June 20, 2012 | 1 Comment | Betsy Woodman
To keep Mr. Ganguly, the parrot in Jana Bibi’s Excellent Fortunes, in good health, I’ve felt very lucky to be able to consult Dr. Cinthia Fulton, who works at the VCA Animal Medical Center in Portsmouth, NH. Cindy is one of those life-long animal lovers who knew from a tender age that she wanted to be a vet, but she’s also a Renaissance woman with talents and interests from classical piano to adventure travel.
In her work, Cindy treats an amazing variety of animals–cats, dogs, bunnies, guinea pigs, rats, mice, hamsters, fish, possums, hedgehogs, reptiles, amphibians, non-human primates, and all types of birds.
I heard about her summer before last, when I was in the early stages of writing the book. I was tickled that her own parrot, Cosmo, turned out to be an Indian ringnecked parakeet (just like Mr. Ganguly, although Cosmo is blue and Mr. G emerald green.) Also, though originally from California, she had done her veterinary training at the University of Glasgow. Since the main character of Jana Bibi is a Scot, this little detail struck me as another nice coincidence.
Cindy kindly let me come visit her at home and meet her array of pets. These include, in addition to Cosmo, a couple of cats and an assortment (each in its separate cage) of exotic tarantulas. Cosmo, it turns out, doesn’t talk, but he does meow, having picked that up from the cat. He is handsome, though! Great pictures here.
Cindy is very knowledgeable, just the kind of doctor I would want to take care of a real pet. She matter-of-factly answered some rather bizarre questions. Would Mr. Ganguly eat mango, papaya, and lichi? How would he adapt to the cold weather and high altitude of my story setting? Could he wind up the key on a music box? Should Jana take him in an unpressurized airplane? Based on her answers, I threw out some plot elements and kept others.
As I said goodbye to Cindy, Cosmo was getting sleepy. He lifted one foot, ground his beak, and closed his eyes. I put that into the book as what Mr. Ganguly does at his bedtime. Thanks, Cosmo, for the suggestion. And thank you, Cindy, for the parrot lore.