Saturday, May 11, 2013

Crazy Jake

People with giant hearts do crazy things.
Take my friend, Ashley.  She's one of the most kind-hearted people I know. A huge animal lover. The type of person who spends her spare time walking dogs at the local shelter.
One day in January Ashley (I call her Ash) was on Facebook and saw a picture of a 6 yr old mastiff/boxer/bull dog mix named Eeyore who was living in a high kill animal shelter. The dog was going to be euthanized the next day. He had hours to live.
Ash contacted the rescue organization and saved him.
Now here's the thing.
The dog was in Miami. 
Ash lives in New Jersey.
A little crazy, right?
It turned out that Eeyore had a lot of health problems. They were the type of things that were typical of a dog who had been on his own for a long time. Heart worm. An ear infection that was so bad that he needed an operation.  Scratches on his face. If they were treated, they were not life-threatening. But treating them was expensive.
Ash is a full-time college student who works part time at the library. She lost her home in Superstorm Sandy so she is not exactly in the financial position to pay for all of this. 
And now she was responsible for a dog in Miami who has thousands of dollars in vet bills.
It all seemed unsurmountable.
Ashley turned to internet. A whole bunch of people with giant hearts donated money for Eeyore, a dog they'd never met.
Down in Florida, he was fostered and cared for and nursed back to health by more kindhearted people. It took months.
To be honest, I wasn't paying all that much attention to Eeyore and his story. Oh sure, I asked about him and I donated some money to his cause, but  I was too preoccupied with things that were happening in my own life.
I didn't even know that Eeyore was ready for his trip to New Jersey and that Ash was frantically trying to find him a place to stay until another animal-loving co-worker mentioned it to me at the library.
It wasn't like we weren't looking for a dog. Our beloved German Shepard mix, Chi, had passed away in December. During the months that Eeyore was in Florida convalescing, I'd go with Ashley to the local animal shelter. I knew exactly what I wanted: a golden-haired large breed Chi. There were some great dogs at the shelter but the ones that I liked either were about to be adopted by someone else or they were way too high energy for us.
Since we didn't have a dog, and Eeyore didn't have a home, it seemed like a natural fit. After a short conversation, my husband and I decided to foster Eeyore.
We met him on Easter morning.
By Easter evening, it felt like he had been here forever.
We renamed him Jake.
And he was no longer a foster dog.
There is nothing dainty about Jake. He is a bulldozer of a dog, who will jump on your lap if you let him.
His favorite game is when one person stands on one end of the yard and the other stands at the other end. Jake runs back and forth to get pet.
Mostly, he likes to chill with his people. Every so often he runs around like a crazy dog, excited, happy and ready to play. He tends to be a goof ball.
But that is not why I call him Crazy Jake.
You'd think that a dog who had been abandoned and mistreated, a dog who ended up on death row at an animal shelter would be wary of humans. You'd think he'd keep his heart to himself.
But Jake is all about love.  He rolls over on his back. He gives kisses. He presses against people, waiting to be pet.
He charms everyone he meets. He has a whole group of people who helped with his rescue and every time Ashley posts pictures on Facebook, they cheer him on.
I've never seen anyone (dog or human) so determined to make a relationship work.  From the moment he got here he seemed to love and accept us, and the only thing he wants is to be loved back.
When you think about it, that's a little crazy.
A dog who has been abandoned and mistreated being so trusting and so willing to love again.
But obviously Jake is a dog with a giant heart.
And dogs with giant hearts do crazy things...

Jake in his new home.
Friday morning deep thoughts. 

Being chill

Sunday, May 5, 2013

April was Amazing!

There are days that you will always remember and for me, April 16th was on the top of the list.

That was the day of the Hiding Out At The Pancake Palace book launch held at the Toms River Branch of the Ocean County Library. (by the way, Hiding out at the Pancake Palace takes place in an imaginary town in Ocean County and I happen to be a librarian there).

First over one hundred 4th, 5th and 6th graders whose schools were destroyed from Superstorm Sandy came to the library to celebrate the launch! We talked about writing, reading, and dreams.
There are tons of pictures at the Ocean County Library's flickr page

Each child received a book (donated by my publisher Roaring Brook Press, the Ocean County Library and me). They played games. There was a pancake toss (with beanbags that looked like pancakes). And check out that "hiding out" poster where on the flickr page where each child got to pose for a picture  taken by the paparazzi. 

My editor drove all the way from New York to come to party. My colleagues who work in other OC library branches came too.  At lunchtime, there was cake made by Jennicakes and incredible food, including pancakes (made by the Branch Manager). I spent the day surrounded by people from the Ocean County Library and they are some of the most creative, enthusiastic and talented people I've ever met.

It was a day filled with surprises: 
* One of the fourth grade classes who attended the morning party came dressed as characters from Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle...  They carried posters and spoke in character too. It was amazing.
* There were presents from friends: flowers, balloons, candy  and Brussels Sprouts (this is a great gift but it doesn't make sense until you've read the book)
* I received an Ocean County Library Commission Resolution read by Commissioner James Mullins before my evening talk. It's a official document filled where every paragraph starts with the word WHEREAS. It starts like this "WHEREAS the OC Library Commission has been informed of the publication of Nan Marino's book ... " and then it moves to "WHEREAS the book ....mentions Ocean County landmarks such as Albert Hall and the Pinelands.."  When it got to "WHEREAS Nan Marino is a dreamer and when she conducts school visits she reminds kids to dream to..."  I started to cry.

I guess it's true that I am a dreamer, and I dreamed about getting published for a long time. Before you get that call, there are certain things that you think about: Holding your first (and your second) book in your hand. Seeing it on the shelf of a library. Having a child tell you that what you wrote mattered.
But in my wildest craziest dreams I could never have imagined a more perfect book launch or a more perfect day. Thanks to my friends and colleagues at the Ocean County Library, the day was magical.