Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Daniela Amato, author of Finding Joy: A Dog's Tale.

FQ: Your book touched me deeply. When you describe the bond that forms between Little Bear and ‘Mommy,’ I get a sense you drew your writing of this beautiful story from personal experience. Could you elaborate?

AMATO: I am so happy that you felt that bond! Little Bear was my companion. The story is his story as communicated to me after his passing. As an animal communicator, I can communicate with animals both live and those that passed. Finding Joy is a true story, HIS story. It was wonderful to hear about his life and how he perceived things. It was also very emotional for me to learn about the unpleasant things he experienced. Writing his story helped me heal after his passing and remains a great comfort to me.

FQ: In line with my previous question, both our daughters are equestrians. During their time at one of the barns where they rode, our youngest was training a fairly green horse. His owner loved him in her way, but our daughter understood him and went beyond just tacking him up for a ride each and every time she was at the barn. When it was time to give up the reins to the girl who would show him, our daughter took a back seat and eventually we moved to another barn. Months later, we heard the horse seemed off—as though he was depressed. They had a spiritual guide come out to the barn and do an assessment and she told the owner that he ‘misses his person.’ They didn’t understand what that meant until the guide said he told her he missed drinking Gatorade with his person and her hugs. When I heard this story, it brought tears to my eyes because I instantly knew our daughter was his ‘person.’ Have you ever had someone discount the credibility to such powerful connections with animals?

AMATO: Your daughter is so blessed to have that connection. Horses are wonderful beings. Many people are not aware or are afraid to admit that these special connections are true. It isn’t until you experience it, that you truly understand the connectivity of all beings. I have had many encounters with people who doubt these powerful connections. They consider animals as “less than” humans or beings placed on earth for human use. These individuals are skeptical and in my opinion are missing out on one of the purest relationships, second only to a mother and her baby. The bond between an animal companion and a human is pure love and trust.

FQ: There are wonderful life’s lessons throughout this read and such a strong message of living in the moment. I was intrigued in reading in your bio when you had the realization that you were, in fact, communicating with animals through picture messages and energy. Describe one of your most memorable moments and elaborate further on what the ‘picture messages’ were.

AMATO: Great question! It is hard to pick just one. Each encounter with an animal is unique and special. One of the most powerful and also sad encounters happened last summer. I was lounging on my deck enjoying the sunshine and dozing off in that summer slumber. I suddenly saw a herd of horses, some fallen and some struggling to get up. As some of the horses got up, they shook their bodies to remove debris. Others remained on the ground. A black horse stood and looked directly at me. I asked who they were. The black horse described a metal container that the horses were in. This container crashed and fell over. I saw flames and felt a lot of heat. I asked the black horse what happened. He said there was an accident while they were being transported. He said the humans did not care for them; the horses were only a commodity to the humans. A glowing white horse appeared and all the horses, even those on the ground, began to follow her. As they followed, galloping and neighing, I felt a heaviness leave them. The black horse said, “we ran for you, but now we run for ourselves.” I was left feeling a great sadness but also a sense of relief. The horses were finally free.

Later that day, my friend called me and asked if I heard about the horrible accident. I had not listened to the news that day. She told me that racehorses were being transported up north. The transport truck had an accident, turning over and catching on fire. All the horses perished. Not one of the humans involved even had a scratch. I believe the black horse chose me to relay the message and show me their transition. The white horse was their Spirit Guide, I believe. I know they are happy now. I will never forget that encounter.

FQ: You have a beautiful voice and without too much of a spoiler, when it was time for Little Bear and Mommy to continue with their separate journeys, I was openly crying. How difficult was it for you to write that scene?

AMATO: That was one of the most difficult moments to capture with pen, and understandably one of my most difficult moments in life. I too was crying openly. During the editing process, each time I came to that section, I cried. I can say that it did get easier with each edit. The sadness and loss is always there but knowing that life continues, and Little Bear is still with me in Spirit, does help ease the pain. As difficult as it was, I felt it was important to include. So many people struggle with this moment. My hope was to give courage to people so they stay with their companions till the very end.

FQ: In line with my previous question, leading up to the event, the important lesson you impart, ‘...Life’s Purpose does not have to be a huge spectacle or event. It is the little things that help others feel whole and loved that are the most important...’ At what point in your life did you have this reckoning?

