CHARLES KONG SOO
Every pet owner has experienced the loss of a cherished companion.
Unfortunately, this is a harsh reality for many animals, especially dogs as their life spans are much shorter than their humans.
However, new children's book author Vic Susanna Surajdeen has channelled her grief over the loss of Heidi, her pet Boxer companion–which she described as her elevation and reason for crossing over the rainbow bridge into creativity–into her children's Book titled "The Adventures Of Heidi The Boxer Pup!" in the first week of December.
The book serves multiple purposes–she found that writing and revisiting the memories of Heidi's puppy days to be uplifting and therapeutic for her, she realised that her life and the way she embraced it can be potentially inspiring to other pet owners whose dogs had died and to help them cope, encourage people and children to show compassion to animals and adopt, and if sales of the book go well, a portion of the proceeds will go to animal shelters.
Speaking to the Sunday Guardian, Surajdeen said "It's something I wanted to do a few years now to write about Heidi because she's a character, fun, goofy and my best friend. The problem was I delayed doing it, then she passed away in April earlier. I had a hard time dealing with her death, she almost made it to her 13th birthday.
Heidi the Boxer.
"I couldn't even look at her photographs or videos, I had so many of Heidi from birth, I was visiting her from day one, we had this bond or connection from very early on. Out of nine pups, she was the one that gravitated to me and vice versa.
"Around August I saw a picture of her as a puppy and something about it spoke to me."
She said she got a notebook and started to write down her experiences and she discovered that she was dealing with her grief a lot better by writing it down.
Documenting all those happy stories about Heidi, interacting with her and having experiences that were like an adventure to her, lent themselves to the title of the book.
Surajdeen said that was where the premise came from her trying to deal with her grief; the writing was therapy in a way.
The author shared that the people who initially bought her book messaged her to say how much they enjoyed it. While she was under the impression that they had bought the book for a child to read, that wasn't always the case.
Surajdeen received great feedback, Heidi just embodied love and perhaps the way she approached it and the engaging and entertaining way the book was written contributed to the positive reviews.
She said she did a reading for a group of children at St Joseph Presbyterian Church and they received a gift bag with the book, crayons, and snacks.
The 48-page 9"x11.5" book was a little larger than the average children's book and that was intentional on her part.
Vic Susanna Surajdeen at a reading of her book for a group of children at St Joseph Presbyterian Church with her niece Amelia Surajdeen.
Surajdeen explained that when she told people that she wanted to do a traditional physical book, they suggested that she put it online, do a Kindle book, and make it digital instead.
But she wanted children to engage all their tactile senses when they pick up the book, to touch the cover, feel and even smell the paper pages, listen to the sound as they flip them and read it and make them want to come back.
Because many children were online during the pandemic, Surajdeen felt the art of reading a traditional book was being lost and the idea of a big book would be appealing to them.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, many people were also abandoning their pets as they were unable to care for or feed them. This is why Surajdeen was hoping children, as well as adults, would foster that love for pets even if they don't have pets themselves or they may want to adopt an animal by reading such a book.
If sales of the book go well, she would like to donate a part of the money to animal shelters and animal welfare organisations such as both chapters in Trinidad and Tobago of the T&T Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (TTSPCA), Animals Alive and other NGOs.
Surajdeen said there was a certain generosity and love about Heidi that would envelop you and this was her way to honour her.
She said Heidi narrates the book and takes children through some of her days, and each experience seems like an adventure.
Vic Susanna Surajdeen chilling out with Heidi the Boxer.
The book is interactive, she will stop and ask a question or two. Children can respond verbally or write in the book and Heidi learns a lesson on each of her days and shares this with the reader.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Shaun Riaz who captured her essence perfectly.
A colouring book titled "The Adventures of Heidi The Boxer Pup and Friends!" accompanied the book as part of the Christmas package.
She was also on a drive to visit children (homes or camps) to do a reading for the kids ages four to about 11.
Surajdeen added that along with the reading, they will leave the storybook with the home and each child at the reading will be gifted with Heidi's colouring book and a pack of crayons.
She said ideally she would love to give each child their own storybook but this will require funding.
The book costs $100 VAT inclusive but does not include the colouring books.
An individual or business wishing to sponsor 20 books will pay $2,000 and this will include the colouring books. They can also thank the sponsors within the book.
Surajdeen shared that she received good news in December when a friend of the family offered to purchase 40 books so they can gift them to their Alma Mater at Vance River Primary School. She was also allowed to do a reading for them.
"I'm very honoured to do this. It's a place I've never had the opportunity to visit," Surajdeen said.
"I'll be channelling Heidi's spirit in her love for adventure, visiting new places and making new friends."
For more information on the book, contact firstname.lastname@example.org