Shelter Dogs At Center Of Heartwarming Children’s Story
By Judy Shields
Photos provided by Tracey Altman
Hollywood, California (The Hollywood Times) 8/8/2019 – “If you told me three years ago, my life would completely change by rescuing a dog, I would tell you, you were crazy”! Author of Special Paws, Tracey Altman told The Hollywood Times during a telephone interview this past week.
Tracey went on to say: “But the truth is, she rescued me, my heart and my soul. I am all in now. Have two fur-babies, one book written, another on the way, volunteer at SPCA, and my life could not be fuller of activity AND love.”
“This book was my love letter to Boston and Harper and a way to pay it forward to help other animals at shelters. Hopefully we are entertaining and educating children on rescue animals and keeping them top of mind for adults. Being able to make a small difference in animal’s lives makes my heart happy.”
When a sleepy-eyed Boston awakes and finds herself in new surroundings, she is full of questions! Beside her is an engaging, friendly beagle named Hunter, who quickly becomes Boston’s friend and explains that they are in an animal shelter. As their friendship deepens and their dreams of finding their forever-homes take shape, Hunter helps Boston create a very special list of everything she is looking for in a family. Readers young and old will enjoy the playful dialogue — and maybe catch a glimpse of their own feelings toward family — as both dogs reveal what’s most important to them in a forever home.
“Special Paws: The Family List,” is the heartwarming new tale from Tracey Kusinitz Altman. The 38-page children’s book is beautifully illustrated in vibrant colors by Joseba Morales. Inspired by Altman’s own experiences with adopting dogs from a local shelter, Special Paws is both entertaining and educational, and is sure to be enjoyed by children and dog lovers young and old. Proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit the Special Paws nonprofit organization, which supports the efforts of area animal shelters.
The Hollywood Times had the great pleasure speaking with Tracey about her colorful new children’s book, “Special Paws: The Family List”
The Hollywood Times (THT): Do you and the doggies live in Dallas, Texas?
Tracey Altman (Tracey): “Yes we do, I had to put them outside so that you don’t hear them. LOL”
THT: What, we want to hear Boston and Harper barking!
Tracy: “They were just playing a minute ago and I said, ‘everyone out for a little while.’”
THT: When you travel do you take your dogs with you?
Tracy: “I don’t unfortunately. I have a sitter that comes to the house and she loves them as much as I do. I am really lucky.”
THT: How did you find a sitter like that?
Tracey: “It was a total accident how it happened. I was taking a class and became good friends with a gentleman and he introduced me to his wife and she was the gal that would dog sit for me. A neighbor down the way had their mother move in with them and so when my first sitter isn’t available this woman sits for me. She is wonderful and loves getting out of the house and being on her own here and I am very lucky and I don’t have to worry about where the doggies are and who is taking care of them. I really miss them when I am gone. I just recently told my son that I kind of miss them more then him. LOL”
THT: How old is your son?
Tracey: “19. He was 16 when we got Boston three years ago. He was the one that said he would like a dog. I was like, I’m 50 and never had a dog growing up. We don’t know anything about dogs, so that is how the whole adventure started. He wanted a dog.”
THT: I was amazed when I read you never had a dog in 50 years. I wanted to hear your story.
Tracey: “I called my Mom after having this great experience, and asked why didn’t we have a dog growing up. She was a single Mom of three, when being single wasn’t in, is what she said and we were her dogs! She told me she couldn’t handle a pet rock with us three girls, we just didn’t have the time and energy. I feel like I am behind because this is such a great experience. I wish I had had dogs much longer. I have to make up for lost time.”
THT: What type of dog is Boston?
Tracey: “What we think she is, is a Terrier-Pit mix. I haven’t done the test yet and Harper, who is her sister, we just got Harper a little while ago, they look a lot alike. It is crazy how they look alike even though they are one year and three years. It’s probably time to do the test, just for curiosity sake to see what they are.”
THT: Do you have Hunter too?
Tracey: No I don’t. Hunter is my best friend’s dog. The first book was on them and the second upcoming book will be Boston, who will always be the main character and Harper will be in the second about fostering. We met Harper through a family that was fostering her. It will be kind of a good next step, okay the first book was about rescue and now we will talk about fostering and what happens in that environment.”
