»  Dallas author hopes book will promote responsible pet ownership (Posted: August 17, 2006 )

Author Judy Masrud of Dallas (pictured with German Shepherds Bridger, top, and Misty) says it is a love for animals—especially dogs—that caused her to write 'Second Chance—A Tale of Two Puppies.'

The scenario is familiar to parents the world over: little Billy or Susie announces to his/her parents one day, 'I want to have a dog.' Mom and Dad protest and try to sway the child with either horror stories and/or promises for other treats. Ultimately unsuccessful, Mom and Dad finally give in to their little one's demands and purchase the first dog they see at the local shelter. Everyone's happy, right? Sometimes, yes; but usually, such a scenario turns out bad for everyone involved: the child, the parents, and especially the dog.

It is with this scenario in mind that author Judy Masrud of Dallas sat down to write her first book, 'Second Chance-A Tale of Two Puppies.' A wife and mother of five children, and loving caregiver for two German Shepherds, Masrud says she has seen the tragedy of unprepared pet ownership too many times to continue to let it go unaddressed.

A pioneer in the home schooling movement in Wisconsin, Masrud is the author of 'Ringbound Reading,' a hands-on phonics curriculum for home schoolers and others working in a one-on-one reading environment. In her first foray into the world of traditional children's books, Masrud calls upon her experience as a homeschooler and a pet owner to craft a book that will likely be enjoyed by young and old alike.

'Second Chance-A Tale of Two Puppies' is the story of two boys-Andrew and Matt-from different families who are eager to have their own puppies.
Both adopt littermates from the local animal shelter. Parallel scenarios follow the boys and their puppies over the course of a year, and examining the question of whether the boys can handle all of the responsibilities that come with owning a dog. Demonstrating the day-to-day realities of pet ownership-through both the story and also easy-to-read tips located throughout the book-'Second Chance' shows kids and parents how to avoid mistakes common to first-time pet owners and how they can develop a great relationship with their animal. In addition to the story and pet tips, Masrud also includes a supplies list, a suggested reading list, and a note to parents to help them make sure their family is making the right decision.

'So many times, families get a puppy without realizing what they're getting into, and it often begins right away with selecting the wrong puppy,' says Masrud. 'Unless you know some of the basics of animal care, and what to expect, you're in for a rude awakening.'

Statistics sparked story

Every year, between six and eight million dogs and cats are surrendered to shelters-and approximately half of all dogs entering shelters are eventually euthanized because the facilities cannot hope to be able to pay for all of the care. It is these statistics that caused Masrud to step forward and pen an effort to encourage responsible pet ownership and stop the cycle of abandoned pets.

'The truth is, at one point, all of those dogs were cute little puppies,' says Masrud. 'No one gets a pet with the thought of surrendering them, but that is often what happens when the reality of pet ownership-peeing on the floor, climbing on the cupboard, tearing apart the furniture-eventually sets in.'

Admitting that the plight of homeless dogs has always bothered her, Masrud decided it was time to write a training book-not a dog-training book, but a people-training book. While the book was written with children primarily in mind, Masrud says there is plenty of information for adults as well.

'Anyone considering purchasing or adopting a puppy will gain invaluable information that will help them understand how their actions can directly impact their puppy's future,' says Masrud. 'Pets teach us so much-about love, loyalty, forgiveness, patience and commitment-and they deserve our best care.'

Book comes from personal experience

Masrud admits much of the material in the book comes from her own experiences with Bridger, a German Shepherd puppy she adopted when he was three months old.

'When I first saw the fluffy, aggressive 3-month-old pup, it was love at first sight-or maybe first bite,' says Masrud, laughing. 'I chose him for all the wrong reasons, and it didn't take long before I realized he was going to be quite a handful.'

But the real wake-up call didn't come until Masrud took Bridger-who had been asserting himself as the Alpha dog in the household-to a pair of dog trainers to try and salvage the relationship.

'I learned that most of what I was doing to try and train Bridger was pretty much the opposite of what I should have been doing,' Masrud admits. 'Only over time, and with a lot of help, were we able to repair our relationship.'

It was through her experience that Masrud realized humanity as a whole could use some basic information on pet behavior and responsible pet ownership before investing in such a life-long friendship.

'That's why I want to get this information out there, especially to the children,' Masrud explains. 'Children are so passionate about everything they do; if we can get them passionate about responsible pet ownership, then I think we can get the older generations to follow suit.'

Masrud says that instead of addressing the problem of how to fund shelters-and the inevitable controversy over 'no-kill' or 'euthanasia-free' facilities-the issue would be better confronted before the pet is ever surrendered in the first place. By combining simple storytelling with kid-friendly illustrations by Shell Lake-area artist Cathy Pool, Masrud is hoping to reach those who are in their own 'puppy' stage in life.

'By fostering responsible pet ownership from a young age, I hope that we can take that number of six to eight million pets surrendered and significantly decrease it,' says Masrud. 'If you wait to address the problem until the animals are in the shelter, well, for many of them it's too late already.'
Publishing process no walk in the park

Having a good idea for a story is one thing, but the process of sitting down and writing the story-not to mention getting the work published-is easier said than done. Masrud says she began working on 'Second Chances' in 2003, but put the book down to focus on some other projects. Shortly after re-establishing work on the book, she was able to distribute review copies of the manuscript to a number of contacts in the pet welfare industry. Receiving encouraging response, Masrud then began looking for an illustrator, which brought her to Pool.

With the book nearing completion, Masrud spent more and more time researching the publishing aspect of the business. As a newcomer, she knew getting her work published was not going to be an easy task. Red ink and rejection letters have littered the once-promising career of many a writer, but Masrud was determined not to be one of them. She joined the Publisher's Marketing Association, and when the book came off the presses, a copy was sent to the PMA. To Masrud's delight, hers was one of only 34 books out of a possible 150 to be accepted by the PMA's board. With that feather in her cap, Masrud was able to secure publishing and distribution with an international distributor.

'Self-publishing is often confused with 'vanity press,'' Masrud says. 'I think a lot of people believe that if you're self-publishing, you're making 500 copies for your family and friends. There's nothing wrong with vanity press, but I want people to know that this is a book that will hopefully someday see widespread distribution.'

With distribution lined up in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Japan and Brazil, Masrud is well on the way of reaching her goal.

'It might be cliché, but if we can just spare the life of one animal by informing families about the responsibilities of pet care, then it's mission accomplished,' says Masrud.

The book 'Second Chance-A Tale of Two Puppies' will be released Friday, Sept. 1. While Masrud is not sure of the local availability of the book in book stores, copies of the 96-page work can be purchased at www.birdseedbooks.com or www.gettingapuppy.com. For more information, visit the above Web sites, or e-mail Masrud at Judy@BirdseedBooks.com.

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