ITHACA, NY – Adopting a dog was not on Susan Engelmore’s radar when she volunteered at the Tompkins County SPCA in the summer of 2016. She had just lost her husband, her daughter was in stranger in London and his father was starting a fight with dementia in Pennsylvania. Her heart was in a thousand different places and she wasn’t sure she was ready for the commitment.
“Milo’s Gift”, a picture book written by Engelmore, tells the adventures of a dog lost in the desert who finally found his forever home. The events of the story mimic Engelmore’s experience adopting Milo.
“It’s always been one of my life goals to write a children’s book,” Engelmore said. “I wanted to write something that would resonate with kids, but I never had a story to tell. I hadn’t thought of writing about Milo until the pandemic, although I always found inspiration in his strength. Milo’s story radiates resilience, a theme that is imperative for young ears.
Engelmore published “Milo’s Gift” through Gatekeeper Press in May 2021. She is grateful for how quickly the book was published and for all the company has done for her. They took care of the illustrations and the distribution – all she had to do was write the book and send it off.
Engelmore is originally from Ithacan, but lived on Long Island.
“I can’t wait to get back to Ithaca and want to use ‘Milo’s Gift’ to reintroduce myself to the community,” Engelmore said. “My book is currently available online, but I would like to see it in stores. I contacted Buffalo Books and was delighted to receive an email acknowledgment that they were interested. In a few weeks, it should be placed in their local authors section. I am truly honored.
In order to appreciate “Milo’s Gift” on a deeper level, it is important to Engelmore that readers know his story. Because it’s a children’s book, “Milo’s Gift” could only scratch the surface of his transformation, but Engelmore wants his remarkable success shared.
Engelmore said Milo was discovered wandering around Ithaca in the summer of 2016. Maddie’s shelter program at Cornell took him in, immediately tending to his obvious health issues. He was nearly bald, battling sarcoptic mange and had been diagnosed with a heart murmur.
“I give a lot of credit to Dr. Elizabeth Berliner of Maddie’s Shelter program,” Engelmore said. “Most shelters would have let him pass, given his state of health. Instead, Dr. Berliner invested the resources to give her a second chance at life. I can never thank her enough. »
After a few months, when Milo had regained the equivalent of 80% of his strength, he was sent to the Tompkins County SPCA where he was formally named Gandalf. It was there that he crossed paths with Engelmore, as she was volunteering there.
“It was love at first sight,” Engelmore said. “I was told he was at least 10 years old and had a lot of medical issues, but I knew straight away he was my doggy soulmate. It didn’t take long for me to pledge to adopt it.
The day Engelmore went for adoption, she was devastated to find Gandalf’s room empty. After speaking with SPCA staff, they reassured her that Gandalf was there, but working. Engelmore was thrilled to learn that Gandalf had a special job at the shelter, helping new dogs settle into space.
Engelmore filled out the paperwork that day and decided to give Gandalf his forever home. She knew her name didn’t suit her because she lacked long white hairs on her face. She dug a bit and finally settled on Milo.
He may have stolen Engelmore’s heart, but Milo’s health issues have made it difficult to care for him.
“He had a dermatologist, a cardiologist, a regular practicing vet, he had them all,” Engelmore said. “He developed osteoarthritis within the first year I had him, and he limped for the rest of his life. CBD oil, surprisingly, was the only thing that gave him lasting relief He was a big commitment for me and for all his doctors, but I would do it again.
According to Engelmore, the effect Milo had on others made the challenges worth it. Milo provided great comfort to his father as he struggled with dementia. Even when he couldn’t remember Engelmore’s face or name, he never neglected to ask about Milo.
“Milo radiated a happiness that will never be matched,” Englemore said. “If Milo had been healthier, I would have engaged him in pet therapy. The wonders he did for my dad left me speechless. In Milo’s presence, my dad would become more aware. It was amazing If only Milo could have provided similar comfort to others in need.
On November 15, 2021, Engelmore laid Milo to rest after giving him the best life possible. Despite the pain, she is grateful for the five and a half years she was able to share with him.
She says going to the vet that day was the hardest thing she’s ever done. Everyone was wearing masks and she couldn’t be comforted like she needed.
“Someone once told me the universe would rise for you when you needed it, and I just shook it,” Engelmore said. “That is, until I walked to my car after saying goodbye to Milo. I was hysterical. Suddenly a young woman approached me and told me to not to drive until my moment of grief was over. She was a stranger, but she told me that people would support me during this time. I will never forget her kindness.
“Milo’s Gift”, originally written to share Milo’s story with children, now commemorates him in a heartwarming way. The book brings peace to Engelmore, knowing that Milo is alive on the page and serves as an inspirational character for young minds.
“I may have saved Milo, but he saved me right away,” Engelmore said. “He taught me one of the best lessons in life. If you have the time, money, and love to give, taking a chance on a senior dog is a gift. Your time with them may be short and their loss may destroy you, but their impact will last a lifetime. Plus, you live with the confidence that you’ve given them something no one else would. A second chance.
“Milo’s Gift” can be found on many online retailers, including Amazon. Watch for its debut at Buffalo Street Books in the near future.