Today I received the AVMA Steve Dale Excellence in Veterinary Media Award. My friend and colleague of (mumble-mumble) years received the inaugural award last year, and it’s extra special to be honored as the second recipient and recognized with an award named for Steve Dale.
As Steve reminded me today, it’s only fitting since he also has an award with my name, from the Cat Writers’ Association–The Shojai Mentor Award.
Excellence in Veterinary Media Award, Two Veterinary Nominations
Two veterinarians nominated me for this prestigious AVMA award. I’ve known Dr. Jim Humphries even longer than Steve, when he served on the board of our fledgling Cat Writer’s Association way back in 1993. And I *virtually* met Dr. Jonathan Gonzalez (Veterinary Medical Director at Your Pets Vets in Houston) much more recently when he reached out via LinkedIn about my COMPLETE PUPPY CARE book and subsequently provided copies to clients in his clinic. That makes an author’s virtual tail wag! Here’s what Dr. Jim had to say (I just saw this in the AVMA press release, mee-wow!):
Dr. Jim Humphries, an adjunct professor of media and communications at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said “You could not find a more experienced person who creates and delivers outstanding content that is easily read, heard, and seen by pet lovers all over the country. I believe she truly embodies ‘Excellence in Veterinary Media’ more than anyone I know.”
In the presentation, Dr. Lori Teller, the AVMA President, presented the AVMA award. “Amy’s tireless efforts in communicating accessible, engaging and informative resources about pet care and behavior have helped countless pet owners care for and connect with their animal companions. Her work epitomizes the spirit of the Steve Dale Excellence in Veterinary Media Award. It’s an honor to recognize her contributions to companion animal education and advocacy.”
And then Steve also said a few words–I’m still floating, and don’t really remember much more or what I said in my acceptance. I know that I fought a few tears. It’s been a crazy fun, enlightening, and incredible ride, getting to do what I love.
Lifetime of Pet Writing
Over the decades, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing literally hundreds of practitioners from all around the world. For the book THE FIRST AID COMPANION FOR DOGS AND CATS, nearly 100 emergency veterinarians shared their expertise; my pet behavior titles benefited from generous press pass credentials to the Western Vet Conference and interviews with world-renowned veterinarian behaviorists.
The books COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING CAT and the COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING DOG also only happened because of the generosity of dozens of specialty veterinarians in oncology, internal medicine, and more. While at the AVMA conference, I attended more sessions so that I can accurately update info in my “aging pet” books. And I had my world (and mind!) expanded when interviewing nearly 100 holistic veterinarians for NEW CHOICES IN NATURAL HEALING FOR DOGS AND CATS. I even had the pleasure or working with Dr. Marty Becker writing a couple of Chicken Soup-icity books with him and Carol Kline.
Back in the beginning, I wrote for the “pet press” and my first articles were personal experience stories from my days working as a vet tech. My first interview happened during a Chihuahua’s C-section, with the doctor handing me puppies to resuscitate as he interviewed me. I told my Mom all the wonderful, uplifting, tragic, and life-changing experiences and she encouraged me to write them down.
That was the beginning of an incredible journey that progressed from my first paid work that appeared in Bird Talk (a story about Venus, my rescue Spectacle Amazon parrot), to Cat Fancy, Dog Fancy, and assignments covering veterinary breakthroughs, and more. That led to helping create the Cat Writer’s Association, becoming a certified animal behavior consultant through IAABC, and even writing for a time as an online columnist and spokesperson touring with Purina to teach cat lovers about normal feline behavior, leash, and crate training (what I call “liberation training”). Today I write for Reader’s Digest, Hill’s Pet, and so many more.
But I don’t know this stuff or pull it out of thin air (other than for my pet-centric thrillers…which also feature vet medicine plots). No, I rely on credentialed information, from the true experts. I couldn’t do what I do without veterinarians. They gave me my career. And they gave many of my writing colleagues careers as well, many of whom should receive similar recognition with an AVMA award.
Throughout the years, veterinarians generously shared their knowledge, from my hometown vets loaning me copies of JAVMA and answering countless questions, to researchers picking up the phone and sharing their passion–so that I could share with readers. I am honored and humbled to receive this award because it validates my body of work and shines a light on what I do to help cats and dogs. But I’m also thrilled because it celebrates my HEROES–veterinarians who shared their passion with me over the years.
I call myself the accidental writer–yet here I am, 35+ books and thousands of articles later because I followed my passion and received help along the way–from my furry muses, as well as the two-legged muses from the AVMA. For those reading this post, please never ever hesitate to ask for help–or to pay that help forward to lift others up.
In my world, ultimately, it’s not me as much as the pets who benefit. And after all, that’s why I — and why veterinarians — do what we do.
Do you have a DREAM JOB made possible by others? Please share!
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!