We have a black lab mix named Albus. Yes, his first name comes from the Harry Potter series, but his middle name is Dumblepup because he was the rolly-poliest little ball of fluff when we got him right before Christmas 7 years ago and the name seemed fitting. Though he is clearly a dog and not a wizard, Albus does have magical qualities. He senses when someone is upset and will sit by them to offer comfort. He retrieves us when he hears the kids wake-up if we don't immediately respond. And he knows how to spell - evident by the dancing he does when we spell "dog park," "walk," "run," and "hike" - though he may also be tuned into our shoe choice for all of those outings. :)
Since he's black, he's hard to photograph. In this photo he is yawning as he cozies into the new bed he got from Santa. It is now his favorite place to relax and reduces the temptation to get on the couch!
I sometimes take Albus' powers for granted. But then the kids (or other events) alert me to his importance in our lives. For our daughter, all animals are "Albus". At the age of one, she is enthralled with him and spends big chunks of her day petting him, watching him explore our back yard, or looking for him if he's out of immediate sight. When we're not at home, she's on constant alert for an "Albus" which could be anything from a horse to a squirrel to the little spotted dog that escapes from her yard and wanders the neighborhood regularly. Though we talk about how our Albus is just one member of the larger group "dog" and that dogs are members of the larger kingdom "animalia", she just smiles and points, cheering "Albus!" at any ol' animal. She loves him and she is happy to see any other creature that might be as loving and sweet as her pal at home.
When my book was illustrated, Nick and I went back and forth for a long time to develop the composition that eventually became the cover. We kept sensing that something was missing and then someone (either my mom or I, I don't recall now) had the idea to include a dog (a black lab, of course) and suddenly it all came together. The magic of Albus - he solved WEEKS of composition turmoil with the wag of his tail.
Now that he is on the cover (and in a couple of illustrations IN the book!), he is generating quite the buzz with readers (okay, mostly family and friends, but a few new customers, too). Somehow Albus' presence on the cover escaped my son, but when he got to the other illustrations he was captivated. "That's Albus!" he shrieked in awe the day our first copies arrived. "There he is AGAIN!" He, of course, pointed out these important details when his teacher shared the book with his pre-school class. The kids all went home and told their parents that they got to read the book about my son's dog. What can you do? This dog IS pretty cool! Maybe when they buy copies of the book and read it a few times they'll realize that there is a BIT more to the book. But, if Albus is what gets them hooked, I'll go with it!
And Albus IS what hooked a buyer today. My mom was on a volkswalk with a friend and met a fellow volkswalker who is a sucker for books with dogs, especially labs. SO, though I'm sure as a woman interested in walking, health and friendship she will enjoy the content of the book, I am glad that Albus could catch her attention with his good looks (thanks to Nick's illustrating skills!) and get her to buy the book so she can eventually enjoy the text. :)
I think I'll repay Albus for his generosity and good spirit (not to mention help with sales!) with a few extra dog treats over the next few weeks. Sales commissions in the form of goodies are right up his ally. And of course, he'll stay balanced with his jaunts in the yard, runs (when the weather turns nice again) and trips to the d-o-g p-a-r-k (shhhhh . . . don't say that out loud!). The dog has magical qualities, but I don't think he can read - whew!