When De was in the hospital those final few months and I was caring for him, he kept saying I should write a book about Deaken. I kept saying, "Maybe someday." Then he said I should at least dedicate a book to Deaken--so I did that in the first book I wrote about De. He would have liked that, had he lived to read it...
De's "orders from headquarters" have haunted me all these years. "Yeah," I agreed, "I really should write a book about my 'serval son'...but how do I do that without making every other cat lover on the planet want one of their own?"
It took me more than a decade to figure it out. And the answer was as obvious as the nose on my face: TELL IT ALL!!!
Not just the good stuff, but ALL of it: the bad, scary, stressful, painful, infuriating, off-putting stuff, too. It was only in writing a well-rounded book that I could convince myself to write it at all.
There are people selling pet servals and serval cross breeds like the Savannah Cat. I researched some of them while writing this book. Some are pretty honest when it comes to what it takes to honorably take care of a serval, their environment, and the people in it.
But none of them (that I could find) stress the down side enough because...after all..they want people to buy their servals! A serval goes for upwards of $3K and, in this economy, serval and serval hybrid selling may be all these folks have to live on. So they focus heavily on the up side of having a wild cat. That's business. All businesses do that or very few would make any money.
That's why I wanted to write a precautionary book. The illegal wild animal trade in this country is second only to the drug underworld when it comes to income. I learned this from Tippi Hedren who owns and operates The Shambala Preserve/ROAR Foundation in Acton, California. Add to that the legal trade in exotic cats, and what you have are a helluva lot of people getting wild cats as pets, status symbols, bragging rights units, and what have you. Are they trained? Do they have a blue clue what they're getting into? Where did they go for their training?
It's not fair to the animal and it's not fair to the neophyte owner whose impulse buy creates havoc in his or her life. Get an animal legally and pay through the nose for the privilege and responsibility. Get one illegally and pay the same amount while constantly looking over your shoulder to see if anyone has found you out.
I can't even imagine having kept Deaken illegally. It was stressful enough having him legally! (Wait till you read the chapter 'Condo Floods, Deaken Discovered.' That's as close as I ever cared come to getting caught red-handed with an "illegal"--disallowed--cat! ) If I had to worry every day of his life that he could be confiscated, after losing my heart to him, it would have been an utterly miserable 17 years!
So I hope the book does what it's meant to do. I hope it informs and entertains the reader and that it encourages anyone even thinking about buying a wild pet to think it through thoroughly. Because it will be a life-changer, something akin to as life-changing as deciding to have a baby. Only this baby never grows up; it just gets bigger, has fangs and claws, and can do a number on anyone or anything that crosses its path, usually for perfectly legitimate reasons to its way of thinking.
Owning a wild animal is not for amateurs or for anyone who wants any kind of a normal life.
Read the book. You'll laugh, you'll sigh, you'll cry. And you'll know why it's an important book, too. Nothing like it has been written with such naked honesty before.
It'll open eyes and touch hearts. My prayer is that it will touch the reasoning center of readers' minds as well as it touches the emotional center. If it does, I've done my job and I will be satisfied.
SERVAL SON: Spots & Stripes Forever will be released Sept. 1 by FutureWord Publishers and will be available at all online bookstores and at FutureWord.net. Request that your local libraries get copies!