It’s February, and love is in the air…and that love extends to our pets, too. Any dog owner can attest to the fact that love runs deep for man’s (and woman’s and child’s) best friends, and in her books about Zuggy, a pug, Colorado author Jean Alfieri shows nothing but the requisite devotion.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, we sat down with Alfieri to talk about her new book, Zuggy the Pug: Six Tales, and one of the most faithful loves a lucky human can experience: the joy that our funny, furry canine companions can bring.
Westword: You recently read from your book of pug poetry, Zuggy the Pug: Six Tales, at Children’s Hospital Colorado on World Read Aloud Day. Can you talk a little about World Read Aloud Day, and what inspired you to celebrate it at Children’s Hospital?
Jean Alfieri: I discovered World Read Aloud Day a few months ago. Their mission is to strengthen children and communities through the power of their own stories. I immediately wanted to participate. Having partnered with the Children’s Hospital in Denver twice before to provide Zuggy the Pug readings and distribute books on different holidays, I thought this would be a great “off-holiday” way to offer a reading. I was delighted to introduce my latest Zuggy book, and it was a wonderful way to celebrate the event!
Tell us a little about the book. As you mentioned, this isn’t your first Zuggy book. What others are there?
There are three other self-published Zuggy the Pug coloring books: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each is an easy-reader rhymer, with pictures to color and interactive puzzles. The stories are all based on true events, because you can’t make this stuff up.
My latest, Zuggy the Pug: Six Tales is the first fully illustrated, independently published book. It's a collection of six short-story poems starring that often mischievous and always adorable pug.
Speaking of the pug…how did you come to write about Zuggy?
There is just something irresistible about that smooshy face and that sweet-stubborn pug personality. I’ve been blessed with caring for different breeds of dogs, and I love them all, but with the pug, every day truly is an adventure! To not capture the stories would be a shame.
As a kid, my first favorite book was Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells, which is a short story poem. To tell the Zuggy stories this way feels natural. When I talk about Zuggy, I gush. There aren’t enough words to describe him and his antics. Using poetry to tell the stories tightens it up. It has to be the right choice of words, in the right order and the perfect pace, so they are entertaining without being too wordy.
And Zuggy is a rescue dog, right? Can you tell us a little about the rescue programs, and why you believe in them so strongly?
Yes, Zuggy was rescued. My husband and I currently have three vintage puppies in our fur-family: a thirteen-year-old boxer-beagle mix named Sweet Lady Jane, an eleven-year-old toothless Chihuahua mix named Sir Reginald, and our eight-year-old precious pug.
All of them were adopted from the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. It’s an organization dedicated to creating a community where animals and people are cared for and valued. I believe in it strongly, because the world could use more grace and compassion. Being a volunteer there, I can see this mission in action.
So do you consider yourself a writer who has a pug, or a pug lover who uses writing to express her devotion to a special member of the family?
What an interesting question! I describe my website as being the place “where pugs and poetry collide.” Since all I’ve written for publication in the past two years are Zuggy stories (and the collection has grown to over fifty poems now!), I’d have to say I’m a pug lover who uses writing to express my devotion. That isn’t to say that some day I may have something different to offer, but this has been such a fun journey. I feel like I’m archiving and sharing not only all of the treasured stories of our beloved pet, but of our family history.
You mention on your website that your 2019 goal is to be on Good Morning America with Michael Strahan. Why is that the goal for the coming year?
It’s fantastically ridiculous! I believe that if you’re going to dream, you should dream big. I want to appear on GMA because the possibility is SO FAR out there! Michael is a role model, proving anyone can reinvent themselves. This year, I am walking away from a 28-year career in corporate America to author and promote Zuggy the Pug. I am aware of the roadblocks: Children’s-book writing is the most challenging; poetry isn’t a popular format; the market is flooded with dog stories, etc. I’m still willing to give it all I’ve got. And Michael is the inspiration.
Does Zuggy have any plans for Valentine's Day? A special significant-other pug somewhere expecting a heart-shaped box full of McNuggets?
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There are always more escapades! I have a Valentine’s Day poem in progress, but you’ll have to look for the finished version next year! (Sneak preview: His love interest is actually the neighbor’s poodle...those heart-breakers!)
And what about future Zuggy adventures?
Currently, I’m composing a new collection of poems for a book titled Zuggy the Pug: Tricks and Treats. I’m in discussion with the Humane Society to possibly debut the book at their annual Pawtoberfest this fall. If it works out, all proceeds from the sales at that event will be donated to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region.
Find out more about Alfieri and Zuggy on zuggythepug.com.