Friday, March 5, 2021

Tamara Martin, Children's Literature Author

Tamara Martin, Children's Literature Author

I met Tamara Martin through a mutual friend, Carol Lambert. Carol, an advocate for abandoned dogs, called me one day and said, "Gina, I have a good friend who has written a very good children's book about a dog's life. The illustrations are by Ernest John, a Navajo who is passionate about dogs as well." Long story short, on January 26, Bluebird: Dog of the Navajo Nation was launched.

Martin is co-founder of Good Dog Rez-Q, a non-profit organization that helps abandoned animals in the Navajo Nation and surrounding areas. The story is a common one - dogs are dropped off and abandoned by their owner(s) who no longer have the means to care for the dog. It's an issue that affects communities throughout the United States. I met up with Tamara and asked her about her new book, her non-profit Good Dog Rez-Q, and the dogs in her life.

Welcome, Tamara!

GM: What is the premise for your new children's book Bluebird: Dog of the Navajo Nation
TM: I’ve always loved to read but never felt pulled towards writing. That all changed when I moved from Athens, Ohio to Ganado, Arizona on the Navajo Nation. I saw how poverty and neglect of a human population affected the animals of those people. Good people wanted good things for their animals but didn’t know where to start. This book shows the transitions of a young dog in a land where there are few resources for animals. There is neither a sad nor a happy ending. Just another abandoned dog waiting for help. 

GM: The illustration are beautiful. What was the collaboration process between you and the illustrator, Ernest John?
TM: Haha. I wrote one sentence for Ernest; one sentence for each drawing. I wanted him to use his own life experiences to make each page his own. For example, I’d write “people rushing around, talking on cell phones” and Ernest drew what that sentence meant to him. His illustration shows a Navajo woman in a pick-up truck, driving and talking on her phone, oblivious to a skinny dog standing by the roadside. Or I’d write “night at sheep camp - all is quiet” and Ernest drew a breathtaking scene of a rural Navajo home at night, surrounded by looming mesas. He drew the night sky and moonlight. He drew the animals safe in their corrals and a little dog guarding it all. Ernest always drew the perfect scene for the one sentence I gave him.

GM: Emotions can be felt in each illustration. I have studied them for awhile now and every time I look at them, I derive something new. Dogs seem to be your passion. How many dogs do you own?
TM: We have all ages and sizes, from a 14 year old, 3 pound, toothless Chihuahua to a young Shepherd mix named “Sally” who goes hiking with us. Five dogs total. Because we do foster care and get to really know each dog, we’ve accumulated what I call “misfits”. These are dogs we’ve decided were not adoptable. Maybe they are very old and frail or have seizures. Or they don’t trust anyone but us. Or they have a skin condition that makes them “unattractive”. These are our 5 beloved dogs, lol. The Misfits. 
GM: Your book benefits your non-profit Good Dog Rez-Q. Is it a typical dog shelter? Does the shelter see a lot of indigenous dog breeds and are they usually re-homed?
TM: Gina - we don’t have a shelter. We are a group of foster homes who work with shelters and other rescue groups to find homes for unwanted animals. 
Our book hopes to benefit dogs who are not yet safely in shelters or with foster-based rescues. These are the dogs found all over the United States, standing by busy highways, abandoned at convenience stores or wandering, injured, sick or pregnant.  Many, if not most, of these dogs can be brought to safety. Our non-profit group vaccinates, alters and feeds these rescued animals in our own homes, believing that home care is best for dogs who have been left with nothing.  
I guess you could say that there is an indigenous Navajo dog called a “Sheepdog”. These dogs could resemble any breed but the  finest Sheepdogs are said to have Great Pyrenees lineage. In the book, the main character, Bluebird, is a Pitbull mix and is an excellent livestock guardian. 
Any stray dog has the possibility of being a loving family pet. The key to this transformation appears to be the amount of human handling that dog received as a puppy. Loved puppy = friendly adult dog = adoptable family pet.
GM: Stray and lost dogs seem to be a problem in every community. What can we do as a community to solve this issue? Is there a solution?
TM: The stray dog problem persists because our shelters are full and because there is limited access to low-cost spay/neuter clinics in rural areas. So puppies continue to be born. And people still abandon their city dogs in “the country” - areas which are least prepared to care for strays. Small communities enact laws but rarely have the personnel to enforce them.
I think the best education comes from parents, leading their children by example on the subject of animal care. Teachers, social media and peer pressure will also bring, if not solutions, then a continuing impetus to provide a better life for animals.
GM: As far as the writing process, do you have advice for novice writer's and those looking to tell their story?
TM: Find a friendly publisher, haha. And good, truthful friends to proof-read! 
GM: What is your favorite children's book/children's literature author?
TM: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. I think I had learned to read well enough as a child that I didn’t struggle with the words. I became totally immersed in that story and told my parents; “It’s the best book I’ve ever read.” 
GM: List 10 things your fans may not know about you...
TM: 1. My socks never match
2. I’ve had jobs as a boilermaker welder, a vet tech, a registered nurse and a massage therapist
3. I have 5 dogs, 7 cats, a horse, a llama and a donkey
4. Our group calls references and makes home visits before any of our rescued dogs are adopted
5. My favorite dog breed is Navajo “Sheepdog”
6. If I think of more, I’ll send a separate email

Connect with Tamara...
facebook - Good Dog Rez-Q

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