By Michael Gryboski
Puerto Rico native Edwin Fontánez is already known for his books of poetry and illustrations inspired by his homeland. For his first nonfiction work, entitled “I Promise You”, Fontánez decided to focus on an issue that has long been close to his heart: fighting animal cruelty. As with his poetry works, Fontánez drew his inspiration from the mother country.
“I was born on the very small and beautiful island of Puerto Rico that many people consider a near-paradise, but it wasn’t so for me after witnessing the many abandoned animals that roam the streets,” said Fontánez in an interview with the Zebra.
A brutal mass killing of animals in the Puerto Rican town of Barceloneta in 2008 was the deciding event that led him to begin researching and writing “I Promise You.” The 64-page illustrated book offers basic steps for properly treating animals and is meant as a read for children and adults, the home and the classroom.
“After so many years of writing for children, I’ve come to realize the themes I love to write about are ones that help heal the soul,” said Fontánez, “when a theme chooses me, I pour my soul and resources into my work if I feel it can help others (and children) see themselves and connect with my vision.”
In keeping with his efforts to help tackle the problem of animal abuse, a portion of the proceeds of each purchased copy of “I Promise You” will be donated to help local “No-Kill Shelters”, which only euthanize animals who are either too ill to be treated or too vicious. Proponents of these shelters also believe in the Trap-Neuter-Release, or TNR program as a solution to the issue of feral cats.
Though much work needs to be done, Fontánez believes the Commonwealth of Virginia is a “shining example” for other states regarding the animal protection.“I truly feel proud to be part of this community, even more so now that Arlington County has initiated a new program with the Animal League of Arlington where funds are allocated to help control the proliferation of stray cats and protect the communities of feral ones,” said Fontánez.
“The moment someone brings an animal into their home, whether they realize it or not, they are making a pledge to the animal for its safety andwell-being. Pets—as it has been proven over and over—improve the quality of our lives exponentially, so they deserve our love, care, and protection. Loving and caring for a pet can take away many of the anxieties and worries we experience on a daily basis. I know they have for me.”