A native of Oakdale, PA, Retz accepted a job in Florida, a state she had never seen, over the phone. She moved to Miami the following weekend with not much more than a bikini and a bottle of suntan lotion. Hurricane David teased the Florida coastline the next Saturday. Undeterred, Retz pursued her investment career during the day and studied microbiology and business at night. After almost a decade of no sleep, Retz finally graduated from Florida International University, after which she obtained her MBA from Nova Southeastern University, married Randy Reeves and started adopting stray animals-or the animals adopted them.
When she's not traipsing around the world looking for investments for Hansberger Global Investors, Retz enjoys working and living in South Florida and the Florida Keys with Randy, some of their critters introduced in "Adopted Paws." And a few more who strayed into their lives.
Tyler: Welcome, Retz. I'm glad you could join me today. I understand "Adopted Paws" is about how you and your husband have adopted several animals over the years, and this animal adoption all directed from when you first met your husband, Randy, and his chow chow, Bo Jo. Will you tell us a little bit about that meeting?
Retz: First off, let me say thank you, Tyler for inviting me to discuss "Adopted Paws."
Actually, I met Randy before I met his chow chow-meeting Bo Jo, however, did work to cement our relationship. Randy I met while studying at the pool at the complex where we discovered we were practically neighbors. As it turned out, he had seen me fighting pillows while crossing the parking lot as I was moving in. After our first meeting, where he learned what a "Retz" was, we ran into each other frequently and began dating.
Most people meet their significant others' relatives-to find out if their respective families are compatible or should be set apart at all costs-early in the relationship. In Randy's case, it was more important for him that I meet his dogs.
The first meeting, I was overwhelmed with his two Dobermans that jumped all over me. But Bo-Jo, the chow, was as a huge moving pile of hair with a long purple tongue that somehow stood out from the other dogs. Randy handed me the leash and Bo, who I did not know was not used to being walked anyway, plodded down the street with me while the other dogs and Randy explored elsewhere. He was adorable and I fell in love with him that day and was glad when Randy moved into his house that Bo was able to go with him.
Tyler: Retz, were you an animal lover prior to meeting your husband?
Retz: Tyler, as I lived up the hill from my grandmother's farm, I learned to appreciate animals at an early age. I remember shooting a basketball at the hoop on the barn, and my grandmother's cow sticking her head through the fence watching. My father's family and my brother Michael kept hunting dogs-in fact, one of them, Bonnie, I introduced in the book. Of course, these were animals kept for practical purposes, but I still remember them with affection.
My mother loved animals and had several small dogs. I adopted kittens either from my grandmother's farm or from friends who no longer had room for them in their homes. Still, sometimes there were more kittens available than there were homes, which of course led to some sad moments.
Tyler: I understand you and your husband have adopted more animals since you married. How many animals do you now have and would you tell us a little about them?
Retz: Since we were married, we adopted Pete the poodle and Samantha a very big lovable, but abused, mixed breed. We also adopted the cat Molly, from the phone yard where Randy worked, and her son Lucky and daughter Cali. These animals were all introduced in "Adopted Paws." Of this group, we still have Samantha, Lucky and Cali.
Since "Adopted Paws," we have also adopted other dogs and cats so in total we have two dogs and three cats, and before I forget, a bunch of finches. Perhaps I should save more details about this group for the sequel.
Tyler: When you tell people you have so many pets, what reactions do you get?
Retz: Well, the reactions vary. Some people think we're a little crazy and amazed that we can balance taking care of animals with living a normal life. Others say "How wonderful!" And begin telling stories about their own present or past animals. Finally, some people are a bit envious-they wish they had a dog or cat, but because of where they live or because of their lifestyle, they are unable to.
Tyler: Do you ever get frustrated by the animals, over things like cat hair or not being potty-trained? Do you have any funny stories about taking care of the animals?
Retz: Funny or frustrating stories about the animals? Do you have a couple of days? On a day by day basis, there are always challenges that you learn to live and laugh at with this many animals. For one, there is cat and dog hair. It's everywhere. I find it on the sofa, on the bed, on my suitcases when I travel and maddeningly in my coffee. My husband loves to laugh at me when I get ready to leave the house because typically he finds a mat of hair covering the back of my carefully put together business outfit.
Trying to get sleep with this many animals is also not easy. Cats jump from the bed to the windowsill to see outside and then back again. The dogs are spoiled and want to sleep in the bed. Samantha will pummel my back when she has running dreams. Both the cats and the dogs snore and sometimes even ear plugs can not block out the sound.
Some of the funniest and most touching moments are when the dogs and cats interact with each other. It always makes me smile to see Lucky and Samantha lying next to each other on the bed, totally unaware they are two different species. Gizmo, the Chihuahua, loves to act as peacemaker-he jumps in between the cats, Lucky and Cali, if he is afraid they are going to get into a fight.
