Why I Made a Greyhound the Star of My New Book
Editor's Note: A few weeks ago, Nina Huang reached out to me, asking if Dogster might share her Kickstarter project: a hand-illustrated art book that featured her own rescued Greyhound, Apollo. The plight of the Greyhound is one that is very close to my heart (I once wrote about attending a Greyhound haul, and how it brought me to tears), so I invited Nina to come and share the story behind her children's book in her own words. We hope you'll join us in supporting her project -- there are few books out there that impress on children the story of the Greyhound. --Janine Kahn, Dogster EIC
When I wrote and illustrated the book, My Apollo, I had no idea that it would find such resonance with dog-lovers everywhere. My Apollo is a hand-illustrated picture book tale about how a small boy named Briar and a rescue dog named Apollo came together to help each other heal and regain footing in life again. Illustrations from the book are featured in this post. The Kickstarter campaign to publish this book is nearly 70 percent funded, with almost two weeks remaining.
The message of the book is simple –- the loving bond between a dog and his or her human is healing, for both the human and the dog. The story was birthed from a place of gratitude and appreciation for all the joy, happiness, and pure positive energy our canines bring into our lives. As many dog-parents who have rescued dogs can relate, sometimes it isn’t clear at all who rescued whom.
My Apollo is loosely based on the rehabilitation of my own rescue greyhound dog, Apollo. Apollo came from a racing track in Florida. When we first brought him home, he didn’t understand stairs, toys, treats, or cars. He was scared of physical contact, loud sounds, and sudden movements. He was a 2-year-old adult greyhound, but he was completely clueless about life outside of the racing track.
Like Apollo, I was also in a tough place. I adopted Apollo during one of the most difficult times of my life. I was a Ph.D student at Harvard University, about three years away from getting my doctorate in sociology. But I was miserable and depressed. Since I picked up a painting brush at the age of 14, I knew that my true passion was painting and storytelling, but I couldn’t work up the courage to leave the familiar path I was already on. The prospect of being a career artist was terrifying to me.
Along came Apollo, a timid rescue dog who had to learn the ropes of a completely new lifestyle. My husband and I would bring home toys for Apollo, and he would just stare at them blankly. At the dog park, Apollo didn’t understand the game of fetch. Whenever he got scared (which was often), he would start shaking uncontrollably. It took about nine months for Apollo to get comfortable in his new role as a family pet.
I remember the day Apollo stopped shaking while riding in the back of the car. We were on our way back from a hike, and I looked back to check on him. To my surprise, Apollo had poked his long face out of the car window for the very first time. He was looking around curiously, sniffing lightly and enjoying the wind in his face. I started laughing and crying at the same time. It was a huge moment for us.
With patience, training, and a lot of encouragement, Apollo became more confident, care-free, and playful. Witnessing Apollo’s transformation and willingness to embrace life’s new vistas changed me forever. If Apollo could leave his fears and traumas behind, what was keeping me from really going for my dream? Are my fears about being a career artist and writer really more logical than Apollo’s fears of cars and stairs?
One year after bringing Apollo home, I officially withdrew from the Ph.D program and launched an art business creating vibrant and impressionistic custom dog portraits for others who shared the same love for their canines. I also immediately started writing and illustrating My Apollo As soon as I decided to honor my heart’s truest desires, the plot of My Apollo came to me almost in completion.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed with fear of the unknown, I would look at Apollo napping blissfully on the couch, and receive a sense of calm and faith. Yes, I do believe Apollo came into my life to nudge me toward my true calling. I gave him a loving home, but he gave me so much more.
I hope that My Apollo will raise awareness of greyhound racing in the United States and around the world, and the need to find loving forever homes for retired racers. More generally, I hope that children will learn the value of rescuing dogs as a loving alternative to purchasing them. If funded, I will be donating $1 for every book sold to greyhound rescue, as well as 200 copies of the book to animal shelters, children’s hospitals, and libraries across the U.S.
The Kickstarter campaign to bring My Apollo to reality is now active until Nov. 26. We have some really beautiful rewards planned for our backers, including a signed copy of the hardbound book, note cards, art prints, and custom pet portraits. I hope you will join us in the campaign to bring this book to press!