On September 26, Skyhorse will publish Vets and Pets by Dava Guerin and Kevin Ferris. The book shares fifteen stories of American wounded warriors, veterans, and other service members and their service and companion animals, along with the nonprofits that make those unions possible.
Whether it’s Apollo the Doberman helping Tyler adjust to civilian life as a double-amputee, Vietnam vet Patrick finding relief from PTSD through birds of prey, Mandi healing with the help of potbelly pigs, or any of the other remarkable relationships in Vets and Pets, we’re happy to team with Dava and Kevin to spotlight some unity and hope in an increasingly divisive world.
We’re excited to give you a sneak peek by featuring some excerpts from the text, which we’ll do regularly until the pub date. You can check out Vets and Pets here.
From Chapter 11, The Cowboy Marine: “Here’s how you saddle a horse.”
It wasn’t clear that Tom McRae was a good candidate for the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program. Start with the logistics. He hadn’t traveled on an airplane without his primary caregiver—his mom—since he’d been blown up. So, unlike the other participants, he wouldn’t be able to just show up at a ranch solo and get right to work. And, of course, there was the larger question. Could he handle cowboying, fully participating along with the other vets? He had ridden since the explosion in which he lost two legs and an arm, at his home and while at Walter Reed. But all the horses he’d been on had been trained for a rider who was missing legs. Even then he’d never spurred his horse into anything faster than a walk, and he’d only been on flat terrain. Jinx McCain would present much greater challenges. Would he be able to ride a normal horse once he got out to a ranch, and actually get it to respond to his commands? And could he keep up with his fellow cowboys, riding at a trot, often over hilly terrain?
John Mayer had a suggestion. His second-in-command at Jinx McCain, Mo Smith, had a place not far from Tom in North Carolina complete with horses and cattle. Go on up there, Mayer said, and see what you can do. “The idea was to prove that I can stay on a horse,” Tom said. “John didn’t seem too thrilled that I hadn’t done a lot of things on a horse since being blown up. But after riding for a few days there were no issues.”
When he arrived for his visit, Tom quickly learned that Mo wasn’t big on ceremony. “When I got up to his house he just picked me up and threw me on the horse,” Tom recalled. “So I rode his horse for three days and played with his cattle. And I was able to stay on, going up and down hills, trotting, doing a lot more than just flat-ground walking, which is what I was used to at that point.”
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