THT: When does the second book come out?
Tracey: “Later this year for Holiday. We will have two in the series for holiday and the goal is to do two a year. The kids like it and there is no reason not to. It’s a great opportunity to give back and I am just having a blast talking about it.”
THT: What made you decide to write a book?
Tracey: “When I went to get Boston I reached out to a friend and said my son want’s a dog, would you come over and talk to us because I don’t want to just jump into this and have it be a bad experience. She came over and said we have to make a list. You really have to think through what kind of dog, what kind of lifestyle do you want, an active dog that your son can run with or do you want a dog that is fine in the backyard, do you want a baby, where you have to reach them everything or do you want a dog that is older and more calm. So she went through this list with us and when we went to the rescue, we gave them the list and they were, great!. Dogs in cage 1, 2 and 3 are great for you, stay away from cages 5, 6 and 7. It was great advice”!
“I give that advice all the time. I volunteer at the local SPCA, and when I meet people and they get all excited about a particular dog and say that dog is so cute, I am the first person to say ‘hey you need to make a list’! When we decided to get a second dog, I went back and said what was on the list that we did for Boston, what do we need to do for the next dog and when we met Harper, I wonder what her list was. I said joking to someone that it would be a real cute idea to have a kids book and they said Do It!. I don’t know how to write a book. They said it is easy and they would hook me up with someone that knows what they are doing. I just had this casual conversation with this lady and really liked the thought process behind it and she told me to write something and send it to her. Before we knew it, we had an illustrator and I thought Oh My Gosh I am writing a book.”
THT: Talk a little about the illustrator Joseba Morales
Tracey: “He actually lives in Madrid, the publisher I use has used him before and it’s funny because we talked to two other illustrators before, but they didn’t have dogs or the passion for dogs, so I really wanted to have someone that could understand this crazy dog passion, which I didn’t understand it. Now that I understand it and when I spoke to him, he had rescue dogs and I said I’m in. I just want love. The story was written with this crazy love and I wanted the illustration to show it. The first time he showed me the dogs with their tales, like pretend wagging, I said I am in and I love this guy. It made me laugh.”
THT: Will this book be in pet stores, is it?
Tracey: “I know, but I don’t know how to do that. I agree and the SPCA does work with some pet stores and the goal would be to get it there. There are really two goals for the book. My heart, in the way of first writing it, was to sell it to non-profit that focus on animal rescue and then at cost, what it cost me to print and then they could sell it as a fundraiser. For the book launch we had it at my house and we sold them for $10 each and the organization that we got Harper from came to the party. We surprised them with a check. So whatever everyone put in which was like $500 and it was so wonderful. The rescue just got some cats in and the money helped them for that. The vets bills and some of the money went to the fostering. It is also on sale at Amazon.”
“I am having fun doing it. It’s not about the money, but it’s so lovely to be able to give a check and help them do something, especially the private folks. I love to be able to give local rescue the check.”
THT: How is being around the shelter dogs?
Tracey: “I love being around them, but it is hard to see the families that bring back adopted dogs because it didn’t work out of if a family is looking for a specific breed. Out here in Texas, there are so many shelters that are breed specific, there is one for Pugs, there is one for Chihuahuas, so if you want a specific breed, there are plenty. We are about 30% over capacity right now at most of the shelters here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and it breaks my heart. They are nice because they feed them and take care of them, but it is so loud with many noises for the other dogs. There is not enough information out there about rescuing a dog from a shelter. I get so excited when a dog gets adopted.”
“I can’t believe it took me until I was 50 to understand about dogs and I will have them the rest of my life. Funny enough, the girls that I was visiting in North Carolina and Boston friends go away every year and I was talking to them about retirement and we were all thinking about each of us getting places in different states so that we could go visit each other there. We would talk about a townhome or a highrise condo and not have a yard to care for and I said gals, I am always going to need a lawn because I am always going to have a dog and they need a yard. If something happens to one of them I will be getting another one and they thought I was crazy, I say YEAH”!
“I need a house not a highrise apartment and it has now changed my retirement plans.”
