A dog’s life lessons from Aspen children’s author Walker Jean Mills
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘The Good Dog’ reading with Walker Jean Mills
Where: Explore Booksellers
When: Saturday, Sept. 29, 2-4 p.m.
More info: 970-925-5336
‘The Good Dog’
Walker Jean Mills
35 pages, softcover, $11.95
Covenant Books, 2018
Dog is man’s best friend and, sometimes, a kid’s best role model.
In her new children’s book “The Good Dog,” local author Walker Jean Mills offers a sweet and simple story aimed at young children about how dogs can teach us love, acceptance and compassion.
It features the young Daisy, who is with her dog, Charlie, as he gets stitched in a veterinarian’s office and offers an outpouring of gratitude for his love and inspirational kindness.
The book aims to inspire readers to do good and simple things like comforting others, making people smile, being helpful and being inclusive.
“If a kid can take just one thing away, maybe to befriend somebody who doesn’t have friends, to say a nice word to their parents, to listen to somebody who might be suffering — if it helps one kid be kinder, then I think it’s a success as a book,” Mills said.
Illustrated with Charlie and Daisy in vivid cartoon color against mostly gray scenes, the book places no more than two sentences on each of its 35 pages. The book was inspired by Mills’ own dog, also named Charlie.
“I think dogs are miracle animals,” she said. “My dog has gotten me through hard times. They exhibit a lot of traits that we should also try to adopt as humans. Dogs are amazing.”
Mills — who once previously dabbled in publication with 2010’s “Ski Bum Cookbook” — works as a pediatric occupational therapist with public school children on the Western Slope. Through that work, she often writes with kids to help them understand social situations and social norms.
The story of “The Good Dog” came to her in a burst last year.
“I wasn’t even thinking of writing a book,” Mills recalled. “I just started talking to my dog and all of a sudden the words just came to me.”
She tapped out her sentiments on her iPhone and what she wrote became “The Good Dog.”
“I wrote it in about 15 minutes,” she said. “It was an a culmination of life events that were a catalyst to write the book. So maybe I was writing it my whole life and I just didn’t know it until it came to me.”
Though not overtly religious, the book concludes with a Bible quote and the text reflects Mills’ Christian faith. “The Good Dog” is published by the South Carolina-based Christian imprint Covenant Books.
“To me, Jesus is just about love and acceptance and caring for others,” she said. “So, God just put it on my heart to put that verse in.”
Mills is donating 10 percent of profits from book sales to the nonprofit 4 Paws for Ability, which provides service dogs to children with disabilities.
The dog-friendly Roaring Fork Valley has embraced “The Good Dog.” A recent reading at the Basalt Regional Library drew some 60 kids and grown-ups. Mills has another reading planned Sept. 29 at Explore Booksellers in Aspen.
The book is aimed at kids age 1 to 10. But Mills hopes its universal message will touch adults as well, in the way that classics like “The Giving Tree” — which she calls her favorite book — and Robert Munsch’s “Love You Forever” resonate with grown-ups.
“I hope that an adult reading to a 3-year-old son or daughter can also pause and maybe say, ‘Yes, this is applicable to my life and I can incorporate some of these things into my life, as well,’” Mills said.
Any progress toward a kinder society, especially in this tumultuous moment in American culture, is worth celebrating for Mills.
“Hopefully as a society we can just be kinder to each other, be more thoughtful and patient and show more compassion,” she said. “I feel we’re lacking that right now.”
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Aspen Words’ literary conference and festival is back in-person after a pandemic hiatus and a move from June to autumn.