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Topangas Rescue Dog Stars in Book, A New Job for Pearl
July 1, 2010 -
Once upon a time, Pearl, now a three-year-old, 62-pound Labrador retriever, was a shelter puppy dumped off at a shelter in Portola, Calif., because she was hyperactive and kept running away.
As luck would have it, that hyperactivity and her willingness to please were what tagged her as a candidate for the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, where after six months of training, she moved to Topangas Fire Station 69 as a rescue dog with her handler, L.A. County Fire Capt. Ron Huretski.
Now, shes the subject of a 24-page book, A New Job for Pearl, written by teaching volunteer Allyn Lee and exuberantly illustrated by second-grade teacher Connie Forslinds students at Rancho Romero Elementary School in the Contra Costa County town of Alamo, Calif.
Lee got the idea for the book after spotting media reports about the dogs of the CA-TF2 team in
PHOTO BY JOHN SIPPLE
All of Topanga has a proprietary interest in and love for Pearl and appreciates her and her handler, Capt. Ron Huretski, as the team whose first mission was to help find victims of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Now, Pearl’s story may not only save other shelter dogs, but give them a job, too.
Haiti. The search dogs fit neatly with a lesson on wolves shed just taught, says Lee, a former zoo docent who has taught a weekly animal-science lesson at Rancho Romero for 16 years.
Im always looking for news stories that say how important animals are to us, she says.
Lee had written two other books with Forslinds classes, telling made-up stories about animals that aided people after the Indonesian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
Those were fiction, but Pearls story was real. Searching the Internet, she picked Pearl as the books protagonist, not just because of what she did in Haiti, but also to focus attention on a shelter dog that could easily have been euthanized if it hadnt been rescued.
I really wanted the story to be about a shelter animal, she says and phoned Huretski, by then back from Haiti. By April, the book was finished and donations covered the printing costs.
The owners and several agents of People & Properties, Sothebys International Realty, sponsored the book, enabling 100 percent of the proceeds to be donated to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, based in Ojai, Calif. (searchdogfoundation.org).
Huretski was stunned when he received a copy of the finished book. I was expecting a bunch of pictures stapled together, he recalls. I thought, Holy smokes, this is really fantastic.
The book sells for $10 and can be ordered through the schools website. Their goal is to raise $10,000, the amount needed to sponsor training of a search dog.
Forslind, who is retiring this week after 39 years, says that because her students had never seen Pearl, it was only when Capt. Huretski brought Pearl to meet the class, that their storybook heroine became real.
They were able to see that this really is a true story, Forslind says. My students were just thrilled.