Tracey told a me a story about Boston getting into some bug stuff and how she called her friend and her friend told her to give her raw eggs to make her throw up and that didn’t work and her friend told her to take her to the vet and Tracey was a mess. Boston was fine…Boston came out so happy to see her and they went home to play…
Tracy also said she had to change her online dating profile to say she has a dog and wants a man that has a dog and most importantly loves dogs. Good one Tracy..
THT: This book will make a great gift for the Holidays
Tracey: “I think it is good for kids to start young talking about what rescue is and my grandfather was always about giving back. He was the one that taught us to give back and he played Santa for a long time for kids, in different homes and organizations. I think about how we want to help our kids at a young age that they have to learn to give back. I thought what a great way to start to know what is a rescue, why would you get a rescue dog and you never know, most times kids influence their parents real quickly on things. What a gift it would be if they tell their parents lets go to a resuce and get a dog verus going to a breeder”!
Tracey sent me a copy of her book “Special Paw: The Family List” and inside was a note that said Happy Reading!! Boston & Hunter with a paw print stamp under each dogs name. Wonderful touch Tracey.
I have to say the cover of the book really catches your eye! The illustrator did an excellent job with the color scheme and the two dogs were drawn to perfection. Their wonderful faces and eyes to their dog bone shaped dog ID tag hanging from their collar. What a great give for the special child in your life who has a dog or may be thinking of getting one. Do yourself a favor and get several copies to give out for the upcoming Holiday and get one for your child or grandchild’s teacher for reading out loud in class.
As a dog owner of rescued boxers, let me tell you first hand how wonderful and loving these dogs are that have been rescued. Terrible to say, but the ones that were abused need the tender loving care a human can give. Dogs provide unconditional love and this book is really a great gift for the younger kids to be able to understand why rescue a dog from a shelter.
There is a color photo of Boston and Harper on the back of the book. Help support local rescue centers by purchasing a book today on Amazon: Special Paws: The Family List https://www.amazon.com/Special-Paws-Tracey-Kusinitz-Altman/dp/1948903113/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2KHAL44XG4AF2&keywords=special+paws+the+family+list&qid=1565288452&s=books&sprefix=Special+Paws%3A+The+Family+List%2Caps%2C224&sr=1-1
Tracey said to reach out to her on her Facebook page Special Paws and she would be happy to help with fundraising and ship out books for that. “The more moeny you have the more good they can do for some dogs,” said Tracey. You can also reach Tracey at firstname.lastname@example.org as well. Please do.
Here is a short video of Tracey and Boston
About Tracey Altman
Author Tracey Kusinitz Altman was 50 years old when she got her very first dog. Before going to the shelter to look for a pet, a friend had helped Altman put together a list of qualities that she wanted in a dog. Boston, a beautiful terrier and pit bull mix, fit everything on the list and more. The spots on Boston’s back formed the shape of a heart, and for Altman it was love at first sight. She drew from her own experience with the local animal shelter to write Special Paws, the first in a planned series of children’s books that feature shelter animals. She also founded Special Paws, a nonprofit that raises money to support animal shelters. Altman lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with her two rescue dogs, Boston and Harper. You can connect with Altman on Facebook at Special Paws.
Special Paws: The Family List
Publisher: Inspired Forever Publishing
Released: May 2019
Available from Amazon.com
Examples of 5-star Amazon reviews:
“What a wonderful story to help educate kids on the importance of adopting from an animal shelter! Such a cute way to get them engaged and reading — and a happy ending too!!”
“Such a cute story that highlights animal shelters. So good to start telling this story to younger kids. The graphics and color (red ball, blue bone, etc.) made it a very interactive read with my grandson. I am a big believer in adopting not shopping. Thank you for giving profits back to shelters. Every little bit helps!”
“My boys loved this book! Such a heartwarming story of two lil pups simply looking for their forever home. I loved the fact that I could teach my boys about pet adoption through this book! Amazing illustrations as well.”
“This is an awesome book for dog lovers and supporters of the amazing work shelters are doing! The story is adorable, what a great lesson for kids!”
“I give it Ten Wags” – The New York Tails
“This Book is Paw-Some and Such a Treat to Read” – The Bark Street Journal
“There’s No Bark About it, This Will be a Classic” – Dallas Puppy News
“Boston was the Perfect Student and Hunter was the Perfect Teach” – Cannie Today