This is the story of the unlikely collaboration of an elementary school counselor, a high school art student and a dachshund that loves to go to school.
It is a great adventure.
Peebles Elementary School counselor Judy Hughes discovered first as a middle school and high school teacher and later as a counselor that certain dogs can reach people in ways the calmest educators cannot.
She likes animals. Living on property with cattle and chickens and dogs, Hughes is comfortable around all kinds of creatures and she loves children.
Just over two years ago, the counselor rescued Max, one of her three dogs and with Principal Gayle Dudley’s approval began taking the friendly dog to school with her.
Repeatedly, she observed the way the animal instinctively found the children in need of calming.
Just like with previous dogs Hughes worked with, the dark-brown dachshund loved going to school, confidently striding up to people and cozying into their lap.
And just as she’s done repeatedly for the 10 years she’s practiced animal-assisted therapy, the counselor known at Peebles as “Miss Hugs,” thought she had to write this down.
For about a year, Hughes worked on writing down Max’s origin story. It was a mix of truth and fictitious elements telling how the dog arrived from the city to her farm and wildly chased the chickens and became the prey for the rooster.
The story tells of Max’s transformation from a hyper, attention-deprived dog to a well-adjusted therapy dog going to school and helping children in need of a compassionate touch.
“Max was so natural,” the school counselor said. “Kids are his favorite. He loves being here. This is his favorite place. He goes into the classroom and senses when a child needs help. He climbs in their lap and gives them kisses. He can do in seconds what it would take me 10 minutes or more to do.”
With a manuscript completed last spring, Hughes sought out an illustrator and came to know through Ellison High School art teacher Angela Caddell a talented student, Adriana Klerner, now an Ellison High School senior.
The counselor and student worked together, mostly communicating online and Klerner began creating colorful pictures of a short, long brown dog and backdrops of cattle and chickens.
After four months of collaboration and two more months of learning the self-publishing trade, the pair debuted their new book, “Max’s Great Adventure.”
On Jan. 31, Hughes read the entire book to a class of third-graders in the Peebles Elementary School library. For the first time, Klerner saw the printed book and met Max in person.
After the reading, Hughes and Klerner visited with third-graders and then signed the book. Max applied his paw print to the paperback, the first of a planned series of the dog’s adventures with children and farm animals.
“It feels amazing,” said Ellison senior Klerner, taking a look at her published work for the first time. “I thought it was a great opportunity.”
The process between writer and illustrator was an exercise in imagination and revision.
“I read the story and made the drawings,” Klerner explained. “She wanted more expression so I had to bring out the characteristics of each character.”
“Max’s Great Adventure” is available through Amazon www.amazon.com/Maxs-Great-Adventure-J-Hugs/dp/1981336400/ and information is on the author’s page www.jlhugs.com/
An author signing will be scheduled at the Harker Heights Barnes & Noble store later in the spring.
Hughes and Klerner are working on the second book in the series.