Zen of The Round Cat
A dog trainer, quilter, water-skier, photographer—and now writer—Susan Eldred is fun and full of life, despite having a remarkable ability to convey stories about tough issues like adversity and death.
Brimming with tales of pets, both past and present, Eldred is an animal lover and a natural storyteller. Yet it wasn’t until just recently that works by Eldred—works she had written nearly two decades ago—were able to come to the surface.
In 1997, Eldred lost her cat, Houdini. Shortly thereafter her faithful dog, Othello, passed away. In response to her grief, she penned a three-part story over the course of two months in 1998. The process proved cathartic, but the idea of publishing at that time was daunting.
So the story sat—untouched and unread—for many years.
Following a series of national tragedies, Eldred decided that her story needed to be published. She believed that her work could help others through their own grief and, hopefully, teach the lesson that death is as much a part of life as birth is.
Remarkably, the stars began to align. One of Eldred’s clients from her dog-training and -tracking business connected her with a friend who knew a publisher. Eldred then enlisted Susana Green, a local artist and a fellow animal lover, to work with her on the cover art and illustrations.
“Susana didn’t just illustrate,” Eldred explains. “It’s what she did with the drawings [to convey the story.]”
Green also had a huge part in promoting the book. With each other’s support, and with the help of Westbow Press, The Round Cat Trilogy emerged earlier this summer. When speaking with both the author and the illustrator, it’s easy to hear their praise for each other’s work; they epitomize the spirit of collaboration.
Narrative and Audience
Eldred describes The Round Cat Trilogy as a children’s book that adults will enjoy, too. She feels that it’s written at a fourth grade reading level but is intended to be read aloud and discussed. In a safe environment, readers can explore the deeper messages that the playful kitten brings to light.
The first story, Growing Up at Home, is a fictional narrative that introduces The Round Cat. The Round Cat is a precocious kitten who is always getting into trouble and loves curling up in cozy circular spaces. The author wants people to come away from the first story with a sense of their own unique skills, as well as their individual purpose.
“All of us feel—as a teenager or youngster—that we are different, and we see that as a bad thing instead of a good thing,” explains Eldred, who wishes more people would realize that their ‘differences’ are not hindrances but actually individual talents that can, in fact, be assets when given the right opportunities.
The second story, Round Cat Adventures, is all about experiencing life from different perspectives. Eldred and Green hope that children especially will be pushed to use their imagination, to think about what life might be like as different animals, just as The Round Cat does.
The third and final installment, Round Cat Finds a Home, is the story of Houdini, the exceptional young kitten who inspired the story.
Eldred describes this third story as more philosophical; her wish is that readers will come away uplifted and with a new appreciation for life, death, and our purpose here—things that The Round Cat taught her.
“I want people to realize that, when you remember someone, you are giving them immortality,” Eldred says.
Eldred hopes to publish more stories based on her many adventures over the years of owning and training dogs. And true to her word, Eldred is giving immortality to her furry family members by sharing with us the gift of their stories.
Signed copies of ‘The Round Cat Trilogy’ can be found at The Bookstore in Frankfort or purchased directly from Eldred via her website FascinatingScent.com or at ‘The Round Cat Trilogy’ Facebook page. Unsigned copies can be purchased online in hardcover, paperback, or e-format. A book promotion event is scheduled to take place at the Betsie Valley District Library in Thompsonville on October 8 at 7 p.m.
About the Creators
These days, author Susan Eldred lives out her love of animals by caring for her fluctuating pack of family dogs and cats, as well as teaching dog-training and -tracking camps. She and her husband, Orrin, also provide individual lessons and obedience training at their Lab Land location in Thompsonville. Together they’ve written two tracking books, Fascinating Scent: A Tracking Manual and The Fascinating Scent Tracking Workbook.
Illustrator Susana Green is a landscape artist who volunteers for the Benzie Animal Welfare League, cares for her own cats at home, and has written and illustrated a picture book titled Tiger, inspired by one of her cats, Punky. Though her picture book is not yet published, Green is currently considering the possibility.