I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Lovable Pets owner, Ellie Hansen, about her book Fly To Me: Extraordinary Lessons of Life and Death From a Little Dog. Two years ago, Ellie’s beloved, feisty Rat Terrier Tyee passed away. In the weeks and months after his death, she began to have unusual experiences. Through many of these occurrences, she felt Tyee’s presence but she was unsure of what was happening. She turned to books about the afterlife and began to find her answers.
She began to keep a diary to track these unusual events. As the pages filled, Ellie knew there was no other explanation; Tyee was with her. Though not everything from those notebooks made it into her book, Ellie’s favorite, the memory of the hawk who came to her on the day she was to pick up Tyee’s ashes, is included and featured on the striking cover.
Through Tyee’s messages, Ellie came to understand loss in a new way. She was inspired to share that understanding with others who were grieving their pets. “I wrote this book because I thought that by sharing the process I went through with Tyee, that other people who were struggling could share in what I went through and relate to what I went through and also heal.” Helping pets and the people who love them is a huge part of Ellie’s work at Lovable Pets and she now speaks to others about Tyee’s passing and her book on a near-daily basis. I asked if it was hard to talk about him so often and Ellie said, “In the beginning, yes, I would tear up. But it’s been a little over two years since his passing and whatever grief there was has turned to happiness – not because he’s gone but because I know his presence is still with me. My memories of him are happy, they make me laugh, and it’s easy now to talk about him.”
No Stranger to Writing
Writing is not new to Ellie. She spent years as a grant writer before moving to Montana to pursue her passions. Like her love of animals, her desire to write has been with her for as long as she can remember. “I always wanted to write a book, I just had nothing really important to write about.”
Tyee gave Ellie her first important topic, but she’s not stopping there. The inspiration for her current work-in-progress comes from her adopted beagles. Ellie is currently in discussions with McFarland, an academic publishing company, about a book entitled Not Forgotten: Saving Laboratory Research Dogs On the precipice of achieving a lifelong dream, Ellie says she is “on pins and needles” but she also knows that it will be a lot of work. “This book is part history book, part science book – it’s so many things in one. I’m nervous and super excited.”
Ellie has received two national awards for Fly To Me. She won the 2019 Silver Nautilus Book Award in the Gift and Specialty category and received honorable mention in the Body/Mind/Spirit category of the 2019/2020 Reader Views Literary Awards. When asked about these awards, Ellie was humble. She is happy about the awards more for the publishing company who designed the lovely hardcover edition. A small business owner herself, Ellie naturally chose Helena-based Sweetgrass Books to handle the cover and formatting. She is happy with that decision each time she picks up a copy. “I couldn’t have done that part myself and half of the book is the presentation. If you can present it in a really beautiful way, that means more for the reader.”
Tyee was not a humble dog, though. In Ellie’s words, “He was a big shot.” In life, Tyee intimidated much larger dogs, always quick to let everyone know that he was the boss. Ellie laughs at that memory and wonders if, from heaven, he might be “pushing for awards” and basking in the notoriety.
At the end of the day, it’s not about awards for Ellie. The feedback she receives from her readers is her reward for a year of working through her sadness to complete her book. “Whenever anybody tells me that they loved my book or that it helped them in any way, that’s very meaningful to me.”
The Author Behind the Scenes
Since starting her new project, Ellie’s free time has grown shorter, but she spends most of it outdoors, with her dogs, her horse, her chickens, or
the plants in her garden. She reads mostly nonfiction, with true adventure stories, animal rescue stories, and books on spirituality battling for space on her bookshelves.
Though Ellie loves her writing, working at Lovable Pets and interacting with customers there is something she will always do. “That’s something I will never, ever grow tired of.” In fact, two customers came to mind for her during our interview. Both had recently lost a pet. One woman asked Ellie to “help her stop crying” and the other said that she had purchased Ellie’s book but hadn’t yet been able to read it because she knew she would cry.
“My advice is that crying is a necessary thing. Avoiding it isn’t the way to get over the loss of the pet. Embrace being where you are, let that emotion out. It’s not something anybody should be afraid of. It doesn’t feel great to cry but it’s an outlet to
help you begin healing. I urge people not to be afraid to give the book as a gift or to read it, because it’s truly not a sad book. While it might bring up some emotion for the reader, it’s truly the opposite of sad.”
Ellie said there are some very important messages for the reader and recounts her own sister’s story of the day she had to put her dog down. “She walked into the vet with her dog and walked out without a dog. She had nothing but the leash and she told me she would have given anything to have a copy of my book then so she could’ve known that all was not lost.”
Truly, all is not lost. Our pets continue on with us, as you will see in Fly to Me.