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Maxdog: From rescue dog to Christmas book

By on October 29, 2018 in Articles with 0 Comments

Max looking forlorn, waiting for adoption.

By Jennifer Burke

“Let’s just go take a look,” said my husband, handing me a folded page from the Wenatchee World featuring a picture of a dog.

“We don’t have to bring him home, but let’s just look.” I glanced down at the photo of the young German Short Hair Pointer who peered back at me from the page. “This hunter likes People,” read the headline.

The article went on to describe the “Dog of the Week,” a one-year-old stray with the markings of a fine hunter.

OK,” I agreed reluctantly. “But we are just looking. Why would we want a hunting dog? We’re not hunters.”

“Let’s just go,” encouraged my husband again. What he failed to tell me then was that he had been to the shelter the previous day, and this dog had already captured his heart. There was no escaping it. The dog was going to be ours.

And so we brought him home. Our then 9-year-old daughter named him Max after the dog in the Little Mermaid movie and he quickly became the fifth member of our family.

Max was quite a character. He loved to eat his dog food topped with taco cheese, and he could not be deterred from sleeping on the couch until we moved an old couch into the back yard just for him.

He allowed the kids to dress him up and once marched as “Garth Barks” in the Apple Blossom Kiddie’s Parade, complete with a black cowboy hat and cardboard boots. He loved to run and chase birds and periodically escaped from our yard and took himself for walks.

Sometimes, when I walked him on the leash, we met people who were strangers to me but well known to Max. Everyone loved him. His solo escapades, however, landed him so often at the Humane Society Shelter I wondered if I couldn’t just buy him a guest pass.

Fourteen years passed. Our children had left home for college and careers and Max, like his adult owners, had grown older and slower. Christmas was once again approaching, and I was at a loss for ideas for gifts for my family. I wanted to do something personal. Since I enjoy writing little stories I decided to write and illustrate a Christmas story with Max as the main character.

Both the kids and my husband were thrilled with the story and it became a family keepsake.

Several years later, following Max’s departure at the ripe old age 17, I reworked the story at a writer’s workshop.

Maxdog writer, Jennifer Burke, left, and illustrator Claudia Wiggins.

The new iteration was given as a gift to my grandchildren. This past Christmas my daughter encouraged me to try to publish the story. She felt it could find an audience and a place among Christmas books for children.

I knew I did not want to peddle the story to publishers, so I decided to attempt the self-publishing route. I also knew my illustrations, while appreciated by my family, were in no way good enough for publication. I needed an artist collaborator.

I approached Wenatchee artist, Claudia Wiggins, well known for her charming and whimsical paintings, never imagining she would agree to work with me. But she did.

And so began our wonderful adventure.

Claudia worked tirelessly to create 34 8 ½-inch by 11-inch canvases to capture the movement of the story.

Initially, since she was unfamiliar with the breed, she struggled to find the right persona for Maxdog. But over time he transformed from a chubby furry dog to the sweet character he is now in the story.

Her illustrations are warm and inviting and appeal to “kids” of all ages.

We found an editor to help us with edits and the uploading of files to the Amazon Create Space platform. We agonized over text boxes, cover design and font styles and sizes. Who knew publishing a book could be so complicated?

When Maxdog’s Christmas Surprise became available on Amazon this year in early September we were excited and proud.

It was gratifying to see our work in print and we hope others will have as much fun reading the story as we did creating it.

Although Max did not live to see his metamorphosis from “Dog of the Week“ to star character, I feel his incredible spirit shines on every page.

Maxdog’s Christmas Surprise is available on Amazon.com and will be sold locally at Holiday Christmas Markets at Pybus Public Market and elsewhere.

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