Rags, a little dog with big personality, stars in a picture book written by two Edina women.
Celebrities often appear to be smaller in real life than you might expect—ask anyone who has ever seen Tom Cruise—and the same is true for Rags, a sweet Boston Terrier mix who is becoming something of a celebrity in her own right around Edina.
Rags to Riches: A Dog’s Tale of Hope and Friendship, a picture book written by longtime Edina friends Carey McKeon Pearson and Patti Nero Kivestu, is based on the true story of this surprisingly tiny powerhouse who persevered in order to survive on the plains of West Texas where she was found abandoned five years ago.
Pearson’s daughter Colleen was attending college in Texas at the time, and her then-boyfriend had an internship working near the West Texas oil fields.
“Jake told Colleen about this little dog that would follow him around—it was clear she didn’t belong to anyone,” says Pearson. “He decided to bring the dog back to Fort Worth to live in his fraternity house, which was filled with both students and other dogs. That’s where Colleen met Rags and they instantly formed this special connection.”
When Colleen returned home to Minnesota, Rags joined her. Pearson and Kivestu, captivated by the little dog, decided her story would make a good children’s book.
Kivestu is a former writer and associate editor for W Magazine, based in New York, and Pearson has a master’s degree in counseling psychology; both left their fields several years ago to raise their families. Neither had written a book before, but found the story of Rags to be so compelling that they wanted to share it with others.
“We had to surmise what kind of experiences Rags might have had when she was on her own,” says Kivestu, adding that the introduction of lively prairie dogs and a bullying llama are prime examples of their collective imagination at work.
The charming illustrations for the book were created by Minneapolis artist Sarah Thornton, who specializes in dog portraits.
According to Pearson, Thornton captured several images of Rags that figure prominently in the story: Rags standing on her hind legs begging for a piece of cheese (which she frequently does) and Rags spinning around in a circle, something that typically happens before breakfast and dinner, her “moments of reckless abandon,” as Kivestu calls them.
Rags to Riches has been nominated for a Minnesota Book Award and also received three “Mom’s Choice Awards” from a national organization that recognizes family-friendly media. The authors self-published their book through Edina-based Beaver’s Pond Press; it is also available as an iBook.
Pearson and Kivestu have taken Rags on several “field trips” to promote her story; they have participated in community events and attended book signings. While at the Bookcase of Wayzata, Rags sat contentedly on the lap of Dave Pearson, Carey’s husband, while the authors took turns reading from the text.
“She would lift her head and perk up her ears a little during the reading—she knew we were talking about her,” says Pearson.
The women also hope the story of Rags will help generate interest in fostering or adopting abandoned dogs and cats, who, like Rags, are just looking for someone to love them.
“We really believe Rags’ story is one of perseverance. It’s hopeful,” says Kivestu, who calls herself “a fairy godmother” to Rags. “It’s a story about finding that safe place and discovering a feeling of belonging.”
Pearson and Kivestu have plans for a second Rags book, with the possibility of more to follow. While they have been concentrating on promoting the book locally—and getting up to speed on marketing and social media—they are soon hoping to reach a larger audience, says Pearson.
“Who knows where Rags will go next?” asks Kivestu, gently petting the little celebrity contentedly curled up beside her on Pearson’s couch. “Her story is evolving.”
Save a dog like Rags
There are several local animal rescue organizations looking for people interested in learning more about adopting or fostering abandoned animals. Information about financial donations, in-kind donations or volunteer opportunities is also available on the each organization’s website. Here’s a list of local orgs to get you started:
Second Hand Hounds
4336 Shady Oak Rd., Minnetonka
Animal Humane Society
845 Meadow Lane North, Golden Valley
Other locations in St. Paul, Woodbury, Buffalo and Coon Rapids
Animal Ark Shelter
2600 Industrial Court, Hastings
Homeward Bound Dog Rescue
Contact via e-mail form on website for information