A P.E.I. man with a passion for pets

Sally Cole scole@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on March 3, 2014

Author John Cairns, right, sells a copy of his book, All Aboard! Planet, Pets, Plus, to a shopper at the Hong Kong Pet Show. The P.E.I. native has just launched his new book filled with true animal tales.


Growing up on a dairy farm in Lower Freetown, John Cairns developed an early affection for animals.

As a toddler in the 1960s, he recalls holding one of the farm felines in his arms as often as he could.

“To me, the most pleasant sound imaginable came from loudly-purring cats. I also benefited from working with young cows as a 4-H Club member. Two different calves in my care became provincial 4-H champions,” says Cairns who, with his wife Eva, lives in Hong Kong with his dog and five cats.

Besides pets, Cairns is passionate about writing.

Under his pen name, Jay Scott Kanes, he has written two novels, High Degree of Atrocity and Dog-Gone Cat Case, as well as the Canadian music anthology, Island Toes A’Tapping.

Cairns combines his passions in a newly published book, All Aboard! Planet, Pets, Plus.

“Honestly, animals can really inspire. The more that you observe them, the better that you get to know them, the more the inspiration flows. That’s why I decided to fill a book with true stories about animals and animal-friendly people (from various corners of North America, Europe and Asia),” says the UPEI graduate during an Internet interview.

Whether he’s describing the antics of Ginger, a blind kitten that he and his wife adopted eight years ago, Bruce, the water buffalo who strolls Hong Kong sidewalks, Mimi, a disabled high-spirited dog, or Monica the cat that for years greeted people arriving for performances at Victoria Playhouse on Prince Edward Island, his stories are pleasing.

“We were delighted to have Monica included in the book. It was also nice for John to be developing a wider audience (by including Canadian stories) and to have him visit the playhouse,” says Pat Smith, the theatre’s general manager.

There’s even a profile on the Atlantic Veterinary College and its former blood-donating cat, Caspar.

“I’m honoured. It’s great to see the AVC receive positive press in a book like this. It’s great for our program that people choose to write about us,” says former AVC dean, Tim Ogilvie, who was interviewed for the book.

The P.E.I. Humane Society is also featured in another section, Animal Shelter Anguish: Emotions Unsheltered. It describes the experience of visiting the cats and the dogs at the shelter without adopting several.

“When John visited, he told us about some of his animal rescue work in Hong Kong. I was very impressed with him. He is very tender-hearted,” says Heather Irving, past executive director.

Whether received as first-hand encounters or as stories from animal lovers, Cairns’ moments with pets have inspired him.

“Experiences shared with animals can enrich human lives — big time.

“People can also learn some of life’s most important lessons about the likes of happiness, loyalty, duty and friendships or even grief, sickness and death.

“Just as every person has a history and a fascinating story to tell, so does every animal. By paying close enough attention to (them), it’s possible to understand the details of those stories,” he says.



Just the facts

A former newspaper reporter, John Cairns moved to Asia in 1992.

Later he edited various magazines, including Arts of Asia, Hong Kong Enterprise and Hong Kong Electronics. Cairns is currently working in the publications department at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

Copies of his book are available through his website at www.powerpublishingclub.com.

Cairns welcomes email at john.johncairns@gmail.com.