The author of a new children’s book hopes his tribute to a beloved pet can serve as a source of support for others.
“The book is based on a true story,” longtime La Jolla Village resident Tony Lovitt said of his first book, “Five Trees for Mina,” which was published late last month. “It’s the … tale of a little cat who made a big impact on her family for close to 20 years and was memorialized by five trees that were a gift from her veterinarian.”
“Five Trees for Mina” follows the life of Lovitt’s cat Mina, whom Lovitt acquired at the request of his then-8-year-old daughter Shelby. Mina was adored and cared for by Lovitt and his family, and Lovitt looked after Mina once Shelby left for UC Santa Barbara.
“When Mina was 17 years old, I was rubbing under her neck and found some lumps,” Lovitt said. Dr. Julie Sorenson, Mina’s veterinarian at the Governor Animal Clinic, diagnosed the cat with lymphoma.
Lovitt cared for Mina, who also suffered from kidney problems, for nearly two years until he made the painful decision to put her to sleep. “It was not an easy thing; memories of that stick in my mind,” he said.
Mina was cremated and her ashes delivered some time later, “along with a card that said the vet had donated to the Arbor Day Foundation and five trees had been planted in the Chippewa National Forest” in Minnesota in Mina’s memory, Lovitt said. “I was deeply touched, and instantly I had the idea for the book and the title.”
The book “was difficult to write from an emotional standpoint,” Lovitt said. It took him nearly two years to finish it.
However, the writing “was therapeutic; it was a cathartic experience to sit down and purge myself of all these thoughts,” he said.
Lovitt, a freelance writer and a former copy writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, said he didn’t originally intend the story for children. But research led him to realize there “are some books for children about the loss of a pet, but they’re written more clinically. As I wrote, I thought my story might be good for children.”
“Five Trees for Mina” is written “first-person from my daughter’s perspective,” Lovitt said. “She narrates the whole thing,” which required a “whole different mind-set.”
Though Lovitt discussed the story with Shelby, the book is nonetheless a solo endeavor. “Shelby wanted to detach herself from it. She wanted it to be my thing,” Lovitt said.
Lovitt hopes the book can help children cope with the grief that accompanies the death of a pet, which is often a child’s first experience with death, he said. “That loss is tremendous. … I think everyone can relate to this story.”
The book’s secondary purpose, Lovitt said, is to “encourage families to plant trees as memorials to their pets.”
At the end of the book he suggested three tree-related nonprofit organizations.
“It gave me great comfort to know that there are these five trees somewhere. [Mina] lives on in that way,” he said. “If it made me as an adult feel better about that loss, it might make a child or their family feel the same way.”
Lovitt, who also is a former media relations director for the U.S. men’s volleyball team and public address announcer for volleyball during the 1984 and 1996 Olympic Games, doesn’t discount the possibility of writing more books. “I’ve had a couple of ideas,” he said.
For now, he’s focused on his newly published book and its message.
“This is for anyone who has loved and lost a pet. Loss is profound across the board,” he said.
For more information about the book, email Lovitt at email@example.com. ◆