marylou shipman

Ocean Grove Cats and Dogs 2/15/21

For as long as I can remember, I have had a great love of animals. The day is always brighter if I should happen to cross paths with a cat or dog. My mother recalls a time when I was five sitting in the backyard, talking to myself. That’s when she turned to my father and said: “I think MaryLou needs a cat.” A short time later, he came home with Puddy, a long-haired, tuxedo kitten who was rescued, along with his siblings, from a garbage can. Puddy was an indoor/outdoor cat who lived to the ripe old age of nineteen.

Many years and a few cats later, my sister Laura and I purchased a two-family home in the beautiful historic town of Ocean Grove, N.J. Not only do I have a great appreciation for animals, but I also love Victorian architecture and old-world charm. Ocean Grove is the best of both worlds. As I walk along the streets admiring the homes, I am sure to encounter a cat or two curled up on a porch chair. The boardwalk is a haven for dog walkers, while the beach is a great place for doggie play dates. I am certainly in my element living in this shore town.

In 2012, I was seeking spiritual guidance from a curandera who told me that my calling is to work with animals. At the time, I couldn’t imagine how that would be possible. I knew I was not cut out for the veterinary field because I can hardly stand the thought of an animal in pain. Furthermore, I was a freelance artist and full-time technical writer. I enjoyed painting watercolors of Ocean Grove cats and dogs for my pleasure. Before long, I was exhibiting the paintings and even won a “Best in Show” along with a few other awards. Over time my series of paintings grew. I began to realize that each furry friend had a whimsical story related to how we met and how I came to know their owners, many of whom I am friends with today. With this book, I have come to understand what the curandera meant when she said I have a calling to work with animals.