I have had several inquiries in regards to our basenji book, so I thought I would compose a few paragraphs about its origin. Sometimes I get carried away when I write, but Rou's book is not so verbose as this posting!
When my daughter Sophie was in second grade, she and I created a 36 page, full-color children's book entitled "Rou's Tips for Basenjis". Rou is our red and white companion basenji. Sophie and I were inspired to create a book showcasing many of the delightful aspects of owning a dog, in particular, a basenji.
I was a typical girl growing up. I loved all creatures, cute and furry. When I was seven, I had my tonsils removed. I dreamt about the moment my parents would enter the recovery room and present me with my get-well gift: a fawn. It was a real disappointment to receive an Etch-a-Sketch. The need to love a creature cute and furry seized Sophie approximately the same time. Our family never even discussed owning a dog until Sophie bought a complete set of Tintin books for her sixth birthday. Within hours, the girl was enamored of Snowy and pined for her own very clever, small dog. For the next year, we visited animal shelters and dog shows. We discussed the issue end-less-ly. Since several family members have allergies, we narrowed our dog search to include only hypoallergenic breeds.
At a Portland dog show, we met an enthusiastic, responsible breeder & her crew of award-winning dogs. We couldn’t even pronounce the word basenji properly. However, we were impressed that the breed is 5000 years old. It was no wonder the basenji had endured: they neither barked nor shed; they were intelligent, personable and clean.
Intrigued, we read a stack of great books about the history, the build and the show qualities of the basenji, yet we weren’t able to find much information geared towards children. We continued gaining knowledge about basenjis and their needs; we visited a new litter basenji puppies and fell in love with them. A sweet, beautiful, agile red and white girl was an ideal match for our family’s personalities and lifestyle. In February of 2004, our family was delighted to bring Roussi the Basenji into our lives.
It quickly became apparent that the name ‘Roussi’ was a bit too tricky for a young child to annunciate. Sophie’s front teeth were still in the process of growing in. She couldn’t say the ‘s’ sound. The poor kid repeatedly had to tell people “No, her name isn’t Ruthie! It’s Roussi!” It didn’t help that the two words were pronounced virtually identically. It drove Sophie crazy. Ultimately, the name was shortened to Rou.
At the tail end of the year, Sophie’s teacher assigned Challenge Projects to her second grade class. Although 'weather' was the theme for the month, her teacher encouraged her students to pursue whatever Terrific Idea inspired them. Sophie and I love art and books. Perhaps a Challenge Project could combine both passions. If Sophie and I were to actually compose a book, I was concerned about the battling temperaments of two independent, strong-willed females. However, I am fortunate that my daughter still wants to spend time with me. How long that will last, I can’t be sure.
We agreed to write Rou’s Tips for Basenjis. The To-Do list was a bit daunting. Sophie illustrated the entire story with her wonderful whimsical drawings. I’d say, “I need a bathroom scene!” Clipboard, paper, pencil and click eraser in hand, Sophie would disappear. When she returned with her mini masterpieces, I colored them and cut them out. Placement on the page was a mutual decision. We discovered that working as a team and having to compromise was not always easy. I have never had a tougher art director than Sophie. When you’re seven and a half, you know what you like and what you don’t and you’re not shy about expressing your opinion.
Once the drawings had been completed, we took advantage my husband's skills as a professional photographer. Though his specialty for the last fifteen years has been photographing inanimate high-tech objects, he agreed to take all of Rou’s pictures. We spent one Saturday afternoon in the studio with a hefty chunk of cheddar and a happily cooperative dog.
Countless hours later, we self-published Rou’s Tips for Basenjis. The book was made entirely in Oregon, printed on recycled paper, with a sewn binding for additional durability. You can visit Rou's website www.roudog.com. For those that can’t get enough of the breed, you can visit Rou at www.dogster.com/dogs/399665 and meet her fabulous Pup Pals.
Here are a few lovely comments about our book:
"I felt that the interpretation of Rou's thoughts may be the greatest insight ever into the Basenji mind." ~New York
"This is a great book that truly gives a true depiction of Basenji personality. A very entertaining book that will make you smile." ~A Registered Therapy Dog
"Sure, it might be a children's book (my daughter certainly loved it), but it's also a good primer on basenji behavior for new owners… sort of like "What To Expect With Your New Basenji" ;)" ~The Florida Coordinator of Basenji Rescue & Transport
So, if you made it all this way, congratulations! If you have any other questions, we are always delighted to respond. Thanks for your interest!
The Rou Crew: -pamela, Sophie & of course, Rou