June 23, 2018
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‘Toby’ explores adopting rescued pets, what it’s like for children to get a dog

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
"Toby" is a new book by Maine illustrator and author Hazel Mitchell.
By Sarah Walker Caron, BDN Senior Editor

What happens when a rescued dog is adopted by a new family? It can be hard — even as the family falls in love with the pup. The complexities of adoptions and transitions to a new environment are explored in the new children’s book by Hazel Mitchell.

And “Toby” is already popular with young readers.

The Maine-based author and illustrator’s book was released on Sept. 13, but it’s already headed to a second printing. Written for young children in pre-K and kindergarten, the book was inspired by Mitchell’s own adoption of a rescued poodle.

“We fostered from Houlton Humane Society. It was a rescue of — I think — nine poodles from Aroostook County, and then we adopted him after a few weeks,” Mitchell said.

Three years later, that dog, the book’s namesake, is still living with them and has inspired both a following on social media and Mitchell’s newest book.

“Unfortunately, he’s too scared to go on visits with me,” Mitchell said.

Toby, the real dog, was rescued with his dog family who’d been kept in a basement mostly, and he hadn’t really been outside much.

“It was a miserable life for him,” Mitchell said.

When they first got him, he was so fearful — of going outside, of people, of little things that most pet owners take for granted.

“It took about six months before he started to get normal, but he’s still very timid, especially of new people,” Mitchell said.

“Toby,” the book, is about a young boy and his father who’ve just moved to a new house and decide to adopt a dog whom they call Toby. But Toby has some trouble adjusting to his new life. He howls, hides, forgets not to go to the bathroom inside and more. Will things work out for the pup and his new humans?

Mitchell said that she was drawn to write this book because it’s a relatable subject for children.

“Although Toby is a real dog in the book, I think he’s kind of every child. And I wanted to give him a child, too, so he could build a relationship,” Mitchell said.

As a child, she moved around a lot with her mom and said this is a story she could have related to when she was nervous and scared in a new place.

The Toby in the book is based on drawings Mitchell did of her real life Toby. She said that she started drawing the pup almost as soon as he came to live with her and her husband. It was only later that she decided to write this book — her first as both illustrator and author.

“He has so many facial expressions,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell will be at Rockport Library in Rockport on Oct. 14. “Toby” is available where children’s books are sold.


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