The theme for this year’s Silicon Valley Reads program is something many people may be lacking during the pandemic – connecting.
Many of the books chosen for this year’s event, which runs through March, are based on connection. That includes former Los Altos resident Carol Novello’s “Mutual Rescue,” which explores the human-animal bond.
“People would sometimes ask me why I was helping animals when I could be helping people,” said Novello, former president of Humane Society Silicon Valley. “And I found that to be rather curious because I saw firsthand, not only through my own life, but also from seeing all the people who are adopting animals from Humane Society Silicon Valley, that animals are really impacting their life in very profound ways.”
Novello’s mission to prove that caring for an animal works both ways led her to launch the national animal-welfare initiative Mutual Rescue in 2015. The initiative made its debut through short films like “Eric & Peety,” which has been viewed more than a million times around the world.
“The films are wonderful for sharing the stories and in the heart piece of the equation, but what the book does is bring in the science that goes along with that,” Novello said. “I think that’s a very powerful combination to marry up – the emotional component of our own experience with what science has to say about it.”
Her book is split into four categories: Heart, Body, Mind and Connection.
“The idea was to illustrate for people how adopting a homeless animal can help humans in each of those areas of their lives and show that when you rescue an animal, you’re also opening up an opportunity for a very profound impact in your own life,” Novello said. “And so I really wanted to change the conversation from people or animals to people and animals.”
Novello had more stories than she could fit in the book; she said one of the greatest challenges as an author was cutting 20% from “Mutual Rescue.”
“In the book, there are actually so many stories, and so much research, it really was about trying to narrow it down to pick the stories and the research and matching that all up to make it as powerful as possible,” she said.
After the release of her book in April 2019, Novello said she has received many positive comments. She cited one young woman who was inspired to pursue animal welfare as a career after reading it.
“You really have to keep your eye on the bigger picture,” Novello said, “and just really believe in your message, because you’re going to be talking about it, then and sharing it with people for a long time to come, and I’m proud of the message and proud of the impact that it’s having on people’s lives.”
Throughout the book, Novello also sprinkled in her own stories from her childhood, such as when her sister’s friend found out they couldn’t keep their cat Chester and asked if their family could take care of him. Novello’s father wasn’t very comfortable with animals at that time, but that soon changed.
“Every Friday night my dad would go up into his den and he’d watch “Wall Street Week” with Louis Rukeyser, and no one in the family had any interest in doing that with my dad, and it always kind of bummed him out because he didn’t have any company,” Novello recalled. “But Chester would follow him up into the den and he would hop up into his lap and curl up in the crook of his arm. And the reason why that is such a profound image and a story that I remember so much is because what I realized is that Chester affected my dad, not by changing his mind, but by changing his heart.”
“Mutual Rescue” is available for purchase online at Amazon.com and through Grand Central Publishing at tinyurl.com/4eodqh55.
For more information on the Mutual Rescue initiative, visit mutualrescue.org.
For more information on Silicon Valley Reads, visit siliconvalleyreads.org.