In 2000, Donna Luber of Mequon wrote a book in one sitting. After a few failed attempts to get it published, she put it in a drawer and didn’t think about it again.
The book was a children’s story about a man and his dog. Luber wrote it shortly after the events it described occurred.
It was July. Luber’s son Michael had let his dog, Addie, out to take care of some dog business. A fast-moving thunderstorm blew in, spooking the 12-year-old golden retriever. She bolted.
Michael could only call out to his beloved service dog from his electric wheelchair. A psychotherapist at Jewish Family Services, Michael was born with muscular dystrophy and has limited mobility.
“He would take the dog to work every day,” Donna said, adding that both at work and at home, “she was very helpful. She opened doors and she got things off the table for him.”
Along with Michael, his brother Scott – who, like his brother also has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair – and their parents mounted an all-out offensive to bring Addie home. They made posters and put them up throughout Fox Point and beyond. Area news outlets interviewed the family and ran stories that included Addie’s photo. A friend even rented a helicopter to see if Addie could be spotted from the air.
Then, eight days later, a mechanic was beneath a car when he noticed a bedraggled yellow dog lying under a nearby parked van. The dog was Addie.
The experience drove Luber to pick up pen and paper.
“I’m not a writer,” she said. “but I just thought that this whole episode would be great for kindergarten kids because that’s what I taught. And because it had a happy ending, I just sat down and scribbled it out.”
The story also had other elements and messages worth imparting, Luber said.
“It appeals to children who like dogs, there are children who know somebody in a wheelchair,” she said, “and it showed how a community can get together and help somebody in need.”
No publisher expressed interest. Luber moved on.
Then, two years ago, Michael and Scott told her they wanted to get the book published and requested the manuscript. Luber told them not to bother.
“I said, ‘That’s old news, nobody’s interested, forget it,’ and didn’t hear anything else until last year,” she said.
Mike, Scott and the rest of the family were gathered in Mequon.
“My granddaughter, who was six at the time, said ‘Grandma, can I read you a book I got at the library?’” Luber said.
Addison pulled out the book.
“I was shocked,” Luber said.
There was the story, exactly as Luber had written it, with one major difference. Her version hadn’t included pictures. But the book was filled with local artist Ryan Kennedy’s illustrations of Addie, Michael and the scenes she’d described.
“The boys gave him photographs, a lot of photographs,” she said, adding that “he did a very good job.”
The book, now in its second printing, is available at local independent bookstores and through Amazon.
Addie lived to be 14; Michael’s daughter Addison is named, in part, after his beloved service dog. Luber recounted an Addie story that occurred before the events in the book.
Addie used to travel with the family, and on one occasion, they went to Las Vegas. Scott was a poster child for Jerry Lewis’ Muscular Dystrophy campaign and the family had traveled there to meet with Lewis and take part in the telethon.
“We took Addie along (to the station) and Jerry Lewis got down on the floor and was playing with the dog,” she said, “and it was the cutest thing you’ve ever seen.”