Q & A with author Christine Sullivan
Q: How did you get involved in Cinnamon's rescue?
Christine: I met Cinnamon through pictures of her that my brother, Mark sent while he was deployed in Afghanistan. Like he and his wife did, I fell in love with her, seeing how sweet she was and knowing she gave Mark comfort and companionship. I learned through Mark's wife that Cinnamon did not arrive on her flight to Chicago the way she was supposed to when Mark had decided to bring her to the US. I was horrified. Then after Mark searched for her in Kyrgyzstan for almost two weeks and reached a dead end, I just couldn't let Cinnamon's story end there. I couldn't accept that she was gone and he would never see her again or know that she was safe.
Q: So what did you do when you learned he couldn't find her?
Christine: The first thing I did was cried….hard. Then I decided I had to do something about it. I called on the one person that I thought might know how to find a lost dog overseas, Terri Crisp. I had met her in Louisiana when we both we volunteering to help animals after Hurricane Katrina. I thought she might have contacts that could help us find Cinnamon. It turned out that she set me on the right path. I also did a lot of praying and a lot of believing that I could do it. I asked others to pray too.
Q: What made you think you could find a puppy who was lost 7000 miles from home in the former Soviet Union?
Christine: I didn't really think that I couldn't. I had no idea how I was going to find Cinnamon I just knew that I had to. I just did anything and everything I could think of. I never stopped. I never gave up.
Q: What kind of response did you get when you asked people to help you?
Christine: The response I got from people was just amazing. I use that word a lot when I talk about Cinnamon's story, but there are few words to describe what took place. People near and far offered to help us. People we didn't know offered to help look for her, to fly to Kyrgyzstan and bring her home if we were able to find her. Complete strangers were pulling for Cinnamon, for us to find her and bring her home. It was incredible to receive that kind of support. It motivated me even more.
Q: Why was it so important to you to find Cinnamon?
Christine: It was incredibly important. Cinnamon was just a baby. I was worried that she was alone or injured or without food and water. I couldn't sleep worrying about her. She was depending on us. She needed us. I just couldn't accept that she was missing and that we might never know what happened to her or if she was okay.
I was also motivated because I had to help my brother. His grief and guilt were so great over her disappearance that I had to do something about it. It wasn't right that she had been abandoned the way she was. Cinnamon had been such a comfort to Mark during his deployment. He helped raise her from a puppy. She wasn't just some stray on the street that he decided at the last minute to bring home. They had a relationship. He wanted to give her a better life than what she'd have if he didn't adopt her. He was on his way home and there was such a dark cloud over him. I couldn't let him come home like that after having served our country.
Q: You are partnering with several rescue and animal welfare groups, aren't you?
Christine: One group we are working with is Operation Baghdad Pups. Cinnamon's story was the inspiration behind the program so naturally we wanted to help. Operation Baghdad Pups was formed by SPCA International in response to a request to bring home Charlie, a puppy who was rescued by US Troops in Baghdad and who fought back from near death to become a four-legged morale booster for Charlie Company. It was a perfect fit since our own attempt to bring Cinnamon home had gone so wrong.
I was thrilled to learn that they would be helping service members to bring home their companion animals and unit mascots. We didn't have a group like that to help us when we were trying to find Cinnamon and bring her home. I feel very strongly that no one who has served our country should have to go through the worry and anxiety that we did when Cinnamon went missing. That is just one example of how wrong transportation can go when trying to bring these animals to the US from the war zone.
Operation Baghdad Pups is now in place to make all the complicated arrangements, from the sheltering, vaccinations and transportation that it takes to bring a dog or cat home from the Middle East. I completely support what they are doing and so I am donating a portion of proceeds from book sales to this great cause.
Q: Are there other groups you are working with?
