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Put your dog in a bag: book pokes fun at travel rule

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Fiona Elkinson reads her book A Dog in a Bag, to students at Once Upon A Time nursery (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Oliver is a chihuahua whose family cannot work out what type of bag is needed for him to fly with them on a plane.

Fiona Elkinson lays out the hunt in A Dog in a Bag, the children’s book she published last month.

The scenario is a familiar one for travellers with pets. The author based the story on her own experience with airlines.

“My son has a little dog and we have travelled with it on planes and he's small enough to be in the cabin. I was travelling with him a few weeks ago and they sent instructions: the dog must be in a bag.

“We all just laughed and thought that was just so bizarre that that's all the instructions they would give, with no more details.”

Ms Elkinson had written books before but never published them. It struck her that a book about a dog searching for the right type of bag to travel in might be amusing.

“We just thought it was just silly and cute and funny – the dog trying all sorts of bags with no instruction on what is a proper bag. So he's just getting into lots of bags, asking ‘Is that what they mean? Is that what they mean? Is that what they mean?’ It’s just really cute.”

In real life, the Elkinsons bought “a legitimate roller bag” for their chihuahua. “Olie” tries out “all sorts of silly bags – tea bags, handbags …” hoping they meet airline approval in A Dog in a Bag, which Ms Elkinson wrote and illustrated for children between the ages of three and five.

Fiona Elkinson reads her book A Dog in a Bag, to Once Upon A Time nursery students Mari Hayward, Amelia Smith, Ruby DaPonte and Liam Philips (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

“I've been writing books for a long time but I hadn't published any. I was searching to work out how to self-publish; finally I found a method and decided I was going to try it out.”

When she registered the title on Amazon she was advised that books that were part of a series generally sold better. Coming up with a storyline was easy for her so she “ticked the box” without giving much thought to what she was signing up for.

“So I then decided I'll do book two, The Dog in the Bag Goes to Bermuda, which I’ll get out next month I guess, or the month after.”

Although writing the book “was not a big difficulty” and she was an experienced artist, Ms Elkinson struggled to release it, held back by her limited understanding of graphic art and formatting.

“I'm not a graphic artist so it was a learning process. I had to do courses online to learn to do things and that was, for me, complicated. I'm not very high-tech.

“I guess I have an eye but the technique isn't there; [how to use] the computer. I wrote that book and was trying to work out the process of getting it online and published. I kept submitting it and it kept getting rejected for formatting reasons. I just couldn't work out what to do.”

In the meantime, Ms Elkinson, a member of the Jewish Community of Bermuda, put her energy into another book: Nosh, Nosh. What do we Nosh?: Jewish Holidays and the Food We Eat on Them.

“That one picked up and got a lot of attention. So I was concentrating on that one and it actually got on the hot new bestsellers’ list in Amazon and it went to No 2 in children's holiday celebration books.

“But there’s not really much interest here with a Jewish book. Nosh, Nosh is about Jewish food and the food that Jewish people eat on different holidays, and it’s also for three to five year olds. And it's just taken off and I'm just shaking my head because it’s really so unexpected.”

Luckily, the release of A Dog in a Bag coincided with new pet regulations for riding the New York City Subway.

“I was in New York and I was telling people that I wrote this book, A Dog in A Bag, and everyone was sort of laughing at the concept because it's a bit of a parody of the rules that they have. In New York, recently in the subways, they have demanded that if you want to bring your dog on the subway, the dog must be in a bag.

“So New Yorkers, as you can guess, played into this because the instructions were lean. And they started to get Bloomingdale bags, Ikea bags, Macy's bags and cut four holes out and the legs would drop out the bottom but they'd be carrying the dog in the bag. It’s become the biggest New York trends joke; it's a big hashtag thing and apparently this book is on the same theme and quite timely.”

A Dog in a Bag is available in local bookstores and on Amazon. Nosh, Nosh. What do we Nosh?: Jewish Holidays and the Food We Eat on Them is available on Amazonand Barnes and Noble

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Published March 16, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated March 17, 2023 at 8:30 am)

Put your dog in a bag: book pokes fun at travel rule

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