Today meet, and as she describes herself, an accidental author, Ilene Fine along with her best pals Brandy and Val. Both dogs have quite the story to share. (Val is a Hurricane Katrina survivor). So one day Ilene decided to pen a book about them. Here she is to tell us about Brandy and Val, the book and the many organizations she helps. www.brandyandval.com
(The above photo is courtesy of Ron Vesely)
Susan Palmquist (SP)-Tell us about yourself and what you do?
Ilene Fine (IF)- I’m an accidental author. I was encouraged to publish books by the mother of the child I wrote the stories for originally. Her whole family thought the books were great and there would be a market for them so I started exploring the possibility of having then mass-produced I have an entreprenurial background; I’m currently running Brandy and Val, LLC and a part-time potter.
SP-I’m sure we all want to hear about Brandy and Val. I know they both have an interesting history. What’s their story?
IF-Both were rescue dogs. In Spring 2004. I adopted Brandy at around 10-11 months old; we were her third home. First one was a kill shelter, second home a product of divorce. And third one a home caged with other dogs ten hours day.
In March, 2006: I adopted Val. I saw him at a vet when I went there to see another dog. It urned out the same shelter we adopted Brandy from had taken in Val from ASPCA in New Orleans along with 29 other dogs after Hurricane Katrina. He weighed in at 40 pounds, had heartworm, mange, other skin maladies, broken wrist that had mal-healed
SP-What gave you the idea to write a book about them?
IF-A friend’s child living in Denver had never met Brandy and Val. We were going out for a visit an, since I couldn’t bring them, I created a little book about them for him. This was the first story, Brandy and Val, Real Dogs with Real Tales (Oct 2007); a second book was made for him in early 2008 as a get well gift for him after surgery: Brandy and Val’s Favorite Things; Brandy and Val’s Special Story about their adoption was created as a fund-raiser book for the shelter we adopted them from. 100% of the profits from this title go to Fortunate Pooches and Lab Rescue near us in suburban Chicago.
IF-Another happy accident! While surfing the web for something, I came across a site that made “mascot” toys. I clicked on the site and decided it would be great to have mini-Brandy and mini-Val toys to go along with the books.
SP-You support several charities, maybe you can tell us who they are and why you chose them?
IF- Yes, Fortunate Pooches and Lab Rescue. The no-kill shelter we adopted Brandy and Val from. The staff works tirelessly to place all their pooches and because of the dramatic increase in “foreclosure dogs” they are overflowing with abandoned pups that need good homes. 100% of sales of Brandy and Val’s Special Story go to them
–A portion of ALL sales go to benefit these other causes:
1) Best Friends in Utah. They were one of the first animal sanctuaries to set up an organized animal relief effort after Hurricane Katrina and they helped to save thousands of animals and re-unite animals with their guardians. Their work was amazing and since Val is a Hurricane Katrina survivor I am grateful for their extreme efforts.
2) Pets Alive, NY. Another animal sanctuary that does great work
3) The Foundation for Prader-Willi Research. Zachary, the inspiration for the book, is afflicted with Prader-Willi, a rare genetic disorder for which there is no cure for yet.
4) Help Save a Stray: an organization that educates animal lovers about pet care and helps individuals find animal shelters throughout the country. They also support these shelters through sales of their products, as well.
SP-Brandy and Val are also pet therapy dogs. Maybe you could tell us about that and what they do?
IF- We predominantly work with special needs children (mostly afflicted with some form of autism spectrum disorder) at a special needs school. Our tasks are varied but our goal is to help the kids interact better with others, improving their and their families’ overall quality of life. The children bond with the dogs and will oftentimes perform tasks in their presence that they otherwise would not do. Depending on the situation, we work on motor-skills: for example, brushing (the dogs), feeding them with a fork and walking them. Brandy and Val also can play various “games” that help the students learn counting or colors or the use of pet commands.
Brandy and Val also work in library reading programs where children “read to the dog.” The theory behind this program is that children who are inhibited to read aloud will become less so in the presence of a dog they are comfortable being around. Brandy and Val don’t work very hard at this one. They basically like down for an hour and get their bellies rubbed!
We have also participated in programs that introduce children to dogs and how to approach a strange dog
SP-So what’s next for you, Brandy and Val, any more books in the works?
IF- I love the idea of some more books and I am in the process of creating some more. Each title will have a specific educational slant to them. Children really react positively to Brandy and Val and can relate to what the pups do especially if they have a dog at home. The real photos of the dogs really help create the connection since, Brandy and Val ARE real dogs with real tales!
Our mission is “to do good where good is needed” and it is through the sales of our books and toys as well as participating in pet therapy programs that we hope to enrich the lives of animals and children.