'Tails from the heart'

During the Vietnam War, Port Angeles resident Ann Gilson had two sons who were of draft age and she said the realities of war caused her much anxiety.

"I was aware of how much heartbreak the loss of soldiers on both sides caused," Gilson said. "It happened to so many people and at that time, it was so apt to happen."

To cope, Gilson picked up a pen and wrote "Haiku for the Fallen," about a little dog that mourns his owner, a fallen soldier.

"My son will not come/Home again," wrote Gilson, who did not lose her sons in the war. "Never again. His little dog cries."

Decades later, Gilson's poem is featured in "Tails from the Heart: Stories, Poems and Artwork," a collection of animal stories benefiting Peninsula Friends of Animals, which Gilson co-founded and volunteered with for many years.

"As the years have gone by, I've seen time and time again (working with PFOA and other organizations) how deep the loss and the grief is when animals and people are separated," Gilson said. "Animals feel grief and loss just as people do."

"Tails" was created by Susan Skaggs and the three other women of her informal Sequim-based writing group. They had been talking about how difficult it is to get published when

Skaggs suddenly had a brainstorm: Why not put together a book of stories and poems on animals and donate the proceeds to the Peninsula Friends of Animals?

"We didn't want or need to make money from our writing, we just wanted to be read,"

Skaggs, who is now on the board of PFOA, said of her writing group. "We thought there were probably many other writers who felt the same way."

Skaggs and the other three women, Erika Hamerquist, Joan Worley and Morgan Van Dyke, held a contest, asking people in the area to submit short stories and poems, as well as artwork, relating with animal rescue or animals as pets. The four women then became the judges and chose 40 out of the 60 or so pieces they received to include in the book.

The result is "Tails from the Heart: Stories, Poems and Artwork," a 200-page anthology containing work from many North Olympic Peninsula scribes, including the four judges, whose work appears in the "Meet the Judges" section.

To entice writers to submit entries, the four judges doled out prizes for stand-out entries, judged by Port Townsend award-winning author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. Gilson, who said she's been writing poetry for dozens of years but never before has been published, was awarded both "Best in Show" and "First Place, Poetry" for "Haiku for the Fallen."

Sequim resident Linda Kemp created a painting of her adopted pets Hope, a cat she acquired from PFOA, and Maggie, a yellow lab she is taking care of for her neighbors who are unable to look after the dog, who suffered a stroke in her spine. The painting of a pair of hands cupping Maggie and Hope inside a giant heart fit the theme of the book perfectly, said Skaggs, who decided to put the image on the cover.

"We here at PFOA really care about animals," said Gilson. "I was amazed by the quality of the other submissions ... the book is wonderful for animal lovers."

Who: Peninsula Friends of Animals

What: A book reading/signing for "Tails from the Heart: Stories, Poems and Artwork" a collection of items about pets and animal rescue; proceeds from all book sales benefit PFOA

When: 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11

Where: The Buzz, 128 N. Sequim Ave.

More info: Copies of the book can be purchased in Sequim at County Care Vet and Acupuncture Service, Greywolf Veterinary Hospital, Pacific Northwest Veterinary Hospital, Sequim Animal Hospital, Twice Loved Books, Best Friend Nutrition, Sunny Farms Farm Store or online at and

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