In life, "Pooh" the legendary, long haired blonde cat inspired joy and vitality in humans who had fallen into the abyss of the ailing and downtrodden. In death, she inspired a book by first time local author Jane Gislason that is expected to serve in the same capacity, only this time for shelter animals everywhere.
It doesn't take long to recognize Gislason as a point of light in an often cruel and gray world. She is one of those rare souls, comprised so strongly of love and compassion, that she can't help but feel the pain other conscious entities to an extent that can make it tough just to get through the day.
Traits such as these are both a gift and a burden, and incline Gislason to gravitate toward animals which, in the vast majority of instances, are static in their states of love and loyalty unless treated in a way that teaches them otherwise.
For nearly 24 years Jane and Al Gislason lived in rural Granite Falls. Recently the two sold their home and plan to take up residence elsewhere in the state, though the two intend stay connected to their community of friends in the Granite Falls area.
Jane has served as a massage therapists for 21 years and additionally as a massage therapy instructor at Ridgewater for the past 11.
Her husband, Al, is the more likely of the two to be seen around town. The former high school science teacher and assistant to the Dean at Southwest Minnesota State University has run the Granite Falls golf course, served as the interim pastor at the United Church of Christ and presently drives bus––but is also well known as a ping pong aficionado who enjoys moonlighting as Santa Claus.
Eight years ago, Jane was introduced to the world of shelter animals when she was moved to volunteer her time at the Willmar animal shelter as a way to help her cope with the loss of the her beloved cat, "Pooh."
"I went to the shelter and asked: how can I help? And it truly has been a healing experience––the best thing to happen to me, at least in terms of animals. Al is the best thing to happen to me overall," she said with a laugh.
As far as the therapeutic nature of the shelter is concerned, Jane admits that it's a doubled edged sword wherein one experiences both the joy that comes with caring for shelter animals as well as the devastation of seeing an animal who has been subjected to trauma or even just couped up in pens.
"To see what those dogs are going through in those kennels and have them still happy to see you ... I don't how that can't change your day and your life," said Jane. "Don't get me wrong, there have been so many days where I have cried all the way home from Willmar. But it's not about you when you walk in the door. And I have to be able to say that no matter how difficult it is for me. Rescuing animals rescues you too."
Page 2 of 2 - Moon Pie
and Sugar Britches
At present the Gislason's have five cats and a dog, though the pair has offered their home to a vast number of furry creatures, including many who have been rescue animals.
Just as the cat moved Jane to volunteer at the shelter, so too did she feel that "Pooh: inspired her to write and self-publish a book that she created to bring attention to shelter animals, "Moon Pie and Sugar Britches: A story of courage, love and hope for shelter animals everywhere."
Gislason said she wrote the entirety of the story over the course of a single day during the first half of 2012, and then spent the next six months editing the book to bring it to its present state. The cast of the characters are all based on real animals that she is either currently, or has, cared for––though all have been given fictitious names, such as "Pooh" who goes by "Moon Pie" in the book. Her good friend, L. Blue of Blue Katt Design, provided the graphic work on the publication.
The story itself is an Anthropomorphic tale that follows shelter animals as they experience the worry and loneliness at times found at the shelter as well as the joy of finding a home. The animals assist each other with words of love and encouragement along the way.
"This book was written to bring awareness to what the animals are going through," said Jane. "I have nothing but admiration for their courage, which just astounds me, and I wanted to thank them and acknowledge them so that maybe more people would help these animals in need whether through volunteering, adoption or by offering a temporary foster home." An animal shelter is also in need locally, she said.
Jane went on to say that, "There are people in need of healing and there is nothing else that is better for that than getting outside yourself and taking care of someone else ... These dogs and cats come into the world knowing everything there is in the world about love, with a great ability to serve as teachers. And I think we need to listen."
Jane printed 100 copies of the book, through Formax Printing, out of St. Louis Missouri. At present, half of the books, which cost her $5 a piece to print, have been sold. Cost is $9.95, with 20 percent of her profits going to support the animal shelter.
Jane says the best way to purchase a book is to contact her via phone at 507-829-0789. She will also have a book sale and signing on Tuesday, April 16 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Granite Falls Public Library.