Mother-of-two and dog trainer Nadine Steele reckons she’d like to be the next Lynley Dodd, creator of one of our most beloved fictional canines, Hairy Maclary.
Just like the popular children’s series author, Nadine writes about our four-legged friends. But unlike Hairy Maclary, her tales are inspired by tragedy.
“I’m disturbed whenever I read newspaper stories about dogs who have attacked and seriously injured people, especially when children are involved,” the Rotorua mother tells. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare and a real tragedy. Dog attacks are preventable.”
Inspired by her sons, Bradley (12) and Jacob (10), as well as friends who have been bitten by their own dogs, Nadine (37) has written and self-published a book that teaches children how to be safe around dogs.
The devoted mum, also a border terrier breeder, says she would be devastated if her children were seriously harmed by one of their pets.
“I have a real passion for educating people on how to live with dogs in a correct and safe way. It’s important children learn how to be responsible and safe while enjoying the company of dogs they share their lives with.”
Look Like Luke is a rhyming story that helps children learn how to read a dog’s body language, from being able to tell when they are happy, to when they are grumpy.
The cute puppy in the book is based on Nadine’s border terrier Luke, who she trained to perform for class groups and to add a real-life element to the education programme she has established in the Bay of Plenty region.
“The body languages presented by Luke [in the book] are the most common, everyday emotions dogs have,” tells Nadine. “Plus, the book uses a rhyme structure so that it is easily recounted by children.
I hope that they will recite it at home and educate their friends and other family members.”
Nadine believes adults need to act as guardians whenever children and dogs are together.
“It’s important to recognise the early warning signals all dogs exhibit to show that they are not comfortable with certain situations. Only then can we keep our children and dogs safe,” explains Nadine.
Her own passion for dogs first developed when she was a child living in Taranaki.
“I grew up on a dry-stock farm, where I saw how hard our dogs worked,” she recalls. “The greatest thing I learned from them is how much joy they give us. They are also very loyal – there’s nothing like the true loyalty a dog gives its owner. “
This passion led Nadine to her career as a dog trainer. She now has her own business as well as a weekly newspaper column sharing her knowledge of our four-legged friends.
“My job involves one-on-one consultations with dog owners to address their specific training needs,” she tells. “Sometimes I have to help owners with serious issues, like a constantly aggressive dog.”
Writing a book is new territory for the busy mother, but she has enjoyed the challenge, especially after getting positive feedback from her readers.
“The book involved lots of research – most of it has been driven by what I’ve seen and experienced,” Nadine tells. “I’m an avid reader, so writing is something I feel comes naturally to me.“
The resource book, which can be used in schools and homes, had a small print run of only a few hundred copies. Nadine is hoping to expand and release a second book in the series.
“When people have been bitten by a dog, the feedback they give me is that they don’t know why it happened,” she reveals. “People need to understand what was going on before the bite – to see the warning signals. The more people get that message, the more we can avoid these tragedies.”
As Nadine thinks about how her book can change people’s lives, she glances over to her two sons playing with the four dogs who are a part of their family. Her children’s smiles and the wagging tails of their pets remind the loving mum of the many reasons she was motivated to write her first book.
“My children have inspired me and they are always encouraging me. They have also inherited my love for dogs – and that’s a great feeling!”
For more information about the book Look Like Luke, visit facebook.com/dogsafetylooklikeluke