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Over the holidays, I started re-reading some of the classic cat books in my collection, and I thought I’d start a new series, Classic Cat Books, to introduce these books to new readers of re-introduce them to those of you who have read them. Samantha Mooney’s A Snowflake in My Hand was first published in 1983, and I read it for the first time back then.
Set at New York City’s famous Animal Medical Center, Samantha Mooney shares stories of her time working in the center’s oncology ward. I’ve always thought it takes a special person to be able to handle working with cancer patients, and the stories Mooney shares will stay with you long after you finish the book. But most of all, this is a story about the cats she encounters during her work there: Clancy, a tabby who refuses to stay in a cage, Oliver Cromwell, who summers in Maine and makes friends with his own personal sea gull; and many many others. And then there’s that one cat in the book that will touch your heart the most: Fledermaus, a tiny black cat who breaks through the author’s grief after her father’s death and gently opens her heart to love again.
This book is a testament to all that cats bring into our lives. And even though veterinary medicine has advanced beyond anything we could have imagined in 1983, this book is still relevant, or perhaps, even more relevant now, since it focuses on treating the whole patient and the patient’s human, not just the disease. The writing is lyrical, almost poetic at times.
She is with me, as real as the winter snow that blends the tears upon my face. And it is only when I try to touch her, to make her linger yet awhile, that she dies all over again. A snowflake in my hand, she is like a fragment of a melody that I find myself humming unawares. …While somewhere else, as I now say goodbye again, as shadows of my shadow pass before me, somewhere else a cat leaps to the windowsill to greet the morning sun.
The book’s cover features a beautiful watercolor painted by the author. My own copy has the original cover with the entire painting.
I hold this book responsible for my love of veterinary medicine. Even though it would take another ten years for me to start working in veterinary clinics, I would always think of this book as I started to experience the incredible joy and profound sadness that exist side by side in the veterinary profession.
A Snowflake in My Hand is available from Amazon.
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