by Joan Vos MacDonald
When Nancy Furstinger was a toddler, she hugged all the dogs she encountered. “I’ve been fascinated by dogs ever since I can remember,” says Furstinger, the author of more than a dozen books on pets. “Practically the first word out of my mouth was ‘dog’ and as soon as I could string words together, I began pestering my parents for a pooch.”
Her persistence paid off. For her tenth birthday, she brought home Pretzel, a frisky, wire-haired Fox Terrier, the first of many canine companions.
Writing about Animals Wild and Tame
Furstinger’s other passion, writing, was also confirmed at an early age. Her writing career began in the third grade when her play was performed by her class. After college, Furstinger wrote for a newspaper, conducting interviews and covering a variety of topics, then she edited consumer and trade magazines. While working as a managing editor for children’s publishing companies, she began writing books on various topics, and her favorites focused on animals, both wild and tame. The books are a way to share her love of animals with a young audience and hopefully inspire them to cherish and protect animals.
“You can be a hero to animals no matter what your age,” she says. “Brainstorm creative ideas and use your dogged determination to make a difference. Remember that throughout history, the power of one ordinary person has changed the world in extraordinary ways.”
Furstinger’s books are often inspired by real dogs and events. Maggie’s Second Chance is based on the story of a Black Lab mix, abandoned when her owners were evicted. Furstinger only planned to foster the dog temporarily, but the lab joined her family. “She was the third dog I never knew I needed.”
Furstinger meshed the Lab’s adoption story with the story of an animal shelter founded by fourth graders in Dalhart, Texas. That shelter has cared for more than 7,000 animals. “The power of kids making a difference, one animal at a time.”
Maggie’s Second Chance won a gold medal in 2011 for Most Humane Moonbeam Children’s Book Award.
The inspiration for The Forgotten Rabbit was a rabbit rescued after spending three years in an outdoor cage. Comedian Amy Sedaris reviewed the book, calling it a “true success story.”
Furstinger’s ironically titled Why I’d Rather Date My Dog was inspired by her attempts at internet dating. It did not always go well. “After one particularly awful date, I went home and thought, how could I have better spent my time. The title popped into my head and the book practically wrote itself.”
Why I’d Rather Date My Dog was nominated best humor book by the Dog Writers Association of America. It contains such lines as, “Dogs don’t gossip. They wag their tails rather than their tongues,” and “Puppy love lasts forever with a dog and they are always happy to see you.”
Animal Advocacy Begins at Home
Writing is not the only way Furstinger expresses her passion for animals. She volunteers weekly at the SPCA and is actively involved with a chapter of The House Rabbit Society. For her advocacy work, she was named Animal Guardian of the Month in January 2005 by The Guardian Campaign.
Furstinger has fostered many animals over the years, including a batch of 28 New Zealand white rabbits. When she moved to upstate New York, her new home had less room for fostering animals so she shifted her focus to helping people adopt new best friends from shelters and rescues.
Although Furstinger now fosters fewer animals, she does permanently share her home with a few. Her current household includes two rescue dogs, Bosco Bear, a Rottweiler, and Rosy Wagger, a Lab-Shepherd-Hound-Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, as well as three rescued rabbits: SuzyQ, Roger, and Zuri.
Bosco and Rosy were very patient when Furstinger recently gave at-home radio interviews about her book on hero dogs, Paws of Courage. Altogether she spoke to 20 NPR stations around the country in two days.
“Thankfully Bosco and Rosy did not bark too much.”
You can listen to some of her interviews here.
Bionic Animals in Her Future
Furstinger recently finished another book for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the publisher of Mercy, her biography of ASPCA founder Henry Bergh. The book is titled Unstoppable: True Stories of Amazing Bionic Animals. The book features various animal species from around the world that use braces, prosthetics, and wheelchairs to conquer physical challenges. “I profile two dogs, a Rottie and a Pit Bull, plus managed to slide in a sidebar at the eleventh hour about a young gymnast and her rescued pup—both of whom wear matching prosthetic legs.”
Aimed at middle-school kids, the book will be published in fall 2017. It promises profiles of inspiring examples of persistence and determination, qualities that could also be used to describe Furstinger.
“I’m an animal author with a passion for compassion,” she said when attempting to describe herself. “I’ve been speaking up for animals since I learned to talk, and I haven’t shut up yet.”
Furstinger’s books include ASPCA Kids: Kids Making a Difference for Animals, Crazy for Canines: The Ultimate Dog Audiobook, Creative Crafts for Critters, The Forgotten Rabbit, Fun Stuff with Your Best Friend: The Interactive Dog Book, Maggie’s Second Chance: A Gentle Dog’s Rescue, Mercy: The Incredible Story of Henry Bergh, Founder of the ASPCA and Friend of Animals, Paws of Courage: True Tales of Heroic Dogs that Protect and Serve, Smartest Animals: Dogs, and Why I’d Rather Date My Dog.