Literature. But I think it was in the writing, editing, and re-editing of Maggie that I found my voice as a writer.
What was the process of writing about Maggie like for you?
Writing about Maggie was a Godsend after she died. It was the way I stayed most connected with her; it is what got me through those first excruciating days. I loved the writing of it, and the editing of it less so because I had to be more objective.
What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?
I have several hopes for readers. I hope readers will begin to look at dogs/animals as equal or different beings, not lesser than or below humans, to see them as the incredible spiritual beings of light that they are; I hope readers will open themselves to the sixth sense communication our animals are capable of if they don’t already recognize that their animals are capable of reading their thoughts.
My hope is for readers to trust their intuition with their pets even if their inner voice is in disagreement with an expert’s diagnoses. No one knows our pets like we do and I want readers to trust themselves enough to advocate for their pets with their veterinarians.
I really want readers to question commercial pet food and recognize its potential role in the health problems many of our pets develop; I want them to explore alternative diets such as balanced home-cooked foods and healthier, holistic pet foods with meat ( not meat byproducts) as the primary ingredient, and with minimal or no carbohydrates.
I want readers to become aware of the messages their dreams can hold for them; and to recognize that they, too, probably have clairvoyant dreams but may just not be aware of it.
Finally, I want those suffering from that deep pain of losing a cherished pet to feel understood and supported in their grief, and that yes, it can be as bad as or even worse than losing a loved human. I want them to know that intense pain will ease in time and they will love again.
In your book, you share the emotional toll Maggie’s diagnosis took on you. What was most difficult for you during that time?
The most difficult part for me after learning Maggie’s diagnosis was that I simply couldn’t begin to imagine her not being in my life – we were so much a part of each of our souls. (Even as I speak these words, tears come from the memory of that deep connection, even though it’s been 8 years since she passed!) What made it harder was that I felt some part of me had known she had cancer and I hadn’t honored my intuition, and that I was losing Maggie several years earlier than I otherwise may have.
How did you deal with the many challenges such a diagnosis brings?
Maggie’s cancer was pretty advanced by the time she was correctly diagnosed. She was a dog so full of life that doing anything at this point to compromise her aliveness, such as radiation and its side effects, was not a choice we were comfortable with. What seemed most important to both my husband and I were making Maggie’s remaining days as loving and quality as possible, and spending as much fun time together as possible.
Do you have any tips for others who are faced with a cancer diagnosis for their pet?
First, I want to talk prevention. So many things about whether or not our pet gets cancer are out of our hands, like genetic and environmental causes, but the diet we feed our pets is one element we can control. My first tip is to really educate yourself about pet nutrition and feed a diet of whole, quality foods (this can include a high-quality pet food) to support your pet’s immune system and overall health, rather than feed a highly processed, even veterinary recommended commercial brand.
Once a cancer diagnosis is given for your pet, I would definitely research and explore all of your “traditional’ treatment options, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation depending on the age of your pet. Know who you are and who your dog is and what choices you can and can’t live with. Occasionally, a surgery can be “curative” (three years without recurrence is common with thyroid cancer if caught in the nodular stage) as it very possibly would have been in Maggie’s case had she been diagnosed correctly. Some of my reading has suggested that chemotherapy in animals does not have the negative effects that it often does in humans. Talk to cancer experts, including an animal oncologist and organizations like the Morris Animal Foundation and Canine Cancer Research who devote themselves to finding cures for cancer.
If you choose to do surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation with your pet, I encourage alternative treatment modalities to support your animal’s natural healing abilities. These can include Reiki therapy, acupuncture, Tellington Touch, and massage therapy. I recommend these complementary modalities even if you choose not to do surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, as they support your animals’ overall sense of well-being and health. At this point I’d seek out a vet or practitioner with a vibrational medicine approach to work with the energy frequencies of the health issue.
Finally, be sure you get the support you need because the grief process can begin the moment your pet is diagnosed with cancer. Nurture yourself with the type of body and energy therapies I recommended for your pet. Turn to loving, supportive friends and family. Create quiet and alone time to feel what’s going on in to listen within. Spend as much quality time as you can with your pet.
Who or what inspires you?
Oh, so many things inspire me! Animals inspire me in their glorious presence and unconditional love. Nature is one of my greatest inspirations: hiking through the heart of the mountains and hearing and seeing her streams, meadows of wildflowers, hummingbirds, songbirds, the breathing in and out of the ocean, a sunrise, a sunset! Synchronicity and messages from the other side inspire me. People helping people, people helping animals, animals helping people, animals helping animals – these all inspire me.
I know I can’t possibly name all the people who have inspired me in my life, but to name a few, I’ll start with my father, Oprah Winfrey, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, & Wayne Dyer.
What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?
At my library presentation earlier this month in Parker, Colorado, it was the way the audience came into their hearts and opened up with their own stories during my book presentation of Maggie: the dog who changed my life; and the way most of them stayed seated even when my presentation was finished. I experienced once again how speaking of our animals magically brings people to a level of genuine being with themselves and each other, a place no one is in a hurry to walk away from.
Are you planning on writing another book?
I do have an idea for a next book, but no immediate plans to start it as I am still pretty busy with MAGGIE!
What are you reading at the moment?
It’s always been hard for me to read just one book at a time, so I have several going: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, Handbook for the Soul edited by Richard Carlson & Benjamin Shield, & The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle awaits me on my nightstand, but I don’t dare start it yet!
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Dawn!
Thank you, Ingrid, for your time and interest in my journey with MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life!