Chico author creates a way for pet-lovers to keep track of their charges’ care
Tater Tot, a snuffling, golden, friendly lug of a dog, looks as healthy as the proverbial horse. But it was the pup’s bout with lupus three years ago that led Laurie Barranti into an unexpected venture—publishing.
While Tater Tot was enduring repeated treatments and vet visits for the disease localized on his nose, Barranti devised a way to keep track of it all, patterning a journal after a “human” baby book her mother had sent for her then-newborn son, Griffin.
Barranti’s mish-mash of notes on lined paper has grown up. She’s published a wire-bound Pet Health Journal that includes tabbed sections with fill-in-the-blank-type pages for writing in information about vaccinations, medications, lab work and pet sitterseven the optimistically titled “Pet Training Log.”
“One day I woke up, just sat straight up in bed, and said, ‘I’m gonna start the book,'” said Barranti, a native of San Jose who graduated from Chico State University with a liberal-studies degree. Her husband, Matt, who designs state park campgrounds, had the “Yeah, right” reaction at first, Barranti remembers, but the idea took off immediately.
With each edition, the journal has become meatier and more relevant—largely in response to users’ requests. The version that’s hitting presses now includes profiles of heroic pets, several submitted by users of the journal.
PetsMart already has thousands on order for sale in its 530 stores nationwide.
A similar publication, scaled down for distribution in animal-associated offices, which can have their names and addresses printed upon it, is called the Pet Pocketbook. It, too, allows for the keeping of pet records of all kinds.
“They’re all geared for one pet,” Barranti explained. The family’s basset hound, Mikey—rescued from apartment-dwelling with only a short bout of separation anxiety—has one, of course, and Tater Tot’s journal was most recently utilized to record appointments to treat something stuck in her paw and an ear infection.
Tater Tot is also the name behind the “Tater’s Tips” section of the journal, which dispenses such advice as Christmas tree safety and hotel etiquette.
“There are still people who think, ‘A dog’s a dog,'” Barranti observed. “Pets are family members. We show them we love them. We take them to the vet. … We want to be able to help them.”
Barranti, a sixth-grade teacher at Chico Christian School by day, runs her business out of her home in a quiet Chico neighborhood. Her publishing company is called BananaKnot, and she relies on several North Valley businesses, like JiffyPrint, to bring her books together. “I really try to get everything done locally and work with the community,” she said.
Publishing is not completely new to Barranti. When she was 19, her children’s book titled Friends was published. (It was about her first dog in college, Ariel, who now keeps her grandmother company. Barranti ships Ariel doggie treats.) She’s recently begun looking for an illustrator so she can make it a series.
Locally, the Butte Humane Society, whence Tater Tot was adopted, carries Pet Health Journal. It’s also available at Made in Chico.
Barranti said many pet owners don’t think to keep a journal until they get one as a gift or they encounter a medical crisis and “they’ll realize they need to document their pet’s information.” Allergies, she said, are “really big lately,” so there’s a whole section dedicated to recording that information. Also, more and more people are becoming interested in pet medical insurance.
Pet guru Warren Eckstein recommended the journal as a gift during an appearance on the Today Show. It’s selling best from the Bay Area south and on the East Coast. Barranti won’t say exactly how many journals she’s sold, but it’s a lot. The journals can also be ordered via her interactive Web site, www.pethealthjournal.com.
Barranti has done some traveling to promote her journal and pet health in general. She is sought after for interviews with the talk radio circuit, which she usually conducts from her home phone. She’s lobbied legislators to pass the Dog and Cat Protection Act, which prevents articles made from cat or dog fur from being sold in the United States.
She likes the business side of the publishing venture, as well as meeting people and hearing about their love for their pets.
“I’m not a licensed vet, so I cannot suggest treatment,” she said. But, from questions posed to her during talk shows and over the Internet, she hears what pet owners are interesting in knowing. “A lot of people are looking out for holistic treatments,” she mentioned.
Barranti has taught pet CPR and is going to do courses on good pet “citizens” and safety.
As we talk, Barranti helps her 4-year-old put together a toy motorcycle, while Tater Tot and Mikey peer through the sliding glass door. In a corner of the porch is Oreo, the black-and-white bunny who’s soon headed back to sixth grade because the kids miss him.
In Barranti’s class, there’s naturally a huge section on pets and insects. "Everyone in my class has a pet of some kind," she said. "They don’t know I wrote this book yet. I keep it separate."