Rescue dogs star in children's book

November 15, 2009 (CHICAGO) Brandy and Val are the stars of Real Dogs with Real Tales. Their books are designed for children with different abilities.

From down-on-their-luck pups to two of the happiest doggies in the world, Brandy and Val are living well in the northwest suburbs.

Six years ago, Ilene Fine got Brandy.

"It was her third home and they original found her in a kill shelter. She's a Labrador Retriever and Vizsla mix. She has a lot of Vizsla-like energy, a lot of happy personality traits like a lab," Fine said.

In 2006, she wanted a second dog so they found Val, who survived Hurricane Katrina.

"At the time we got him, was only 40 lbs. He had malady of skin disorders, and he was obviously grossly under weight. He was really sad looking. His eyes haunted me and I said to my husband, 'if you want a second dog, that's the one I want to adopt,'" Fine said.

The idea of Real Dogs with Real Tales started by accident.

"I have a friend who has a son in Denver, and he wanted to meet the dogs, and I couldn't bring the dogs to Denver. So I compiled a bunch of photographs and found a little scrap book that looked like that, and I brought it to him, and it turns out that he really loved the books he really loved the dogs, and he is also affected with Prader Willi Syndrome," Fine said. "Because Zachary has motor skill deficits and he was able to manipulate the pages easily, he could also carry the book, because it wasn't heavily bound with the big binding. That's where the rings came into play."

So far three books have been published.

"The layout is a custom design. There aren't many board books out there that have the tab pages, and the ones that do are not nearly as sturdy, so they tend not to last as long. The books are also bound by the colored rings, which are also primary colors that children can relate to. The photographs in the books are all real photographs," Fine said.

In addition to the books, Fine has created stuffed dogs that resemble Brandy and Val.

"I'm actually in the process of lowering them to $11.95 and with the stuffed toy $14.95," Fine said. A percentage of the profits from the book is donated to shelters and animal rescue organizations, and this is just the beginning; Fine has a plans to expand.

"I have Brandy and Val stay healthy where we talk about hygiene issues. I have pictures of them on the scale at the vet pictures of them having their teeth brushed," Fine said. "Brandy and Val do errands very routine things that children do every week with their moms and dads. ...I'd like to do Brandy and Val take a vacation, but we haven't quite gotten that yet," Fine said.

More information can be found at Fine's website,

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