Piki Goes to College by Joan M. Hellquist
Spotting a dog can be an unexpected highlight while running errands or going out on the town. And when you’re in public spaces, whether in a shop or on the sidewalk, there’s a chance you and your family will spot a service dog with its owner. The question is, how do you communicate to young children that these dogs are not to be bothered while they do their job?
In Piki Goes to College (Bear Foot Printing), author-illustrator Joan M. Hellquist gives an inside look at what it means to be a service dog. Through Piki’s own eyes, children learn about the important role service dogs play in society and the hard work that goes into training them. We got a chance to talk with the author herself about the truth behind the story.
Q: Is there something in particular that drew you to the world of children’s books?
A: I love children and have been around them in different settings for many years. Combining stories about and for children along with another love of mine, animals, and being able to illustrate them myself made children’s books an obvious choice.
Q: What first motivated you to become a Service Dog Instructor/Trainer?
A: I’ve had at least one dog my entire adult life and for the past twenty years I have been dealing with some physical challenges. I heard about a couple nearby who not only trained Service Dogs, but also taught Service Dog Instructor/Trainers. They had also developed their own method which I really liked. To take part in their program, I had to train my own Service Dog. So Piki and I learned together and it was a wonderful experience.
Q: What’s it like, writing the book from the perspective of an animal?
A: It is great fun! Anyone who has a close relationship with a dog can usually tell by the look on the dog’s face, what position they are in or what they are doing with their ears, exactly what the dog is thinking. The dog can read your looks and body language and know how you are feeling and what is going on with you too.
Q: What do you hope that readers take away from Piki Goes to College?
A: The obvious things are who can have a Service Dog, what can they do for their person, where they go that pets can’t go and what you should and shouldn’t do when around a Service Dog. Hopefully they learn too, how pretending your pet dog is a trained Service Dog is disrespectful to many people. But the fun thing I hope they take away is that just like us, even dogs learn at a different rate, enjoy some things and dislike others and that they easily read our emotions.
Q: What can you tell us about the second book in the Piki Adventure Series.
A: Piki’s second book is called Piki Goes Flying. In it Piki tells about the first time she flew on a plane with me. We practiced where she would need to be during the flight, what she was allowed to do and not do, how she was to behave, a whole bunch of rules (from the US Dept. of Transportation) and then tells the reader exactly what happened. As she tells her version of that day, she openly speaks about how she felt about what we had to do, what she liked and didn’t like, about getting a special gift and translates a lot of flying vocabulary for her young readers. Yes, Piki has her own opinions about the world around her and isn’t afraid of sharing them with her friends.
Q: Bonus question! What’s a fun fact about yourself?
A: I was born and grew up in Summit, New Jersey. For years my brother, Barre, and I had read that actor, Meryl Streep was born in Overlook Hospital in Summit, the same one where we had been born. This was actually verified by Meryl, herself, when brother who had permission to collect plants from a pond on the land owned by Meryl and her husband. One day he was there and couldn’t find the caretaker to let him know that he was there, so Barre went to the main house, knocked on the door and Meryl answered wearing a tee shirt and jeans. And after she said to go ahead with his collecting, what did he ask her? “Is it true that you were born in Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey? She said, yes she was. He told me that story just after it had happened, knowing how jealous I’d be. Well, yes, I was very jealous then and still am!
I missed being with her there in the newborn nursery by about nine months.
About Joan M. Hellquist:
Joan M. Hellquist was born in Summit, NJ and left to attend The University of New Hampshire. She’s lived in many states, got two more college diplomas and worked in healthcare while continuing her artwork. She loves to travel both domestically and in other countries.
The two constants in her life have been her love for children and animals. She believes children and animals are kindred spirits. They are innocent, without baggage, full of unconditional love and always tell you the truth. She doesn’t have any children of her own but has worked with many children in healthcare, mostly as a Bereavement Facilitator at the NM Children’s Grief Center.
She’s always been a dog lover and enjoys writing about her adventures with her service dog, Piki. Piki Goes to College is the story of her training to become a service dog. The second Piki book has just come out, Piki Goes Flying. There will be one more book in the Piki series.
Publish Date: 4/15/2021
Genre: Children’s Books
Author: Joan M. Hellquist
Page Count: 38 pages
Publisher: Bear Foot Printing