Two years ago, a three-year-old goldendoodle named Dozer bolted from his Maryland backyard when runners in a half-marathon benefiting a cancer center zipped by. Instead of heading for the hills, the lanky yellow dog joined the race, crossing the finish line at two hours and 14 minutes.
Dozer not only found his way home, but he also received a medal and national media attention for his run. He has since helped raised thousands of dollars for the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, which sponsored the race.
Now, Dozer is getting his own picture book: Sleeping Bear Press will publish Dozer’s Run in fall 2014. “Who doesn’t love a good dog story?” said Barb McNally, senior children’s editor at Sleeping Bear. “We’re all animal lovers here, and animal stories have always done well for us. What made this even more intriguing was the fact that it was a true story.”
That’s what caught the eye of Jen Rofe, a literary agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, who, with colleague Caryn Wiseman, brokered the deal. Rofe saw Dozer’s story on a national news broadcast.
“I said, ‘That is darling and that needs to be a picture book,’” she told PW. “Here was an animal who accidentally did something inspiring and became an inspiration to people who are raising money for cancer research.”
Rofe immediately contacted Rosana Panza, Dozer’s owner, and signed the rights to the story. With the help of colleagues, she reached out to Debbie Levy, author of The Year of Goodbyes and other nonfiction titles for children, to co-write the book with Panza, a first-time author.
As it turns out, Levy lives near Panza, and has been able to spend quality time with Dozer. “He is just all heart and enthusiasm,” Levy said.
Author and subject share another connection: Levy is a breast cancer survivor, and friends of hers founded the Greenebaum Cancer Center, the organization benefitted by the half-marathon Dozer ran. “So I felt it was meant to be for me to write Dozer’s story,” she said.
For the book, Levy focused on what motivated Dozer to leave the safety of his backyard and join a bunch of strangers doing good. “I wanted to bring out his curiosity, because it gave him an adventure and it also got him in trouble,” she said. “But it all worked out.”
Now the hunt is on for an illustrator. “You could go several different directions with this book,” McNally said, listing the possibilities as oil, watercolor, even photography. “Realistic or soft and cute, even a little whimsical.”
That last direction would suit Dozer fine, said owner Panza. “Dozer is a special dog because his sensitivity, kindness, and happy energy are so powerful. I hope the book will show people how miracles can happen anytime, anywhere, and through anything. His happy little run turned into a huge miracle.”