If stories of rescued pups tugs on your heartstrings, this is just the book for you. 

Little Rock resident Grace Vest decided to share the stories of local rescue dogs and their owners in a new book titled "Home Sweet Home: Arkansas Rescue Dogs & Their Stories." The book, on sale now, is a beautiful nod to the incredible bond between humans and dogs. 

Vest is hosting the first official Book Launch PAWty for her book during First Thursday in Hillcrest on Nov. 2 from 6-9 p.m. The night will include the furry stars featured in the book, and you might even be able to get a PAWtograph or two. The party will include live music from The Salty Dogs, Loblolly ice cream and adoptable dogs from Rock City Rescue. A portion of every book sold during the evening will benefit Rock City Rescue. 

In anticipation of the upcoming PAWty, we chatted with Vest to learn about her inspiration for writing the book and what she hopes people will learn from the lovely stories of rescued dogs (and humans). 

 

Tell me about how this book came to be. What inspired you to share stories of Little Rock's rescue pups? 

Vest: When I was 19, I rescued a dog named Rascal and met a cute guy at the dog park with his rescue lab, Jake. Seven years later, after being friends and then dating, we were married. Jake became my sidekick and did everything with me. He sadly left us in November of 2015. I want our son, Townsend, to know how much Jake was loved, and to understand how the simplest things in life — like tail wags, excited sniffs and head scratches by the front door — can be the best, the things that turn a house into a "home sweet home" for rescued canines and rescued humans.

Jake inspired me to write this book and tell other Arkansas rescue dogs' stories. I was in Box Turtle talking to the owner, Emese Boone, and noticed a book they were selling. It was a book about shelter dogs nationwide. I thought to myself, why doesn't Arkansas have a book like this? So I was determined to make it happen. When I started this project in October of 2016, I couldn't have imagined that nearly 560 rescued humans would write in with stories of Arkansas dogs on my website and Facebook page.

It was so hard to pick from all the stories because I wanted to pick everyone. But from the start, I decided to pick 25. I think the stories in the book are a great representation of all the stories submitted. If someone decides to rescue, adopt, foster, volunteer or donate to a rescue organization/shelter, then I have done my job. I have partnered with a local rescue, Rock City Rescue, that I give proceeds to from the book events.


Tell me about the collaboration between you, your editor, your photographer and your creative director. What was that creative process like?

Vest: I love our team. I explained to them my passion and they backed my plan 100 percent. Erin Wood, co-owner of Et Alia Press, published the book. Et Alia specializes in books on local histories, emerging artists and health and wellness. Emese Boone introduced me to Erin, who was immediately interested in joining the project.

June Upton, my stepsister, is the creative director for Aromatique Inc. headquartered in Heber Springs. I knew I wanted the book to be clean, modern and happy (if that makes any sense). June is an amazing designer and has a talent that I never will in graphic design. We get along so well, so it was an easy choice picking her to design the book. Aromatique was generous enough to let her take the time to design the layout. When I first saw her design, I cried. I was in love. She is so talented and that shows in all the work that she does.

Whitney Bower is my photographer. She was such an easy choice because she is so talented and she loves dogs just as much as I do. She shared her dog's story, Lucie. I knew I had to get her on board. We have spent many hours together dangling treats and barking at dogs to get the perfect shot.


How long did you work on the book before you published it?

Vest: A year.


What kind of feedback have you received after publishing the book?

Vest: I am so beyond humbled by all of the feedback we have gotten. All the local stores and people in Arkansas have had nothing but sweet things to say to us. I am beyond grateful for the dog's owners in the book. They are such amazing people. In my eyes, they are the heroes. They are such a great representation of rescuers in Arkansas and the U.S. The book has only been out for a couple of weeks and it has already sold over 250 copies. I can't wait to plan more events and be able to donate/volunteer at more rescue organizations.

 

What do you hope people take away from "Home Sweet Home" when they finish reading? 

Vest: I hope it encourages people to get more involved with their local shelter and rescue organizations. I hope it makes people think twice when they are driving and see a stray dog walking down the side of the road. All it takes is one person to stop to change the life of a dog forever. Dogs don't care what race we are, who we vote for or what we do for a living. They're most interested in what's in our hearts. You can't beat the excitement a dog gives you after being gone at work all day. A wagging tail and a lick on the face is sometimes all I need after a long day. I truly believe if we showed as much love as dogs do, the world would be a better place.