By Jill Moon, The Telegraph
Tommy, a tail-wagging dog famous for his struggles, has inspired a children’s book that focuses on kindness — instead of the abuse he suffered.
While Marlowe perused online headlines one evening in October 2009 at her home in Southern California, one caught her eye that she could not forget. She eventually wrote "Tommy the Throwaway Dog" about the pit bull cared for and returned to health and happiness by Hope Animal Rescues in Alton. Portions of the book’s proceeds go to help shelters and rescues, including no-kill Hope Animal Rescues, co-founded by Jackie Spiker and Kim Lee, both of Alton.
"A headline popped out at me that really disturbed me, and because I am an animal lover and animal welfare activist, I couldn’t get it out of my mind," Marlowe recalled. "It led me to an article, which just hurt and devastated me, and that led me to the website of Hope Animal Rescues shelter, the photos (of Tommy prior to rescue) and — wow — I was completely saddened and overwhelmed with what happened to this dog."
A sanitary employee with Waste Management Systems discovered the pit bull thrown in the trash by his abuser and called the Cahokia Police Department. The Cahokia Mayor’s Office secretary called Hope Animal Rescues and Spiker picked up the dog and took him to Horseshoe Lake Animal Hospital in Collinsville. Subsequently Tommy returned to Hope Animal Rescues at Club Paws until his adoption by Timothy and Sue McGowan of Lenzburg.
"We hand-delivered Tommy to his new home, drove to Lenzburg, and visited his new home to make sure everyone liked each other, and then left Tommy with his new family," Spiker recalled of that day, Dec. 13, 2009.
Tommy is named for Spiker’s late golden retriever, Tommy Girl, who died in March 2008 of cancer.
"I was happy they kept that name," Spiker said. "That was my very special dog, Tommy Girl; he got that name, so he had to be special, too."
Marlowe, a 30-year animal welfare activist, made a donation to Hope Animal Rescues because she said she simply had to do something.
"I just wanted to get on a plane, go to the shelter and throw my arms around this dog," she said. "I wanted to tell him I was so sorry, and cared about what happened to him. And, on the other hand, I was grateful to the people who found him and helped him."
Mirror Publishing out of Milwaukee, Wis., published Marlowe’s first book, "Tommy the Throwaway Dog," in May 2010. Since then, it has sold very well and Marlowe has given numerous readings, including in December at AfterWords Books in Edwardsville, where all of the profits of more than $1,000 for the $12.99 book went to Hope Animal Rescues, and Marlowe met Tommy for the first time. Between 1 and 4 p.m., Dec. 11, 177 copies of the book sold.
"I met Tommy and almost every person portrayed in the book," Marlowe said. "I came to Missouri to do a TV interview, then to Illinois to do the book signing. Almost every person who is in the book was at the signing, along with customers and fans."
Marlowe sat with Tommy on the floor while he gave her a kiss and leaned against her.
"I wanted to hug him for so long," she recalled. "Seeing that he was happy and healthy is what made me the happiest."
As of this month, the book is available in Spanish.
"The idea to write this book combined my passion for writing, writing children’s stories and animal welfare in general," she explained. "I thought I not only would have this story for children, so that they could learn about animal welfare, but also something that could generate funds for animal welfare organizations, including Hope Animal Rescues."
Mirror Publishing released the book in September, when it began selling at stores and online sites. Marlowe told Spiker and Lee about the published work when the book actually was released.
"When I contacted them, they were absolutely floored," Marlowe recalled. "They were just amazed and beyond happy."
Since its release, the book has been the subject of numerous readings by Marlowe at schools, book stores and libraries in Los Angeles and the southwest United States.
"The Q and As at schools in L.A. have been absolutely phenomenal; the questions and stories I engage in with the children are amazing," she said.
Countless children have asked Marlowe if they can meet Tommy, who she hopes someday visits her in California with his incredibly loving family.
"I say, ‘Well, sweetheart, he lives far way, but someday he might be able to visit California,’" Marlowe recounted of what she tells pupils to whom she reads. "They act like it’s Christmas and they just stamp their feet and say, ‘Yeah, when can I meet him? When can I hug him?’ We’re hoping someday that happens."
Tommy’s story is illustrated by South American artist Javier Duarte. Duarte’s heartfelt portrayal of Tommy from his tearful puppy-dog eyes peeking outside a trash can to all of Tommy’s tail wagging is touching from beginning to end.
"He’s a wonderful artist who was assigned to this project, and his illustrations have been so well received and complimented by so many people, from adults and children. He’s a very busy, working artist who does artistic work in quite a few different styles and works freelance. We were very fortunate to have him for this project."
The story dwells not on the animal abuse of Tommy, but on all of the people who gave a second chance to the once-abandoned canine. Tracie L. Johnson, who was 34 at the time, of Cahokia, was accused of dumping Tommy into the trash. She was arrested and charged with animal cruelty. Tommy was found by a sanitation worker who thought he was dead, which is not a part of Marlowe’s children’s story.
Spiker said studies show that animal cruelty leads to human abuse. She said animal cruelty is family violence.
"Children are very moved and love to talk about their experience with animal welfare, their companion animals, and the abuser of Tommy, of whom they are absolutely shocked that someone could do that," Marlowe said. "They say they wish the abuser was still in jail, but I steer away from that because I don’t want that to be the focus. I want the focus to be for good and the value of kindness and how that affects everyone, not only to animals, but to everybody. We engage in dialogue about the value of kindness to everybody."
"Tommy the Throwaway Dog" is available at AfterWords Bookstore in Edwardsville and in circulation at the Bethalto Library. Visit www.hoperescues.com for more information about Tommy and its rescues.