Sunday, May 29, 2011



Spots & Stripes Forever

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to own (and be owned by) a wild animal—especially a wild cat—get ready to experience it in a way you never have before.

The author, Kristine M. Smith, does not advocate the keeping of wild pets, especially wild cats, wild dogs and simians. To the contrary, for the many reasons she explains and has endured, she is opposed to wild animal ownership for most people. The commitment is brutal, the risks enormous, the memories indelible (good and bad).

But there are times when adopting a wild one in need seems uncontrollable, a part of your destiny. If you’ve felt the tug, this book will introduce you to what you’ll be getting into. Look before you leap.

You are responsible for all you tame.

About the Author: Kristine M Smith is an animal behaviorist and advocate with decades of combined experience as a wildlife rehabilitator, captive animal caretaker, and humane educator. She is also a well-regarded copywriter, writing for businesses around the world. Find out more at

Saturday, May 28, 2011

WOO HOO! 21K Words Later, I am 99.9% Finished with the New Manuscript!

Now I need a riveting title. Wanna help?

So far I've come up with



I know there is a better title lurking in the cosmos. Can anyone capture it for me?

Friday, May 27, 2011


 "Serval Son" (working title)
(aka) Spots and Stripes Forever
copyright May 27, 2011

Here's the beginning of my new book.
Let me know how you like it
and whether or not you'll be
eager to buy it when it comes out.

Serval Son/Spots & Stripes Forever


I first learned about serval cats—the “poor man’s cheetah” — during one of my courses at Ralph Helfer’s Wild Animal Affection Training School in Colton CA in 1977-78. I was assigned to train a pygmy goat and to tame an adult serval cat named Sneakers.

Training a goat is child’s play. They teach themselves to walk on 2x4’s while you’re still lifting the boards into place! They’re naturally curious, naturally playful, and naturally “ascendant.” Build it and they will climb!

But…tame a serval cat?! YIKES!!! That was a whole different matter—a greater level of difficulty. Mr. Helfer said I’d pass the course if I could get Sneakers just to sit or lie quietly near me without hissing or slapping. He wasn’t completely sure I could accomplish this feat, so he set the bar low...

Sneakers had apparently been abused (emotionally if not physically) during his time on earth. And servals look pretty ferocious and lethal when they hiss—which they do a lot, sometimes for reasons no one can discern. When they add slapping and backpedaling or crouching and preparing to spring onto your body, they look even scarier. And Sneakers did that… a lot!

Of course, I didn’t know any of this at first; I learned as I went along. All I knew about Sneakers was that he was housed in a wooden barrel inside an enclosure that measured about six or eight feet square. I was supposed to go in there and tame him.

Awrighty, then…

Long story short: Over the course of the next eight weeks persnickety Sneakers segued from being one po’ed putty tat to a purring, head-rubbing critter who fell asleep in my arms as I lay beside him under a tree on test day. Helfer came by, saw the two of us cuddled up like Romeo and Juliet, and smiled, “You pass!”

Was I proud? You bet I was. I woulda burst my buttons had I been wearing any to burst. I had tamed an adult serval cat. I mean, taming an adult feral domestic cat is next to impossible, so this was quite the feat, was it not?

Not so fast. I later learned that servals and cheetahs are the Perry Comos of the cat world: you can tame adults caught right out of the wild. Africans did it for millennia, using them as “coursing hounds” to catch faster prey (dik dik and other larger antelopes), then taking the kill, rewarding the cat with a few mouthfuls, and using the rest for their own purposes.

Probably not even Ralph Helfer knew this. During the course, I also was taught “never ever” to leave a serval cat alone with any other critters, because servals were rated among the “wildest” of wild animals and should never be trusted with other creatures. I obeyed this precept until my own serval, Deaken, taught me how utterly nonsensical a notion it was. I denied him other companionship for more than six years that he should have had...but more about that later.

You can’t believe everything you read in books—except mine. (I’m a straight arrow.)

My 17 years with Deaken were an eye-opener, a heart-warmer, a trauma-inducer and a cherished relationship I expect never to repeat again. And here comes …

The Disclaimer

I don’t believe in exotic or wild animals as pets (especially wild cats, wild dogs and simians) for a lot of reasons. The primary reason is that probably less than one tenth of one percent of the people who get them knows what they’re getting into, so both parties suffer grievously. There is usually a traumatic and premature parting of the ways. As Ralph Helfer told us in class, “You are responsible for all you tame.”

It isn’t like you can change your mind and find your critter a new home and a new life with a reputable, responsible caregiver all that easily. Your charges do bond to you, especially since their first few weeks of life are so vital to establishing a relationship that must last into adulthood; one that is safe, sane and sustainable. And too few people have the proper permits to take over if you falter or fail; those who do are usually filled to the brim with other peoples’ cast-offs as well as their own broods. And who is going to watch over your wild one when you go on vacation, fall ill, or in some other way have to leave them behind for a time for any one of a dozen legitimate reasons?

