LIFE IMITATES ART
Throughout the pages of my latest picture book, THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOPE, illustrator Tamisha Anthony created heartwarming scenes of kindness, caring, and community to complement my text. One spread shows a couple of kids (and squirrel sidekick) reading a lost dog poster, finding that puppy, befriending it, and returning it to its owner. Without input from me, Tamisha’s imagination and talent combined to develop a whole “story in pictures” to go along with these words:
When hope fills your heart
it’s your turn to share.
So reach out to others
and show how you care.
This scene in the book will always have special meaning for me. Not that long ago, its message of hope played out in real life.
We adopted a 5-yr-old mini-Schnauzer, Haley, in mid-August. Only three days after we brought her home to Connecticut from the Berkshires in Massachusetts, my husband accidentally left a gate open, and Haley ran out! She dashed down the street, nose to the ground, paying no attention to Jeff calling her name as he gave chase. She wasn’t yet attached to us, and we feared she would try to find her way back to the Berkshires.
Haley was lost from early afternoon and overnight until the next midday, through two rush hours (our street backs onto a busy road) and two storms. Our adult children, who were planning to meet Haley that upcoming weekend, arrived early to help search for her. We patrolled neighboring streets, traipsed through swamps (where I fell in muck and cut my leg), hiked in the woods (where I ran through a mammoth spider web), and avoided bears (my daughter-in-law, walking solo with a flashlight, encountered one at 11 p.m.!). Twice we caught glimpses of Haley before she disappeared again. We searched almost all night except for an hour or two of fitful sleep.
Just like in Tamisha’s illustration, though, it was the kindness and help of others, beyond family, that we will never forget. Our extended neighborhood (people we knew, people we had only waved to, and people we didn’t know at all) helped with the search in various ways. A friend created posters, and her husband tacked them on telephone poles. Another posted on a neighborhood watch Facebook page.
Others, including our Animal Control Officer, spread the word on official channels, social media, and via text. Another neighbor delayed a trip out of town to cruise nearby streets during that afternoon rush hour. Folks out walking their dogs promised to keep a lookout. One man we didn’t know said, I’ve done some things in my life I am not proud of, but I can get in my car and drive around and try to help you find your dog.
A woman called at midnight to tell us Haley had been spotted running in her backyard. She went out with her dog and flashlight, hoping another canine might help lure Haley in. Another person two streets over texted that Haley was seen on their security camera at 4 a.m.
Around 5 a.m. we spotted Haley crossing a street! But like before, she darted away. When thunder and lightning accompanied a pre-dawn downpour, she must have taken cover somewhere. I slogged futilely back and forth on the street and back yards where we had last seen her, growing more discouraged as morning rush hour traffic whizzed by.
How did it all end? By late morning the storm was over, and the sun came out. A short while later, an exhausted, hungry, and burr-covered Haley walked up to a police officer less than a mile from our house and turned herself in!
I must say, Haley has become a neighborhood celebrity. For a couple of weeks, folks in cars slowed and beeped, or gave us thumbs up, or lowered a window to congratulate us. We did our best to identify everyone who helped, and we delivered personal thanks with small gift cards to our neighborhood indie coffee shop—aptly named Rebel Dog Coffee Company!
Now every time I look at the art for THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOPE, I pause on the “lost dog” spread. My heart skips a beat, realizing that Tamisha told Haley’s story before it happened. And I am filled with overwhelming gratitude that life imitated her art.
Janet Lawler is an award-winning author of more than thirty fiction and nonfiction picture books for children. She wrote THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOPE (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2024) during the pandemic and hopes its inspirational message will comfort readers of all ages.