RANDOLPH: FROM DISPENSING ADVICE OVER THE BACKYARD FENCE TO WRITING FOR
Her latest offering, CatSpeak, with Bash Dibra,
to be published this fall
By Julie Lux, editor, goodnewsforpets.com
"I became a pet writer the backyard way," said Maxwell award-winning writer, Elizabeth Randolph. "I have always loved pets, especially cats and dogs. When my family moved to the suburbs, my neighbors started asking me questions about how to care for their own animals. And, I became something of a local Ann Landers for pets."
From dispensing advice to her neighbors, Randolph graduated to providing information to many thousands as the pet-care columnist for Family Circle magazine, a post she held from 1970 until 1992. "When I started writing about pets, I learned a lot from veterinarians and trainers and shared that knowledge with my readers," she said. "I have always written from a common sense point of view," she said of her writing style. "And, I always keep the pet owner, especially the new owner, in mind."
This common sense approach attracted the attention of publishers and in 1981, her first book, How To Be Your Cat's Best Friend, was released by Little, Brown. The book subsequently was selected as a Book-of-the-Month-Club alternate, and, although she has written a number of books since, that first effort remains a favorite. "I put a lot of myself into that book," she recalled. Fawcett reissued it in paperback in 1990 and, although she would like to revise some of the medical information to reflect today's practices, Randolph believes that much of the material is still relevant today. "One idea I don't agree with anymore is that cats should be allowed to go outdoors," she said. "We have learned that cats can live happily indoors and be much safer as well."
In 1985 she collaborated with the veterinarians at New York City's Animal Medical Center to write The Complete Book of Cat Health and The Complete Book of Dog Health both published by Macmillan. And, in 1999, she returned to the subject of animal health with The Veterinarians' Guide to Your Dog's Symptoms and The Veterinarians' Guide to Your Cat's Symptoms from Villard. The dog symptom book received the Dog Writers Association of America Maxwell Medallion award in February 2000.
Through these books and her column, Randolph has seen many changes in pet care through the years. "In the 1950s, we didn't know a lot about health care for pets," she noted. "Veterinary medicine has come a long way. There are specialties today that weren't available before. And, pet owners are more aware of the need to provide health care services for their animals and more willing to spend the time and money to do so."
In 1987, Macmilllan and Fawcett published her popular, How to Help Your Puppy Grow Up to Be a Wonderful Dog and Randolph has authored original paperbacks on birds, fish, rabbits and "other furry pets." Although she stresses that she loves both dogs and cats, Randolph believes that cats have come farther in their acceptance as house pets. "Cats used to be thought of as second class citizens," she said. "Now, more people realize that cats can be part of the family." But she cautions about one commonly held belief about cats. "Cats are perceived as no care animals, and that is not true. Cats can be wonderful companions and they do need, and appreciate, love and attention as dogs do."
In 1991, Randolph began a successful collaboration with dog trainer, Bashkim Dibra. "I have always been interested in animal behavior," Randolph said. "And Bash is a fascinating man. When he comes to work on a book, my animals rush to greet him. He has a wonderful rapport with dogs and cats." Their association has resulted in Dog Training by Bash, Teach Your Dog to Behave and their newest offering, CatSpeak, which will be available from Penguin/Putnam in Fall 2001. "Bash is very knowledgeable about cats, but until recently, there was not enough interest in feline behavior to warrant a book," she noted. "I am delighted that we are now able to help people to better communicate with their cats."
Randolph notes, however, that although the subject of behavior is fascinating to her, she has not always practiced what she preaches. "You know the old saying that the cobbler's children go unshod. Well, I always took a stab at obedience school with my dogs, but usually dropped out," she admits with a laugh.
She currently "shares her life with two British shorthairs and a Norwich terrier," and continues to enjoy learning more about all aspects of pet ownership and sharing that information with readers. Although she receives much satisfaction from her writing and the knowledge that her books and columns have been beneficial to so many pet owners, Randolph reflects back on what might have been. "I wish I had pursued more of a career in animal behavior or veterinary medicine," she said. Even if she had, some savvy publisher probably would have tapped her to write about pets as well.
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