Christine: Yes. I am working with a variety of shelters and rescue groups who have contacted me about helping them with their fundraising efforts. These groups are raising awareness about animal issues, providing education and low cost spay/neuter for dogs and cats and taking in unwanted, abused and neglected animals and giving them everything they need until a new and forever home is found. By raising money through book sales we are able to make donations back to these and other animal welfare groups. If a group would like to partner with us for donations or fundraising, we encourage them to contact us.
Q: What do you have to say to those who criticize you for bringing a dog to the US from Afghanistan when there are so many dogs already here who need homes?
Christine: My response to that is that all dogs and cats need homes. Not just the ones here in the US. To say that one or the other is more important is not the solution. We are not looking to solve the pet and stray animal over-population problem in foreign countries. We just want to give these animals a home. The real problem is in overpopulation as a result of un-altered animals, puppy mills and irresponsible breeding…in all countries. Those are the issues that we are looking to shed light on. Cinnamon and the other animals befriended by US troops deserve a loving forever home as much as any other.
Q: What do you think people will come away with after reading "Saving Cinnamon"?
Christine: I believe people will be inspired by our story. They will see the impact of believing in what you are doing. They will see that individuals truly can change the outcome of a desperate situation - one act, one choice at a time - and that the simple act of following one's heart can have a far-reaching affect on countless lives near and far. I would like to inspire people to Believe in the Impossible.
Q: You quit your job to write this book. What motivated you to do this?
Christine: When we were looking for Cinnamon and then trying to get her home, so many people supported us. It was touching and inspiring. Then when I shared Cinnamon's story with people and told them what had happened, I was astounded by their reaction. People were lifted up by the compassion we experienced from strangers and the miracles that took place along the way. I felt that more people needed to know what happened and how so many came together to help us and Cinnamon. They needed to know that the impossible truly is possible. I felt Cinnamon's story was a story that needed to be shared with as many people as possible because it makes people feel good.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish now that the book is written and available?
Christine: My brother, Mark and I have teamed up to donate money to help care for animals in need through the sale of the book. So naturally we'd like to sell as many books as possible so those donations grow. Some of the causes that are important to us are spay and neuter education and low cost procedures, care of senior and unadoptable pets, and the rescue and relief of animals in disasters. We are forming partnerships, like the one we have with Operation Baghdad Pups, to donate to local and national animal welfare groups. We have several new partnerships in the works and always welcome new ones with both large and small groups alike.
Q: The problem of pet and stray overpopulation is enormous. Besides buying your book, how can folks help without feeling overwhelmed?
Christine: There are lots of ways people can
help. I encourage folks to go with their
heart because it can be overwhelming.
But if everyone does what their heart tells them, no matter how big or
small it seems to be, we can make a difference.
So if someone is inspired to add a dog or cat to their family, I would
encourage them to visit their local pound, shelter or rescue group. If they'd like to volunteer or help in other
ways without adopting or fostering a pet, they can see the list of "100
Ways to Help Animals" here on the website. It's so easy to help and it makes people feel good too!
Q: What is one of the best things that has happened since Mark adopted Cinnamon?
Christine: Well there are lots of great things that are happening, but my most favorite part is that by saving Cinnamon, we also saved Pete and Elvis. Pete was on death row at a local pound, scheduled to be euthanized for being 'unadoptable' on the same afternoon that Mark went looking for another canine family member and playmate for Cinnamon. When Mark saw Pete, he knew that he wanted to take him home. Then some time later, Mark's wife, Alice, saved a local stray right off the street. They named him Elvis and added him to their family as well. This is an incredible example of how following your heart can make a difference in far-reaching and unexpected ways. Pete and Elvis, in essence, won the lottery. Their rescues were insured the day that Cinnamon was found.
The other best thing that is happening is that my dream of helping other animals in need has come true. Through book sales, we are donating a portion of proceeds to animal rescues that help care for animals in need and promote spay and neuter of all companion animals. It is my dream and intention to continue to do this, help save more animals and reduce the numbers of homeless pets.