I knew what I was getting into. I was trained. I read copiously. I had experience. I had the permits. And I’d had at least 20 domestic kitties before. I was—and remained—committed to nurturing Deaken’s life as he grew, and grew, and grew to knee-high and three feet long from tip of nose to tip of tail. How much different could it be to raise Deaken when I had raised so many house cats?

Still, I had no idea. Looking back, it was great discipline. Looking back, it was herculean. Looking back, I smile and feel very blessed, but also extremely lucky that it worked out as well as it did. There were times when it could have gone tragically wrong. I carry the emotional scars of all that. I still have nightmares about trying to move heaven and earth to keep Deaken safe from people and people safe from Deaken. Looking back it is a miracle that more people weren’t hurt… that Deaken himself survived largely unscathed.

So no… I don’t advocate wild animal ownership. Although I expect you to fall madly in love with my serval son as you get to know him better, I want you to pay exquisite attention to what it took to sustain the relationship, what it took to meet requirements, what it took to protect lives and property.

It’s not a game. Pet ownership itself is a tremendous responsibility. Wild animal stewardship is a whole other level. It is not for amateurs. It is not for dreamers. It is not for people who expect to have children or to have them around. It is not for people who want to take vacations.

Wild animal stewardship is only for people who will dedicate themselves entirely to the wellbeing of their wards. It’s a tall order. You’re about to discover how tall.

I hope that in learning about Deaken you’ll also learn about why sharing him vicariously with you concerns me a little. I know you will love him. Please just don’t love him so much that you decide you simply MUST have one of your own. Becoming a wild one’s parent is an overwhelming commitment that no one should take lightly. Not even you.

I know your heart is good and that it’s in the right place. Enjoy the ride but please don’t let this story compel you to take on more than you can commit to wholeheartedly… and legally. If you do it wrong, everyone gets hurt.

Imagine loving like this and losing your pet to the authorities because you weren’t properly licensed or because your furry darling grievously injured someone. It happens all the time. Lawsuits accrue. Next door neighbors panic.

How quickly everything can change from idyllic to catastrophic.

Few stories end up the way Deaken’s and mine did. Remember this as you go along, and I will feel satisfied that you’re receiving the whole story, not just the heart-warming parts.

You are responsible for all you tame. Don’t do it unless you can honor and truly treasure the obligation from Day One to the day your charge crosses Rainbow Bridge.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Still "Dancing with Deaken" in My Dreams

Deaken, my "Serval Son"
May 16, 1979-Sept. 11 1996
(This was Carolyn Kelley's favorite photo of Deaken.
She framed and placed it in their sitting room.)

At least twice a year, even all these years after his death, I dream of Deaken in such amazing detail that I can hear his chirp, feel his breath, and run my fingers through his fur.

I've had so many different pets that I've lost count of them all--and I know they're all waiting for me across Rainbow Bridge and that we'll reconnect one day--but the one that consistently "visits" me in my sleep is Deaken.

He was just five days old when I brought him home...

Deaken at approximately four weeks of age

He was all grey as a kitten (where he wasn't spotted or striped) except for his muzzle and his belly, which were white. I was a goner the moment I laid eyes on him.

I had tamed and trained an adult serval in Southern California during my Wild Animal Affection Training days and had fallen big-time for their unique look and presence, although I often joke, to this day, that servals look like they're put together by a committee: spots AND stripes, tail shorter than seems appropriate to me; satellite-dish ears, long, lean legs... but without a doubt, God knew what he was doing, so who am I to critique one of His most perfect creations?

Servals are the Perry Como/Dean Martin/DeForest Kelley of the cat kingdom: laid back as can be (except on the extremely rare occasions when they're riled). Africans can catch a full-grown serval and tame it easily. (You probably know how nearly impossible it is to tame and gain the trust of a domestic cat born feral, so this is a remarkable thing!) Cheetahs are the only other cat as easy to tame and train to do a human's bidding. Servals and cheetahs have been used for centuries by African natives as "companion hunters"--they can run down prey (dik dik and larger antelopes, etc.), which human hunters then confiscate for their own uses.

With their over-sized ears, servals can detect other creatures moving in tall savannah grass (their usual habitat). Their ears are so finely-tuned that they can hear rodents burrowing three feet underground. Read that sentence again--and marvel.

As impressive as it is to read, nothing prepared me for Deaken's listening abilities! In fact, Deaken essayed the feat in such an amazing way that De Kelley taunted me about it years later by drawing a cartoon of Deaken "hearing things" in the way a demented woman might IMAGINE things!   The story of what Deaken heard--and De's reactions (both artistic and verbal) appear in my first book about De, "DeFOREST KELLEY:  A HARVEST OF MEMORIES, My Life and Times with a Remarkable Gentleman Actor."

