Student Questions: “Who is Russell?”

Who is Russell?

Russell is the reason I lived in an imaginary dog house from 2008 until 2009. During Spring of 2008, I worked full-time from home—all alone. My only companionship was Blu, our 12 year old dalmatian. Her time was consumed with finding lizards.

So, I began my search for the right family dog. My kids were six and eight. The dog needed to be full of energy, tough, and smart enough to survive the Adams Family. My preparation was watching national dog shows and Caesar Milan: The Dog Whisperer. I  read various dog books on breed facts. Finally, I chose the Jack Russell breed—without any input from my family.

I didn’t mention adopting the puppy to my wife, Angela. “No!” had become her unconscious answer to my unending puppy talk. So, I did what I always did when Angela told me no. I did it anyway!

Rusty's Baby PhotoSurfing the internet, I discovered a puppy photo that was too cute! A face I knew our family would love his entire life. I drove seventy miles to Ocala, Florida just to meet this little guy. FYI, most people do not meet a puppy without coming home with him. That happened to me.

On the way home, heavy traffic and lack of planning meant I had to bring the puppy with me to the kids’ school. No time for a memorable family puppy surprise with videos and pictures. Within five minutes his given name, Rusty, creatively became Russell—”for .Jack Russell, Dad.”

That night the kids and I met Angela at the school’s Family Reading Night. The kids were sworn to secrecy about Russell because mommy didn’t know. That lasted about fifteen seconds. The kids told a neighborhood friend. The friend told her parents. Then, the parents asked Angela about her new puppy. Angela’s response, “What puppy?” She knew. I knew. The entire school knew.

On the way home, Angela constructed an imaginary dog house. Not for the puppy, but for me. I mentally packed my belongings. Thankfully, Russell’s charm won her heart too. Lies, deception, and a poorly executed meeting didn’t stop our family from adopting little Russell.

He was Daddy’s Good Boy and Bad Bad Boy from day one. The Bad Bad Boy cried at night, peed on the floor, and chewed a corner of our new ottoman. (The kids and I’ve kept that secret until now.) The Daddy’s Good Boy won hearts with his intelligence, endurance, and loyalty. Life in the Adams household wasn’t life without Russell.

Daddy's Good BoyRussell is still a great companion. He rides four-wheelers in Kentucky, swims in our Florida pool, and rests at my feet while I watercolor. He and I know each other so well. He’s protected me from the occasional backyard snake, entertained me with squirrel surveillance, and has become a true character in life and books. Russell appears in many of my illustrated picture books. He can be found in:  Parts of Speech Parade, King for a Day, Treasure Island, Franny’s Rescue, and a soon to be a Russell Toy Pattern. You may discover him in other locations like school visits, at events, and in a Best Sketchbook.

As an author, illustrator, and publisher, his adoption has given me inspiration from under foot. After eight years, my answer to Who is Russell? He’s family!

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