Christmas book inspired by a dog called Happy
A Yorkshire terrier with a heart of gold is the focus of a new Christmas book for children written by Bermudian Geoff Parker.
'Happy's Christmas Gift' is Mr Parker's first book.
The story is about Happy, a Yorkshire terrier that befriends a homeless girl and tries to help her post her letter to Santa.
Along the way Happy accidentally falls into a mailbag destined for the North Pole. Can Happy save the day? Will he get home by Christmas?
“This is a story about hope,” said Mr Parker. “It is an important message at anytime but Christmas time in particular. The book was really conceived around the little dog we had in the family, Happy. He was such an unusual character. I have had a lot of animals in my life, but he was so loyal, attentive and intelligent. He had a personality that let you know he was in charge.”
Happy belonged to Mr Parker's mother-in-law, Winnie Ferris. When her husband died someone recommended she get a little dog as company.
“He helped to fill a gap at a time when the family was very sad,” said Mr Parker. “He brought a lot of light and laughter to the family. In the last year or so she started to live with us in our apartment downstairs, so Happy was always around. He was part of the family. I had written a few stories before, just little things. I have never published anything significant.”
But Happy inspired him to write and publish a Christmas story. He went online and found a Welsh illustrator, Lisa Fox.
Her drawings are based on photos of Happy and also of members of the Parker family.
Unfortunately, only a few days after receiving the proofs for the book, Happy's health took an unexpected turn.
“He went into a coma,” said Mr Parker. “We rushed him to the vet. On June 9, Happy just died. He was eight years old. It was a very short life for a dog. Fifteen years is the average for a Yorkshire terrier. It was sad.”
After Happy's death, producing the book became even more important to the Parker family; it became a way to commemorate Happy's life.
“We will probably get another Yorkshire terrier,” said Mr Parker. “One of the big problems with getting a yorkie is you don't always know their history. You can take a beautiful, little puppy home and find that he has all sorts of genetic problems because of irresponsible breeding. We are trying to find one that looks like Happy and was small like Happy. We would like to not necessarily duplicate him, but we would like something similar. He was easy to carry and transport.”
The cause of Happy's death is unknown, but Mr Parker believed it could have been a collapsed trachea. Many Yorkshire terriers and other small dog breeds such as pomeranians and poodles have a genetic defect that leaves their trachea suspectible to collar crushing.
“The little dog is so excited he wants to go,” said Mr Parker. “They tend to pull against their collar to run, or the owner pulls on the collar to get them to move along. Over time it leads to crushing of the windpipe and reduces the amount of oxygen getting to the internal organs. They start honking like a goose. That is when it is serious. It can be operated on but most people aren't aware of it. The collar should be just to carry the tag. If you want to do anything else use a harness.”
Mr Parker said he would like to see the use of a harness included in a Animal Welfare Act one day, for the protection of the animal.
He said Yorkshire terriers are also vulnerable to joint dislocation, and overheating.
“They are a wonderful little dog, but they need more care than the average person understands,” he said. “Also they shouldn't be taken for a walk during the heat of the day in the summer. They are very low to the ground and close to the tarmac, which means that on a hot summer day the tarmac can cook them. If you want to take them for a walk on a hot summer day take them to the end of the porch and back. Or take them to the beach where they can cool off.”
The book is available in hardback and soft cover versions. The soft cover is written in English and in Spanish with more than 70 words highlighted to help teach young readers vocabulary.
'Happy's Christmas Gift' is available at bookstores and from Mr Parker directly: geoff[AT]happytalespublishing.com