Samantha Elmhurst is a leading veterinary illustrator as well as a filmmaker. And she has put both skills to good use since deciding to write the story of Lucky, a sickly kitten living in a storm drain in Corfu – and then going back to adopt three-legged Honeysuckle!
When did you first come across the story of Lucky and how long did it take for you to realise that you wanted to write a book about her?
I read about the story of holidaymakers in Corfu finding a tiny, sickly kitten living in a storm drain via the Streetcat Bob social media group back in 2017. Seeing all these generous, compassionate strangers coming together (of which I was one) and donating to get this kitten rescued and re-homed abroad was such a faith restoring event that I decided in an instant I wanted to write about. It was a rags-to-riches tale coming true before our my very eyes and I felt people not only needed to know what kindness there still is in this world, it was also a good way to highlight the work of animal charities abroad.
How was everything looking for you at the start of the pandemic and have you learnt anything about yourself, throughout all this, that you didn’t know before?
My work was pretty constant in the beginning, but gradually tailed off towards the end of the year. This gave me the ideal opportunity and time to complete the book at last…one of those serendipitous occasions, although not for the nicest of reasons of course. It wasn’t that I learned something about myself – it maybe just reaffirmed what I already knew. I was used to working independently and alone as a self-employed illustrator, and lucky to be self-disciplined enough that when the chips are down, you just have to get on with whatever you can, keep positive and all will come good.
How did rescuing Honeysuckle come about and has she helped get you through 2020 (the year like no other)?
I saw a post on the Agni Animal Welfare Fund’s Facebook page saying a kitten had been found on a busy road with a badly injured front leg which had probably been caused by being either dropped, kicked or being run over by a car. It later had to be amputated. She was up for adoption once she was well enough to travel so I said I’d like to have her. Everything that is good snowballed after that. I made many friends through adopting her and my skills as a filmmaker have really improved because all her fans like to watch her home-life. More importantly though, when you think about her traumatic, painful and very sad beginnings, then her 1600-mile journey here (and she obviously didn’t have a say in the matter), yet she put her trust in humans all over again. Her bravery, boldness, and the love that she gives back against all the odds – well, we could all learn a lesson or two from her. She’s an inspiration.
What is it about animals that draws you in, so-to-speak?
Their constancy, and the trust and love they always have in their hearts for us humans; despite suffering at the hands of other dreadful ones, they still want to love us and live with us; that’s incredible. They just don’t have that ‘spite’ gene. I was brought up with the classic Disney films – The Aristocats, 101 Dalmations, Lady and the Tramp – all those films where the animals had a voice and feelings and OK, they might have been anthropomorphic, but I did know at an early age that animals were to be loved, that they have personalities and that they can understand us far better than we can understand them sometimes. And they still keep giving and still want to be our friend.
How has Honeysuckle changed your life (and what do your three other cats make of her)?
Well, she’s my living, breathing Corfu rescue kitty which so mirrors Lucky in the book – little did I know when I started writing it that I’d have my very own rags to riches story to tell! She’s helped the book along no end really because now when people ask me about A Cat in Hell’s Chance, they are doubly interested because of my own Corfu cat. My other three cats are really good with her. Simon adores her; Dolly takes on the role of instructor – mostly in the manners department! – and Babba is like a kindly old Great Uncle who sometimes fondly ruffles her head and at other times puts her in her place, reminding her of his seniority!
Are you still planning to go to Corfu and what if you end up rescuing another one?
I can’t wait to visit Corfu. I’m travelling with other Corfu rescue cat-Mums and also visiting the lady who found and cared for Honeysuckle before she came to me. We’re all taking out a few craft items that we’ve made so that we can sell them at the Agni Animal Welfare Fund coffee-morning fund raisers. I also want to help with any feeding or rescue work, whatever we’re called upon to do really. However, I can’t add to the present incumbents, I think three and three-quarter cats is my limit. You do have to take a sensible stance and remember that pets are for life and hopefully be with you a long time, during which they incur bills, and not just in food. There’s veterinary treatment, special diets, if necessary, pet insurance, it can be endless. So, as I write this I am trying to keep this sensible stance!
A Cat in Hell’s Chance is out now, published by Synergy and Light Publishing, from Amazon worldwide and also direct from Samantha in Norwich. The book also has it’s own Facebook and Instagram. A podcast of the first few chapters of the book, which includes background atmosphere and sound effects of a Corfu holiday, can be downloaded on podcast Apps: Spotify and Podbean. Also, visit Living Art.