KINGMAN - Brenda Muncy wasn't alone in her grief when her husband, Don, died of cancer five years ago.
For months, the couple's golden retriever Noah would sit at the top of the driveway of the family's property in Golden Valley waiting for his master to come home. Noah was just six weeks old when he was presented to Don as a birthday present four years before his death. The two bonded almost instantly.
"Once I gave Don the dog, that was it," Muncy said. "Even when the dog got too big for his lap, he would still climb up there."
Don and Brenda raised the dog - along with numerous other rescued animals - on what Don dubbed "Critter Acre" in Golden Valley. Don worked as a heavy equipment operator in Las Vegas. Brenda said Noah was always there to greet him at the gate when he returned on the weekends. It was less than a year between when Don was first diagnosed with cancer to when he passed away at the age of 57. He and Brenda had been married for 37 years.
After Don died, Noah became withdrawn and depressed, Brenda said. He lost his interest in food, laid in Don's clothes and often lingered for hours at the top of the driveway, presumably waiting for him to pull up in his truck.
"I couldn't believe he was grieving as bad as I was," Brenda said.
Brenda is a former veterinarian technician who has worked at Manzanita and Spirit Mountain animal hospitals. Her soft spot for creatures big and small has led her to take in a number of rescued animals, such as an iguana that survived being hit by a car and a horse that was bred more than 20 times before its former owners had no more use for it.
Brenda was flipping through pictures of the animals when she decided to put their stories on paper. Two days later she wrote "Castaway Kitty," about one of her adopted cats that was rescued after darting into traffic on Highway 95 and presented the story to her two granddaughters for Christmas.
The oldest girl, Megan, now 14, shared the book, which is told through the cat's point of view, with her 4th grade class. The teacher invited Brenda to give a presentation to the students with the cat, Noah and a macaw named Scrimshaw in tow.
Brenda later wrote other stories as told by the animals and Don encouraged her to have the books published. It took four years to find a publisher. The finished copy of "Castaway Kitty" arrived in the mail two days after Don's death.
Brenda described her husband as a big guy with big opinions who didn't initially share her love for animals when they first met.
"He loved me, so he loved the animals," she said.
Don named Noah in honor of Noah Ark's because of his wife's collection of animals. The dog quickly became the master of the bunch and the object of Don's affections.
Brenda said the couple used to bring the dog on trips to the river. Noah would tread the current until he was tired, then Don would come over and hold the dog in his arms so he could swim some more.
"I told him, 'what a lazy dog and you're letting him get away with it,'" she said.
Brenda said Noah took Don's death hard. It was 6 to 8 months before it seemed like he was able to accept he was gone.
Brenda said she wrote "Noah's Best Friend" to show how intuitive and emotionally invested animals are with their owners. Noah accompanies her on many trips to schools and libraries while she educates kids and adults about the animals, along with messages about spaying and neutering to help control the pet population.
Brenda said that at a recent reading at a church preschool, Noah laid on his side and let three toddlers use his belly as a pillow. The kids all fell asleep. Noah, Brenda said, didn't stir until the kids woke up.
"He really is a gentle giant," she said.
Muncy has been invited to participate in this year's KABAM (Kingman Area Books Are Magic) Festival set for May 14. She also has readings scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 7 at the Lake Havasu City Hastings, from 1 to 3 p.m. May 21 at the Hastings in Prescott, and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 23 at Y Knott Gifts Galore, 5369 Highway 68 in Golden Valley.
To order a copy of any of Muncy's books, visit www.authorhouse.com or call 1-800-839-8640.