Tyler: I understand your cat, Molly, is the heroine of the story, and that she has feline AIDS. Will you tell us more about Molly's struggle? Is feline AIDS common?
Retz: Unfortunately, feline AIDS is common in stray cats-it can be transmitted from cat to cat through blood or fluids by sex or biting. It can not be spread from cats to other animal species or humans.
We did not know that Molly had AIDS until after we adopted her and she began behaving strangely. When she was diagnosed, we had a hard time deciding whether to keep her or put her down. Randy decided it was best to keep her as happy and comfortable as we could, which we did with great love, which she repaid. She had several bouts with illnesses, especially ear infections. Luckily, after the last infection, the end came reliably quickly, although we were still shocked and saddened by her passing. We were very relieved because to find out that her son and daughter, Lucky and Cali, were not infected.
Tyler: Retz, after a few difficulties, you and your husband and pets moved to a canal on the Florida Keys. What made this location desirable for you and your pets?
Retz: Randy and I had always dreamed of living closer to the water. Randy grew up in the Keys so that was our first choice. It was fortified that we discovered not only a beautiful environment, where we can fish on the weekends, but also great neighbors that love animals. We frequently have extra dogs staying the night when their owners go out of town. Randy spends most of his time in the Keys now. I still work in Fort Lauderdale during the week and travel frequently in the US and abroad for business. But I love coming back to the
Keys on weekends to enjoy the water and the fish, birds, iguanas and squirrels that are endemic to the area.
Tyler: What do you see as some of the difficulties of being an animal lover and having so many pets?
Retz: Just like people, pets have their own personalities and some of them get along better with each other than others. Gizmo, a Chihuahua, and one of our more recent adoptions, would fly across the couch to attack Samantha, who outweighs Gizzie by about ten to one, when we first got him. Now they are best buddies-Gizmo will stick his head into Samantha's mouth. Oddly, Lucky the cat gets along better with the dogs than the other cats-we think he is a "Dat" or a "Cog." Keeping the whole brood happy is the biggest challenge.
Tyler: What about animals appeals to you and to your husband?
Retz: Animals give love without fear or reserve. They are much more honest than most people. And they bring people together. It's hard not to like someone who likes animals.
Tyler: Retz, I mentioned above that you have a career in investments and you travel a lot. What difficulties or joys do the animals bring to you in relation to your career?
Retz: Most people get homesick when they travel a lot. I do, too. But I really miss the animals when I travel. Unlike, my husband, the animals have no idea why I go away for days at a time and then appear again out of now. But it's one of the greatest feelings in the world to come back home and have the dogs and cats welcome you.
The animals also are great stress relievers after a trip. It's hard not to feel better when Samantha rolls over and waits for me to rub her stomach or when I pet Lucky and hear him purr.
Tyler: What made you decide to write "Adopted Paws" about your experiences?
Retz: Beside a big ego? Seriously, it appeared as if the animals wrote the story, and I took dictation. I have so many friends with what I have laughed and fought over stories of their and our cats and dogs and that's why I thought it would be worthwhile to share our stories with others. Judging by the reactions I have gotten from people from everywhere-Europe, Japan, India, Korea – people deeply care about animals.
Writing "Adopted Paws" was also therapeutical. Especially, during the time Molly was sick with AIDS and after her death.
Tyler: Will you tell us what some of these readers have said?
Retz: Most readers tell me they laughed and they claimed while reading "Adopted Paws." They enjoy reading the antics of our animals, but more importantly, "Adopted Paws" seems to resonate with anyone who has loved and lost a favorite pet.
Because at the end of "Adopted Paws," I wrote about adopting Cali and mentioned there were more critters after her that would disturb the balance of cats and dogs in the household, many readers are curious about what else we have adopted.
Tyler: Will you be writing a sequel? We have not read anything yet about those finches you mentioned above.
Retz: Right now I am finishing a draft of a book about the challenges women face while traveling-especially abroad. But since Cali, we have adopted two more dogs and another cat and those pesky finches, so I will have no choice but to write a sequel. Or actually the animals will compose the story, I will just take dictation.
Tyler: Thank you for joining me today, Retz. Before we go, would you tell us a little bit about your website and how our readers can purchase copies of "Adopted Paws"?
Retz: Thank you, Tyler. Several readers mentioned to me that they were disappointed that there were no pictures of the animals in the book. So I bought a manual on building a website, created http://www.adoptedpaws.com and posted photographs of the "stars" from Adopted Paws. Then I added galleries containing pictures of our current animals, neighbors' animals and some Keys Critters. I also started linking to my favorite South Florida and Keys Artists, Musicians and Authors which work I believe my readers would enjoy.
"Adopted Paws" can be purchased at online websites such as publishamerica.com and amazon.com and at "Hooked on Books" in Islamorada in the Florida Keys.
Tyler: Thank you, Retz. Best of luck to you and your pets in writing your next book.