BUY IT HERE!  Or buy it at at a discount (you can get the hardbound version at AH for Amazon's softbound price!) OR get it immediately as an e-book for just $4.95 at AH.

PERK: If you get it as an ebook, you'll see all the inside pictures in LIVING COLOR, which is not the case with the tree-book versions. And with the e-book you can search by subject matter or occasion, making it easy to find all the spots in the book that are about Deaken and his interaction with the Kelleys and me...and anything else you want to look up again after reading it the first time. You know: birthday and convention shenanigans, pachyderm poop plaque, my first utterly-nerve-wracking sit-down meeting/dinner with the Kelleys; puffed penis hilarity...

Sorry... I didn't start this blog entry intending to advertise my book-- honestly!--but it occurred to me that you're probably going to want to know a lot more about my relationship with my "serval son" than what I can provide here, and I haven't written that book--yet!-- so I'm pointing you to what I do have that you can read now. But be forewarned: the story of Deaken's final days is in there, too, so you'll definitely need a hanky. Guaranteed! Many fans (fellow animal lovers) have told me they were sopping wet after meeting and loving Deaken the way De and Carolyn and I did...

I always love my Deaken visitations.  The one that occurred last night was a delightful surprise. In the dream, I was walking along a road near a slightly-forested environment in my present-day times and I heard Deaken's familiar and distinctive chirp calling out to me from the meadow-area just outside the rim of forest cover. I grinned like a madwoman and called out, "Deaken!"

He chirped again and headed in my direction at a lope. It was like he had been missing me as much as I missed him!  He practically barreled into me, purring and head-rubbing as enthusiastically as he knew how.  My fingers were all through the coat on his back and sides, reacquainting themselves with his contours.  And he has four legs and a svelte build again (where's he's been living all these years across Rainbow Bridge)--his absent back leg is restored to perfect condition and he looks as good as he did at his best (just after his "gangly teenager" stage).

The visitations are so complete, so lucid, that I can smell the environment, hear his breaths, feel his heartbeat. (I never as palpably noticed these things while he was with me in real life! This is a preview of the heaven we'll share, I think!) (For those of you who don't think animals go to heaven, you're wrong. Heaven without animals would be hell! Maybe if you don't like them, or if you fear them, you won't be obliged to be around them.. but for animals lovers, this is good news!)

Deaken has never left me. Like De, my serval son is tucked in my heart forever. For lots of reasons. I cannot wait to see my two favorite De's again someday! 

What a reunion that will be!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I Just Wrote an Article for Funds For Writers.... invitation of C. Hope Clark. WHEEEE!!!

Hope says it will be published the evening of September 2nd. I'll mention it again closer to its debut!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I was outside all afternoon with the goats following an entire morning of non-stop writing for a client. My brain needed a break, so I opened the door to the goats and we went behind their fence for some blackberry leaf eating.  Er, they did. I accompanied them but didn't join in... (I presume you're delighted to hear that.  There is no need--yet--to call the Funny Farm on my behalf. Promise!)

The girls have grown so large that they can stand on their hind legs now and eats leaves off the plum trees in our yard. This is not a good thing, because Jackie and I would like to have some plums this summer and fall.  So I have to tell them no and keep them "otherwise occupied" as much as possible.

Laverne loves two or three of Jackie's prize bushes, so that's a constant hassle, too. But I think I've figured something out. At least, it's working so far. 

Whenever Laverne heads in the wrong direction, I call out ominously, "Laverne... that's a no no." If she keeps going, I toss a relatively heavy, short branch so it lands beside or slightly ahead of her. For some reason, this action really scares her.  (Maybe it's instinctive: a falling branch may indicate that a predator is falling out of the sky and downward onto her.)  She bleats, bolts immediately, and comes back to me for "protection." She doesn't know I'm the culprit who threw the branch.  I'm glad this ruse works because although I can't outrun her, I can out-throw her.

What else? I got my Obama-Biden bag in the mail today. Did you know I have an Obama_Biden_2012 Store at There's a link to it on the right hand side of this blog (in the margin).

I also have a DeForest Kelley store at Cafepress but forget to keep saying so, so there have been very few sales.  Its Called DeForest Station.  (I know.  groan...)  There are some clever things there.  Check them out. (You'll find the link in the same place.)

I mowed the lawn today, too. It takes over an hour even on a riding lawnmower. We have a lot of yard! Too much yard!  But we do love it.

I'm going to need 16-18 more T-stakes for the goat fence, it turns out. I've already "planted" the 20 I bought this weekend, plus two that were left over from last time, and there's still a substantial gap to fill to fence in the goat pasture completely. Oy vey... It is what it is.  Until we get the funds, I have to be a "goatherd" every day the weather is nice at least a couple of hours a day. Not that I mind... I just have to work later in the evening (and on some weekends) to compensate for the time outside.

I guess that's about it for this time. Hope I didn't put you to sleep with all this world-shaking news!