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Local author devotes children's book to man's best friend

Gilford resident and new children’s author Holly Raus poses with her best furry friend, Ben. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
April 27, 2011
While it may be an assumption that a dog is simply a man's best friend, Gilford resident and author Holly Raus has proven that a dog can be everyone's best friend — especially her family's golden retriever, Ben.

Her first ever original children's book, "Ben: The Very Best Furry Friend," launched this past month, and aims to bring awareness to the practice of therapy dogs, such as the Raus family's very own Ben.

The book is told from Ben's perspective, and tells of his tales as a therapy dog.

"This is my first children's book," said Raus, once a library assistant at Gilford Public Library, and now the Meredith Public Library. "The inspiration is the work I have actually done with Ben. The story is for kids to enjoy, but I also want to make people aware of a therapy dog, which differs from a service dog."

When Raus moved to Gilford five years ago, she found Ben's temperament to be calming and sweet, and realized he would make an exceptional therapy dog. Ben's mother had also been a therapy dog, so Raus knew this temperament must run in his genes. As Ben underwent therapy training and volunteer work through Pet Partners, a stem off of the organization Delta Society, he also began to branch out to libraries, where Raus ended up taking on a new, inspiring career.

Most parents and their youngsters in Gilford are well aware of the children's program, "Tales for Tails," initially kicked off and led by Raus and Ben, who would often "read" children's books or ask a child to read him a story. Local youngsters and adults alike have formed a bond with Ben, who planned to retire from the program this summer.

"Over the past five years, Ben reached out to many children in Gilford, and many of these children knew him personally. While I want the book to be successful, just holding a copy of this book in my hands is an accomplishment in itself," said Raus. "I am finding that adults are also getting a lot out of the books, and learning information they didn't know before."

While other dogs will take over for Ben during story time, the Raus family just received some upsetting news this past month, just as his book out, and realized they might only have days with Ben left to enjoy, verse years.

"He is almost 11. We found out he is ill, and we've been living day by day with Ben. It really makes this book bittersweet, since this news just came up last week; we found out he had metastatic cancer in his lungs – after the book was published," said Raus. "The whole family is trying to spend time with Ben and keep him comfortable."

In the words of her daughter, a sophomore at Gilford High School, the book will become "Ben's legacy."

Raus also has a son, currently a senior at GHS, who will greatly miss his long-time furry friend.

The news is certainly bittersweet for this Gilford family, yet Ben's book, filled with actual photos, people, and real experiences, will help his legacy live on in Gilford.

Raus said she has wanted to write a children's story about Ben for a while, yet jumped at the chance when her cousin, Preston Pysh of Pylon Publishing LLC, guided Raus through the process of publishing a story. It only took Raus a mere four months to write about Ben's experiences as a therapy dog, and with the help of Pysh's illustrations, the book was complete in less than a year.

The illustrations themselves within the book are unique, just as the stories are unique. Pysh traced and painted actual photos with the aid of the software program Adobe Photoshop.

"It's more meaningful with family in the book. My young niece Aubrey, my father, aunts and husband's grandma all posed with Ben for this book," said Raus.

As a first time author, she said she wouldn't consider herself to be a writer, yet instead, a person who finds passion in writing about certain subjects, such as Ben and the role of therapy dogs.

The Raus household has also welcomed in a new golden retriever, a puppy named Jerry, hoping to play off of the ice cream brand "Ben and Jerry's." While Raus is still not sure if she wants to train Jerry to perform as a therapy dog, she did choose to bring a new puppy into the home, hoping that he'll lead by Ben's example.

"Becoming an author was never a goal in life for me, yet I had the opportunity, so I went for it. Every little story in the book is a true interaction that occurred with Ben and his experiences, whether at the library, schools or nursing homes," said Raus.

As the author of the book, she is certainly proud of the final product, yet said her family has also served as her biggest fans in fully supporting the making of the book and Ben's legacy.

"I have to say that Ben and the therapy work we got into changed my life. I was once a stay at home mom. His therapy work and the reading program helped me realize a whole new career path as a librarian, and I couldn't be happier," said Raus. "I was once an x-ray technician before I had children, and now I see myself in a library until I retire."

For Raus, "Ben: The Very Best Furry Friend," may be one of several up and coming children's stories written in honor of the true life Ben. This current story focuses on Ben's "job" as a therapy dog. When the time comes, Raus said she already has a few ideas up her sleeve, and would like to write a story about Ben and his hobbies in his leisure time, as well as Ben and his furry friends playing on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee during the summer time.

Over the years, Raus said she has come across many golden retrievers, from childhood to the present. While she cannot imagine a life without a golden retriever by her side, she also cannot imagine a dog that could ever emulate Ben down to the core.

"I love the golden breed since they are so affectionate, beautiful, and easy to train, yet I have never met a dog as loving as Ben. I will always love our other dogs, yet he will always stand out at unique," said Raus.

Ben's tale is available for check-out at local libraries, and available for purchase on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. If patrons wish to receive a personalized copy of the book signed by the author and Ben himself, those interested may request a copy at hollyraus@metrocast.net.

Raus also plans to conduct a presentation on therapy dogs at the Gilford Library Thursday, May 12 from 3 - 4 p.m.

North Country Environmental
Martin Lord Osman
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