I know that we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I admit a cover caught my eye recently. It belonged to Rescue Ink, written by Rescue Ink and Denise Flaim. Not a viewer of the TV show on the National Geographic Channel, I had never heard of this unique group of volunteer animal rescuers. Behind the curve, that’s me.
Based in Long Island, New York, the group consists of ten men who are street tough but who have a soft spot for animals. They are not afraid to knock on the door of the local nasty who’s known for abusing his pit bull, and tell him to cut it out. They educate those who are willing to learn about the responsibilities of pet ownership, in order to turn neglect into care. They organize searches for lost or stolen animals. They accepted a donated vehicle that didn’t run and turned it into a full-service animal ambulance. Together, these guys have helped or rescued hundreds of animals, mostly dogs and cats, but some horses, pigs, and other animals, too.
The story of the group’s founding and the men’s personal histories were fascinating. I learned a lot, too, about some forms of abuse that I’d never heard of before: the inhumane practices of Mexican slaughterhouses that buy unwanted American horses for meat, to get around the law banning the practice in the US. Also, I didn’t know that Amish country is the location of so many puppy mills. The Rescue Ink website is currently down, but I did find a Facebook page.
This book got me thinking about animal rescue awareness. Most kids naturally love animals, so picture books such as Fleabag, Finding Susie, and The Dog Who Belonged to No One have a natural appeal. They encourage empathy with the additional message that there are unwanted animals out there who need homes. There is a series of chapter books called Vet Volunteers, and a whole host of other fiction for kids. And, of course, there are fun library visits by Furry Friends and Canine Companions, many of whom are rescued, with their "reading to dogs" events at West Valley, Willow Glen, and Santa Teresa branch libraries. Pets certainly enrich our lives. If a family is looking for a special pet, the San Jose shelter is a good place to go. Spread the love!
One of the great appeals of the Willow Glen area is that it is such a pedestrian-friendly and canine-friendly neighborhood! Resident dogs enjoy strolling the downtown sidewalks with their owners and sniffing noses with friends old and new. If they get to linger at the table of one of the many sidewalk cafes, or step into a shop with a bowl of water by the door and a jar of dog treats on the counter, that's even better! The adorable Churro is one of those resident dogs. This Chihuahua/Dachshund mix is five years old and started her puppyhood in an animal shelter before her forever family found her.
Did you know that both the Chihuahua and the Dachshund are listed in the top ten dog breeds for children by the American Humane Society? So it's perfect that Churro now belongs to youngsters Sora and Lucas and their doting parents. One sunny but cold spring day, little Churro visited the Willow Glen Branch Library with her family, showing off a pink jacket which protects her from the weather. Pets are not allowed inside the library, but they do occasionally accompany their people here. It's not unusual to see a dog leashed to the bike rack on a sunny afternoon while a customer runs inside to pick up a request--maybe something to read relaxing at a Lincoln Avenue cafe or Willow Street Frank Bramhall Park.
Here are two books that are perfect reads if you love dogs or animals. They are also perfect because they are definitely not boring. You will want to keep reading them until the very end. They are that good. They are so good that they both won Newbery Medals. And they both were made into films. So, let me tell you a little bit about these two outstanding books.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo is the story of a lonely girl named India Opal (Opal, for short), who finds a big old skinny, scruffy, stray dog in the local Winn-Dixie grocery store. Opal names the dog Winn-Dixie and takes it home to give it a bath, some food and a new home. Opal’s Dad is a preacher and it doesn’t take long for him to fall in love with Winn- Dixie, too. Who can resist a dog that can smile and seem to understand everything you say? As soon as Winn-Dixie enters her life, Opal seems to have lots of adventures and make new friends. Still, Opal is lonely for her mother who ran away when Opal was only three years old. Why did her mother run away? Did she love Opal? What was she like? Opal is always on the quest to find answers to these questions. But, because of Winn-Dixie and her love for him, Opal is no longer paralyzed by these questions and is able to turn her life around in a good way.
Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is the story of a boy and a beagle dog. Eleven-year-old Marty Preston comes across a beagle pup in the woods near Shiloh, not far from his hometown of Friendly, West Virginia. The beagle pup wins Marty’s heart at first sight, but Marty can’t help but notice that there is something not right with the pup. The pup is frightened and cringes when Marty approaches him. Marty soon finds out why. The pup’s owner is beating him and Marty is determined to save the pup he names Shiloh from further abuse. Marty has a lot of difficult decisions to make in his effort to rescue Shiloh. He will encounter danger, adventure and emotional moments as his love for Shiloh propels him onward to do the right thing.
Fleabag by Helen Stephens is the story of a little dog that has no home. This little dog meets a boy who is sad because he has no one to play with. They bond a friendship despite the little boy’s parent telling him to stay away from the dirty flea ridden dog. Unfortunately, their bond is put to a test when the little boy has to move away. See what happens in this adorable story about a dog who always does the right thing even if no one is watching!
Rufus, a fifth grader wants a dog. Now what could be wrong with that; dogs learn tricks, they play games, they hang out with you, sleep at the foot of your bed and protect you and your family from intruders. Dogs are cool! Right! Who wouldn't want a dog? Unfortunately, Rufus' dad; and dad has come up with an endless list of objections such as, they whine, they bark, they lick people's faces, their poop has to be scooped, they eat mice, they can infest the house with blood sucking fleas and on and on and on! Rusfus' mom thinks that Rufus should have a pet, so she goes out and buys a guinea pig, a guinea pig with a spiky white mohawk! Rufus is not too excited about this pet but he doesn't want to hurt his mom's feelings so he decides to give Fido a try; yes he names his guinea pig Fido and Fido starts behaving more and more like a dog! You'll be amazed by what he can do and by the adventures Rufus and Fido have. Read Guinea Dog by Patrick Jennings, a fun read about a boy and the pet he comes to love. By the end of the book you'll have to agree when Rufus says to Fido, the guinea pig "What a dog!"
King is a dog. He’s also a detective, solving mysteries with his human, Kayla. But right now, there is a serious problem, King’s family is missing, and King, well, he’s in the P-O-U-N-D. It looks like he will need to solve this mystery by himself. First of all, like any good detective, King makes a plan. Kayla writes her plan on paper, but King will keep his in his head. And where should he start? Number 1: Escape from the P-O-U-N-D.
By using his nose and being friendly, King accomplishes the first step – he leaves the P-O-U-N-D with a boy named Connor and his mother. They are the perfect humans for King to adopt, at least temporarily since they live in King’s old neighborhood. And so, King sets off to find his family.
Events intervene, and King must adapt his plan to his new circumstances. But even as he solves the current mystery, he never forgets his main objective – find his family.
I was sorry to come to the end of this delightful book, but pleased to see we have two more books available in this series. This book would be a good choice for children transitioning from series titles like Encyclopedia Brown and Katie Kazoo to other juvenile fiction titles.