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New Ipswich

The bond that saved

Children’s book focuses on three-legged, furry friend

  • Local author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book entitled "Trouper," inspired by her own story of adopting a three-legged Black Lab mix from Puerto Rico.

    Local author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book entitled "Trouper," inspired by her own story of adopting a three-legged Black Lab mix from Puerto Rico.

  • Local author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book entitled "Trouper," inspired by her own story of adopting a three-legged Black Lab mix from Puerto Rico.

    Local author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book entitled "Trouper," inspired by her own story of adopting a three-legged Black Lab mix from Puerto Rico.

  • An illustration by E. B. Lewis from New Ipswich resident Meg Kearney's new children's book shows the title character "Trouper" a three-legged Black Labrador mix leading a pack of mutts through the street of Puerto Rico.

    An illustration by E. B. Lewis from New Ipswich resident Meg Kearney's new children's book shows the title character "Trouper" a three-legged Black Labrador mix leading a pack of mutts through the street of Puerto Rico.

  • Local author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book entitled "Trouper," inspired by her own story of adopting a three-legged Black Lab mix from Puerto Rico.

    Local author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book entitled "Trouper," inspired by her own story of adopting a three-legged Black Lab mix from Puerto Rico.

  • An illustration by E. B. Lewis showing "Trouper," a three-legged stray. Trouper's story was based off the experiences of his real-life counterpart, Trooper, who was adopted in 2006 by his current owner, author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich.

    An illustration by E. B. Lewis showing "Trouper," a three-legged stray. Trouper's story was based off the experiences of his real-life counterpart, Trooper, who was adopted in 2006 by his current owner, author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich.

  • Local author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book entitled "Trouper," inspired by her own story of adopting a three-legged Black Lab mix from Puerto Rico.

    Local author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book entitled "Trouper," inspired by her own story of adopting a three-legged Black Lab mix from Puerto Rico.

  • Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book based on her own story of adopting a three-legged dog from Puerto Rico.

    Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book based on her own story of adopting a three-legged dog from Puerto Rico.

  • Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book based on her own story of adopting a three-legged dog from Puerto Rico.

    Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book based on her own story of adopting a three-legged dog from Puerto Rico.

  • Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book based on her own story of adopting a three-legged dog from Puerto Rico.

    Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book based on her own story of adopting a three-legged dog from Puerto Rico.

  • Local author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book entitled "Trouper," inspired by her own story of adopting a three-legged Black Lab mix from Puerto Rico.
  • Local author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book entitled "Trouper," inspired by her own story of adopting a three-legged Black Lab mix from Puerto Rico.
  • An illustration by E. B. Lewis from New Ipswich resident Meg Kearney's new children's book shows the title character "Trouper" a three-legged Black Labrador mix leading a pack of mutts through the street of Puerto Rico.
  • Local author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book entitled "Trouper," inspired by her own story of adopting a three-legged Black Lab mix from Puerto Rico.
  • An illustration by E. B. Lewis showing "Trouper," a three-legged stray. Trouper's story was based off the experiences of his real-life counterpart, Trooper, who was adopted in 2006 by his current owner, author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich.
  • Local author Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book entitled "Trouper," inspired by her own story of adopting a three-legged Black Lab mix from Puerto Rico.
  • Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book based on her own story of adopting a three-legged dog from Puerto Rico.
  • Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book based on her own story of adopting a three-legged dog from Puerto Rico.
  • Meg Kearney of New Ipswich recently published a children's book based on her own story of adopting a three-legged dog from Puerto Rico.

Trooper lays at his owner’s feet, his tail thumping every time his name is mentioned.

“He knows we’re talking about him,” laughs his owner, Meg Kearney of New Ipswich. She looks over at him, leading to immediately hop up and come over, seeking some extra attention, ears perked, eyes bright and panting happily. He moves easily, keeping his tail firmly to the side, helping him to keep his balance, to compensate for a missing hind leg.

It’s easy to see where the inspiration for Kearney’s new children’s book “Trouper” came from. Both dogs are big, black, rescued strays with three legs. The real-life inspiration for the book has a slightly different story, however.

The fictional Trouper starts the story running with a pack of mutts, and has already lost a leg. Eventually, after watching all his friends be adopted, he finds a home with an energetic little boy. The real-life dog, Trooper – same name but different spelling – is originally from Puerto Rico. He was caught, like his fictional counterpart, while running with a pack of dogs. His leg had been mangled in an unknown accident. The Black Lab mix was brought to a shelter, where he likely would have been put down, had he not displayed a singularly sweet and gentle demeanor that made the staff member who was tasked with putting him down fall in love. Soon, the director of the shelter, too, saw what a special dog Trooper was. So, instead of being put down, Trooper’s destroyed leg was amputated, and he was put up for adoption.

For months, he was passed over. And then Kearney started looking online for a new pet, and fell in love with his photo. It was an honest one, Kearney recalled, a full-body shot that made no bones about the fact that Trooper was missing a leg. But it also showed his expressive face, and Kearney felt an instant connection.

“You just see that face, and know that this is a really special dog,” said Kearney.

Second Chance Rescue in Villalba, Puerto Rico, the shelter where Trooper was kept while waiting for his new home, partners with American shelters to find homes for dogs, explained Kearney. At first, she thought her new dog was right next door, at the shelter in Jaffrey, which has since been closed. She was surprised to find out that he was still in Puerto Rico. But the shelter told her if she was willing to go forward with the adoption process, Trooper could be on a plane and in town that weekend.

“There was an instant connection,” Kearney recalled, of their first meeting. “When I went to the shelter to pick him up, there were a lot of people there picking up the dogs that had arrived that day. He was at the door greeting every one of them. And everyone that met him wanted to take him home. I said, ‘Too bad, he’s mine, now,’” she said with a laugh. And since, Trooper has been a constant companion. His leg doesn’t limit him — he hikes mountains with Kearney, and accompanies her to work at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., where he is known to everyone on campus.

“He’s so smart and wants to please so much,” said Kearney. “These dogs are something special,” she added, referring to dogs rescued from Second Chance.

She decided to put Trooper’s story down on paper. Kearney’s not new to the writing game. She’s published several works of poetry and lyrical novels, but this is her first foray into the world of children’s literature. It started out as a poem, she noted, which she did in terza rima — a three line rhyming scheme — in a sly reference to her pet’s three legs. She sent it to a friend in the publishing business, who pushed her to develop it into a children’s book.

“I felt it was something all kids could relate to,” noted Kearney. “Everyone has something that makes them a little different, but you don’t have to let it affect how you live your life. Trooper’s really inspiring that way.”

But having the story, she also had to have the other half of the children’s book element — illustrations. E.B. Lewis, a Caldecott Honor Book artist, hand-painted all of the illustrations from photographs taken of Trooper and a neighbor of Kearney’s, Sam Paris of New Ipswich, as the model for the fictional Trouper’s adoptive parent. The illustrations took nearly five years to complete, but seeing the final product, the wait was worth it, she said.

“They really do tell the other half of the story,” she said. “It felt like such a huge gift. He took my story and made it full.” Lewis added his own touches, too, she said. The pack that Trouper runs with are all shelter dogs from a shelter where Lewis himself volunteers.

Kearney will be holding a reading of her book, “Trouper,” followed by discussion and signing at the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough on Saturday at 11 a.m., and in the New Ipswich Town Library on Nov. 23 at 11 a.m. Trooper will join Kearney at the New Ipswich signing. Kearney is currently completing a verse novel, the third in a trilogy.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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