It’s happy book
birthday for the new paperback editions of Wanted! A Guinea Pig called Henry,
and Abandoned! A Lion Called Kiki. Harry the Rescue Dog is celebrating with an
updated post on the origin of the lion story – because believe it or not, that’s
the truest story in all the Rainbow Street Animal Shelter series (the
Rainbow Street Pets book in Australia).
Can you imagine getting a phone call from an airport to say, “You’ve
got a parcel here!” – and when you get there, finding out that a friend has sent
you a lion cub? That’s what happened to friends of my parents when I was a kid,
living in Colorado.
The cub was a lioness, and she was named Cappy. Her father was a
cross-eyed lion named Clarence, who starred in Daktari, a TV series set in
Africa, but I’m not sure why someone decided to send this cub to our friends –
who already had six dogs and a three-legged goat! (And can you imagine how
excited my brother and sister and I were when they came to visit us? The cub
even met our horse!)
Our friends took wonderful care of Cappy, but of course she grew
into a lion, not a big pussy cat. In the end they realized that the best thing
for her would be to take her somewhere where she could live more like a lion.
It was as heartbreaking as it would be to give up any pet. They chose the zoo
at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, although she was later sold to the Topeko zoo
in Kansas. They visited her there a couple of years later, and she seemed to
remember her name when they called her.
That was the happiest ending that little lion could have had in
1967, but when I wrote the story I set it in the 1980s and so was able to make
it even happier. I used a wildlife refuge in Zambia because when I phoned the
Melbourne Werribee Plains Zoo to ask some questions, I spoke to a vet who was
about to return to Zambia to set up a wildlife refuge to look after lions and
other native animals.
It also struck me
that if the memory of the visiting lion cub had made such an impression on me,
it would have had a much bigger effect on a child who'd been given it. So as
authors do, I used some bare bones of truth, and fleshed out a story that
explains why the Rainbow Street Shelter manager Mona has dedicated her life to
And thanks to my
original post when the book first came out, we’re back in touch with the
friends who were surprised by that parcel so long ago. A lovely bonus to the
Harry's hoping to interview a guinea pig rescuer in a later post. (I don't really trust him to interview guinea pigs…)
Labels: ABANDONED A Lion Called Kiki, animal stories, Clarence the cross-eyed lion, lions as pets, pet books, Rainbow Street Animal Shelter series, WANTED A Guinea Pig Called Henry, why animals shouldn't be gifts