In the September issue of Chickadee, we published the story “Teacher’s Pet” by Jeff Szpriglas and illustrated by Sandra Dumais. Did you know that the author, Jeff, based the dog Ruff-Ruff on his own pet? We wanted to know more so we asked him some questions. Read on!
Chickadee: What is your dog’s name? What kind of dog is she?
Jeff: Her name is Padmé; she is a poodle, and she was definitely named after a Star Wars character.
Chickadee: Did Padmé go to doggie school too?
Jeff: We got her during the lockdown portion of the pandemic, so there were no in-person dog training schools available to us. We did learn from some online videos, and my wife Danielle (who also writes books with me) is a lifelong dog owner.
Chickadee: Does Padmé also love to chase squirrels and grab hats?
Jeff: Yes. And Yes! She also likes to grab mittens and shoes and then play the chasing game with us. It’s delightful.
Chickadee: How else are Padmé and Ruff-Ruff similar? How are they different?
Jeff: Fun fact: I actually DO call Padmé “Ruff Ruff” and will even talk to her and ask her questions and then I’ll answer in a “dog voice.” My family does a good job of putting up with me when I do this. But back to your question, Padmé and Ruff Ruff both aim to please their owners, and they’re very happy dogs. Padmé has not yet learned how to roll over, but she’s not old so I can still teach her new tricks. In theory.
Chickadee: What did you love most about writing this story?
Jeff: It was really a way for me to show how much I love my dog. I grew up really fearful of dogs, and I definitely DID NOT WANT a dog. The cats and I were just fine. But I really warmed up to Padmé, especially on our long walks together, and our attempts at running together, or when she turns into “Dog Pillow” (the cats don’t go for that sort of thing). I wanted the story to capture what I think goes through Padmé’s head on a given day, I think I achieved that.
Thanks for sharing more about Padmé with us, Jeff! We love the story. Listen to Jeff read the story here: owlkids.com/listen