Since the Summer of 2010, Kathy Ward has been delighting Lincoln 55+ readers with her quarterly pet column. In those seven years, she’s written about her own experiences with our animals, organizations that serve animals, and other pet-related topics such as senior living communities and their pet policies. I’m excited to shine a spotlight on a fellow pet writer.
ALLISON: How did you become a columnist for Lincoln 55+?
KATHY: I worked in the same agency as Keith Larsen, the editor of Lincoln 55+, for many years and wrote an article or two on health issues. When he mentioned writing a column, I told him that while I am passionate about health issues, I’ve spent my whole life caring about pets, and that is a topic of special interest to me.
ALLISON: Tell me more about your passion for animals.
KATHY: I grew up on a ranch, loving my Border Collie, Ring, and a barn full of cats. I still have tears in my eyes when I think about Ring, even though it has been more than 60 years since he died. I helped my dad by socializing the cats who kept the granary free of rodents. The cats and Ring followed me everywhere I went, often in a single file line of animals. They kept me from ever feeling lonely on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. From 1996-2000, my husband and I owned a store in the Haymarket named “Treats!, A Bakery and Gift Shop for Dogs”. He made the treats, and we sold a wide variety of gift items for and about dogs and cats. We did fundraisers for the Capital Humane Society, and my husband served on the board.
ALLISON: What’s a personal favorite column of yours? Why?
KATHY: I wrote a column about a particularly memorable dog named Montie (a Shetland Sheepdog) that we fostered and then adopted. When he died, I wanted to tell the story of some of his adventures and personality quirks. That was the column that resulted in the most reader feedback. I even heard from a woman who at one time had been interested in adopting Montie. When she had come to see him, he had no interest in interacting with her. She wrote to me in response to that column that she now understood that Montie wasn’t interested in finding a new home because he already had one. Her letter was so touching to me. I never wanted to give Montie up after the first day we met him at the Capital Humane Society, but we were trying to do what foster families are supposed to do. It was a prime example of being “foster failures”.
ALLISON: What was the hardest column to write? Why?
KATHY: I spent a long time writing the column on pet insurance, because I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t misleading people on whether or not it was a good idea. For me, it is a comfort to know that finances don’t have to influence decisions on my pets that are insured. But I also know that premiums are difficult to pay and that putting money aside to self-insure your pets can sometimes be a better financial decision. It’s a gamble that depends on when in their life cycle pets are going to be seriously ill or hurt, how much it will cost to treat them, and how long they will need treatment.
ALLISON: Share a memorable reader response.
KATHY: I don’t get a lot of written response to my columns, but it always surprises me to have people mention a column I wrote. One time a stranger came up to me and apparently recognized me from my picture in the column. She said that she and her husband always looked forward to reading my column because they loved pets so much.
ALLISON: If I were to look at your first column and compare it to today, what’s changed?
KATHY: I don’t know that a lot has changed. Sometimes I interview people about their pets or their rescue work, and sometimes I write based on my own experience or research (Internet or making calls).
ALLISON: How many pets do you currently have?
KATHY: We have two Bearded Collies and two cats.
ALLISON: What are some fun pet moments?
KATHY: Two words describe the fun that pets bring me: comfort and joy. This morning one of the cats woke me by tunneling under the covers and cuddling for a long time. The purr of a cat is better than any meditation that I’ve ever tried. The dogs’ playtimes are the best manifestation of pure joy. When they go racing out of the house to make sure there are no squirrels invading our yard and then chase each other in circles, there’s no way that anyone could not recognize the presence of joy. The sight of a long-haired Bearded Collie with head thrown back and long-hair flying in the wind just makes me happy. The snuggle times with any of my pets brings me peace and comfort.
ALLISON: What’s one thing that you’ve learned about caring for animals from being a pet columnist?
KATHY: I’ve learned that there are a lot of people out there in our community doing an extraordinary amount of work to save and care for animals, including running large rescue operations, helping people pay for vet bills, and providing education.
ALLISON: How has animal welfare changed since you started writing your column?
KATHY: I don’t know how much it has changed in the seven years I’ve written the column, but over time I have seen a significant shift in how people view their animals. I think there are a lot more people who see animals as part of their family and as beings with rights and feelings.
ALLISON: How would you like to see it change in the future?
KATHY: Sadly, there are still some people who see pets as disposable or who don’t invest the time or money training and caring for them. I’d like to see all pets wanted and cherished, and I’d like to see all families with pets experience the comfort and joy that I described above.
ALLISON: What other activities do you enjoy besides writing columns?
KATHY: I’m loving retirement, with lots of time to do volunteer work, master new crafts, read books, hang out with my hubby, lunch with friends, etc. The days go by so quickly because I never get everything done that I’d like to do.
Starting with the Spring 2018 issue, Kathy will be taking a break from her quarterly pet column. I asked her if there were other publications where readers might find Kathy’s work. At the moment there isn’t, but Kathy did hint that she’d like to write a book about their rescue dog Montie. I look forward to her future creative endeavors!