By Nina Huang
When I adopted my first dog, an ex-racing greyhound named Apollo, I had no idea our relationship would eventually inspire me to leave the PhD program I was in at Harvard University to pursue my lifelong passion as an artist, and to write and illustrate my first picture book, My Apollo, now active in a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for publication.
My Apollo is a 40-page hand-illustrated picture book about a small boy named Briar and a rescue dog named Apollo, and how they came together to help each other heal and regain trust in life again. Briar is from a newly single-father family, and has been struggling in school with falling grades and social anxiety. Apollo was bred to run races for gamblers, and by the time he was at a greyhound shelter, he had developed a deep distrust of humans and a fearful orientation to life.
The rest of the story follows these two lovable characters as they develop a deep bond and help change each other for the better. This sweet and uplifting story celebrates the tremendous healing that occurs on both ends of the leash in the profound human-canine bond. It is a perfect read for animal-lovers and parents who want to nourish their children’s relationship with animals.
The plot of My Apollo is loosely based on the rehabilitation of my own rescue greyhound. When we first brought Apollo home, he was scared of many things, like loud sounds, sudden movements, and physical contact. He refused to get on the couch or the bed. At 2 years old, Apollo didn’t understand life outside of the racing track at all. He had never played with toys. He didn’t know what treats were. He didn’t get cars, or stairs, or the game of fetch.
Over the span of 9 months, and with patience and training, Apollo became much more confident, playful, and secure. He now takes pleasure in chasing after a ball, earning a treat, and taking up all the room on the bed. Witnessing Apollo’s transformation and willingness to embrace life’s new vistas inspired me deeply. If Apollo could let go of his fears and past traumas, surely I can take small steps toward my heart’s truest desires.
Within a year of adopting Apollo, I officially withdrew from the PhD program, and launched an art business creating vibrant and impressionistic custom animal portraits for fellow animal-lovers. I also immediately started writing and illustrating My Apollo, for as soon as I committed myself as a career artist, the plot of the book came to me almost in completion. Just like that.
My hope is that My Apollo will raise awareness of greyhound racing in the US and around the world, and the need for retired racers to find loving forever homes. I also hope that the book will show children the value of rescuing animals as a loving alternative to purchasing them.
But above all, I hope that book will be an uplifting and joyful experience for the reader. The message of the book is essentially a message of hope and healing, that no matter what card life has dealt us (humans and dogs alike), the natural momentum of life is toward more light, more love, and more joy.
If funded, I will be donating $1 for every book sold to greyhound rescue, as well as 10% of the first run (200 books) to animal shelters, children’s hospitals, and libraries across the US.
The Kickstarter campaign to bring My Apollo to reality is now active until Nov.26th, and we have already raised nearly 70% of the funding, with still 3 weeks remaining. We have some beautiful rewards planned for our benefactors, including the hardbound book, note cards, art prints, and custom pet portraits.
To join us in our Kickstarter campaign to publish My Apollo: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2028755627/my-apollo-an-artful-story-book-of-hope-and-healing
Nina Huang is a contemporary animal artist based in Portland, Oregon. A long-term vegan, animal-lover, and spiritualist, she creates vibrant and joyful animal paintings, and offers custom pet portraits that capture both the animal’s likeness and essence. To see more of her animal paintings, please visit: www.ninahuangart.com/paintings.