AMATO: Another great question! I think I have always believed that the small things




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are most important in life. However, it was not until I had my children and Little Bear that I fully realized this to be true. Humans tend to look at the larger events, rush from one thing to the next in search of love, accomplishments, prestige, or monetary awards. In doing so, we miss out on all the smaller more subtle things that truly make life rich. My children and Little Bear taught me “the pause”. They showed me life through different, more innocent, and purer eyes. I saw the world with a newly awakened sense of awe, but also a deep desire to make it a better place. Little Bear made me more aware of nature and all the inhabitants...creatures I would not have noticed before even though they are always there. Bringing my focus in towards nature has kept me grounded. I credit a lot of my important learning to my children and Little Bear.

FQ: Your poem at book’s end ‘A Place Called Joy’ is lovely. Do you have a book of poems or have you thought of publishing a book of poems? FQ: The past year has been a year of uncertainly and turmoil at best. We need more inspiring people like you to share your message to the masses. Do you do speaking engagements or have you thought about doing speaking engagements given your strong messages of hope and love?

AMATO: Thank you, again! I have not done speaking engagements to date. However, I do speak to my clients (I am a massage therapist) and have emailed them during Covid, with messages of hope and tools they can use to change their daily thoughts from negative to positive. It is especially important to look to yourself for healing and positivity. When you take control of your thoughts and actions, everything else around you falls in line. It is not the events in your life that define your character, but how you handle them that makes all the difference. I would love to have speaking engagements, although on a small scale. I get nervous in front of large crowds!

FQ: To expand on my previous question, ‘...Daniela believes if humans learned to hear with their hearts and not their minds, we would be able to resolve many of the issues society faces...’ What has been your greatest challenge to overcome over the past year and how did you diffuse the situation?

AMATO: Wow! This question is intense. There are so many challenges that I have faced in my life. As I read your question, they flooded into memory. The past year has been trying, the Covid “quarantine” and having to close my business - like many people it was an adjustment and scary time. There was so much uncertainty financially and emotionally. I handled it by focusing on what I could control and not on those things outside my control. When I had to close my business (103 days, but who was counting!), I decided to take the time to learn new things online, publish Finding Joy, create new habits (daily meditation, daily reiki), and read more. I also created an oasis on my deck by planting wildflowers, sunflowers, and putting up hummingbird feeders. I embraced nature in my small area. I was able to witness the cycle of life by seeing larvae grow into caterpillars and then butterflies. It was the most beautiful thing to see them grow and change! How often do we SEE this transformation that happens all the time undetected? It was also a great lesson in patience.

The quoted text above came in handy for many reasons. The past few years the amount of angry people has grown tremendously. People do not listen and only react. To listen with your heart means to leave your ego and thoughts to the side. Hear what people are feeling, instead of their words and your opinions. If someone is angry, they are most likely afraid of something. If someone is depressed, they are feeling hopeless and cannot get past their own circular thinking. Instead of reacting to the what is in front of us, take a moment to pause and listen to the heart- what are the underlying emotions? It helps to communicate from the heart vs the brain.

FQ: Your bio also mentions your choice of a plant-based lifestyle. What’s one of your favorite ‘go to’ recipes?

AMATO: This is probably the hardest question to answer! Lol I am a “foodie,” so I have a different favorite meal at any point in time, even within the same day! I will say that I like to recreate “comfort” foods from my youth and make them vegan and healthy. There are so many vegan options and exotic ingredients are much more accessible, it has become quite easy to “veganize” most meals. I do love a lot of flavor and sometimes even different flavors sharing the same plate. I have been known to prep a variety of foods and then on busy days take a little from each pre-made dish and eat it all together. My mom used to call that a “mish-mosh” dinner. Lol A little of everything left over to make a delicious meal.

FQ: Thank you for such a wonderful read Ms. Amato. I’m a voracious reader and an exceptional read lingers with me well beyond the proverbial ‘the end.’ Finding Joy: A Dog’s Tale will live on in my heart and memory for a long time and I thank you. There are times when I get a sense the book ‘chose’ me, and such was the case with your book. I’m hoping you’re working on your next project and if so, would you care to share?

AMATO: Thank you so much for saying that! It was my hope that Finding Joy would leave a lasting impression. I believe there is a take-away for everyone, even non-animal lovers may find a few gems in the story that may help them in their own journey. I am currently not working on a specific writing project, but I do have some ideas floating around my head. One is, as mentioned earlier, a book of poems and the other is a book about my animal communication sessions. I am not committed to a particular idea or outcome; this helps me adjust more easily and change course if necessary when I reach bumps in the road. When the timing is right, the idea will flow onto paper. It happened this way for both my books and I feel that it will be that way again. Whatever the new project ends up being, I know I will love every minute of it. =)