Life is…Ruff by Chris Howard, is a children’s book about a rescue dog’s bond with her owner. The road to publishing the book turned into a love story for Howard, owner of Animal Haus, a pet store in Chelmsford and Catherine Salvaggio, co-owner of Half Pints Learning Center in Tewksbury.
The story is based on Howard’s dog Cody who was ill, and as a puppy was found on the side of the road by an animal shelter in Brookline. Howard, who was then in his early twenties and working at the shelter, helped nurse Cody back to health, before adopting her, he explained.
Written from the point of view of Cody who is part German shepherd, she reflects back 15 years on her life on the streets and her dream that she would be found. It is a rhyming book, and children pre-school to 3rd grade are the key ages, said Salvaggio.
The message of the story is to teach children about adopting dogs from shelters, and the love and bond that grows out of owning a dog, Howard explained.
He said he always wanted to write a book about Cody. Passionate about dogs, since he was a young boy, Howard trained and walked dogs through his company, All American Dog, United We Sit, before buying the pet store, six years ago.
In addition to carrying premium diet foods and pet accessories, he continues to do training, educating and promotion of adoption from shelters. He said he also donates food to the Lowell Humane Society.
But he pointed out it was Salvaggio, who lives in Tewksbury with her children, who was instrumental in making the book a reality.
About two years ago she brought her puppy to Howard to be trained. Realizing that she was an owner of a pre-school, he decided to show her the draft of his book, he said.
“Cathy and I became a team to get the book published,” he explained. But, soon after they began work on the book, Howard and Salvaggio also became a couple.
He believes Cody led him to Cathy. "It was fate," he explained.
Salvaggio said the biggest obstacle was finding a publisher for the book. Once they decided on Create Space, an Amazon site for self-publishing, everything else fell into place.
While Salvaggio helped tweak the contents of the book, she also came up with an idea for an illustrator, said Howard.
They approached the Art Department of Chelmsford High School and set up a contest to find their artist. Stephanie Arnal won and soon began working on the project.
“I am a big advocate for local artists,” said Howard.
“Stephanie brought the book to life with her remarkable illustrations,” said Salvaggio. In return for Arnal’s work, they donated $500 to her college fund.
“We are very happy with the end result. Reviews have been favorable on Amazon and Facebook,” said Howard.
He said he is already thinking about a second book about Knuckles, the boxer pup and Coach Cody.
Life is…Ruff is available on Amazon.com for $14.95. It can also be found at Animal Haus and Half Pints for $13.95. Book signings are planned at the Lowell Humane Society on December 1 and 2, and at Half Pints Learning Center on January 26 as part of Winter Festival.
Salvaggio said she also donated two books to the Kindergarden at Dewing Elementary School,where two of her children attend.
Animal Haus has a Facebook page where Howard shares photos of shelter dogs and information about his store, training services and the book.
Excerpt from Life is...Ruff:
My life has been so fun, and so great. I do believe, it was all just fate.
The day I saw Chris from behind those cold bare. I knew, there would be no more dodging care.
I would be safe and cared for, it would be so neat, beacause before I met him, I lived on the street.
In a box with no heat is where I would sleep.
It was scary and cold, with nothing to eat, and all I wanted was a couple of treats.