It’s always a joy to meet another author. However, connecting with Michelle Kadarusman was an extra thrill, because not only do we share a love of books and writing, we share a love for animals.
Michelle grew up in Melbourne, Australia with her four siblings. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and her mom, now a single mother and raising five kids, didn’t allow the family to have pets.
But this doesn’t appear to have been a hard rule, since Michelle and her siblings still filled their home with strays. To her relief, once the animals were there, her mom fell in love with the new family members as well. Michelle’s menagerie of strays included cats, rabbits and a dog named Charlie.
In 2000 Michelle moved to Canada and adopted her first dog from the Toronto Humane Society. Buddy was a five-year-old beagle mix. Sadly, Buddy died two years later. It happened when Michelle and her children were walking home from school. Buddy saw another dog across the street. He lunged and broke free of his leash, and he got hit by a car.
Devastated by his death, Michelle knew she wanted to bring another dog into their family.
“Dogs add colour to our lives,” she says.
In 2003, India, a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, joined Michelle’s family, and then seven years later, they adopted Hannah, a shepherd mix rescued from Aruba.
Given her love of animals, it’s no surprise that in 1996, while living in Surabaya, Indonesia, Michelle’s desire to help animals extended beyond rabbits, cats and dogs. She helped rescue an orangutan.
Her brother, Andre, was also in Indonesia at the time. He was working for an Australian construction company based in Jakarta. His work involved travelling to remote areas. At one of those locations he came upon a captive orangutan, held in a tiny cage, who was being used as an attraction at a restaurant.
Michelle’s brother didn’t know what to do. It is illegal in Indonesia to have an orangutan in captivity. But this was before Google and finding a rescue organization to save the orangutan was very difficult.
Michelle’s brother contacted her, wondering if she could help. Michelle had recently had a baby and belonged to a mom’s group. She told the other mothers about the plight of the orangutan. Luckily, one of the women knew someone who volunteered at an orangutan rescue. She promised to contact her friend at the rescue and get back to Michelle.
A couple of weeks passed and then Michelle received a call from the woman at the rescue. They were in the area that day and needed the location of the restaurant.
Michelle scrambled to contact her brother. Fortunately, she was able to speak with him. Even though he didn’t know the exact address of the restaurant, as it was located in a remote village, he was able to provide enough details for the rescue team to find the orangutan.
Thanks to Michelle and her brother, the orangutan was saved and taken to a sanctuary. Her seven years of being held captive in a tiny cage had finally come to an end.
Michelle never learned exactly what happened to the orangutan, but is hopeful that her life was a lot better having been rescued.
Not only is Michelle an animal lover but she is also an author. This incident with the orangutan has been brewing in Michelle’s mind for almost thirty years. She is now working on transforming it into a fictional story. She plans on telling the story from three points of view: the main character is a girl who is a budding activist, a boy whose uncle owns the restaurant where the orangutan was kept, and the orangutan herself.
As she writes, Michelle is cognisant of the complexities involved in dealing with animal conservation in countries such as Indonesia. She is determined not to vilify the restaurant owners. She says that her brother returned to the restaurant after the orangutan was saved and the owners were relieved she had been rescued. They too, wanted a better life for the orangutan but didn’t know how to make that happen.
Michelle is a gifted writer. Her 2019 middle grade novel, Girl of The Southern Sea was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award. She has written three award- nominated novels. I eagerly await the release of this story based on her real-life experience helping an orangutan.
When asked the question, what is the one thing she would change in the world, Michelle said, “To change the world we have to look at our own actions first. It’s easy to forget to simply be kind. I try and remind myself everyday to lighten my thoughts and just do what I can.”
For more information about Michelle, please check out her Facebook page: