My new book, for younger children ages 3 – 9 years old, is a story about Oscar, the littlest puppy from a litter of famous search and rescue dogs. His dogged determination helps him overcome his short-comings.
In 2000, I adopted a sweet little chihuahua/dachshund mix from a local rescue organization in the Bay Area. He had big chihuahua eyes, and a long ‘wiener’ body. After a few days of getting to know him, I named him Oscar.
I began to imagine him as a rescue dog, like a St. Bernard. “Rescue” was a relatively new term to describe adopting dogs from shelters versus the more traditional way of getting a dog through a pet store. Very soon, the story just came to life in my head: a little dog that really wanted to be a search and rescue dog but was just too small for the job. Especially compared to a massive St. Bernard!
I had had so much joy and gratification writing and illustrating The Creek (2019), I knew it was time to write Oscar’s story. Around the same time, my family and I adopted our dog Ella from Family Dog Rescue in SF. Now I had a new muse for the illustrations!
Despite being about three years old, Ella has the cutest little puppy face that reminded me of Oscar as a puppy. Otherwise, the two dogs are very different. Ella is a super-mutt mix with a curly tail, long legs and can sprint like the wind. She has small eyes, fold-over ears, jet-black fur with a bright white patch on her chest and dots of white on all four paws.
I spent the next three months writing, rewriting, and editing the manuscript for the book. Once the story felt complete, I began to create the illustrations. I reviewed my old sketch book with hundreds of drawings of Oscar, and used Ella for additional “live” inspiration. I had to consider, does he stand like humans or sit like a dog? Through research and LOTS more sketching I finally figured it out.
Oscar is a composite of two rescue dogs, about 20 years apart, and now will forever be tied together.
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