We are pleased to have another fellow Canadian guest for our Author Interview Series. It seems Charmaine Hammond wears many hats: author, Professional Speaker, and Corporate Trainer. I only know her as the author of Toby, the Pet Therapy Dog, and His Hospital Friends. I am intrigued to find out about all the other interesting things Charmaine Hammond does and about the other books in Toby, the Pet Therapy Dog series.
Charmaine Hammond’s book, Toby, the Pet Therapy Dog, and His Hospital Friends, is written for children 4 yrs. and up. The 36 page picture book is a great book to read aloud with young child who can follow and enjoy the wonderful illustrations by Rose Anne Prevec that transform the author’s ideas to life. Older kids will be able to read the book alone and the detailed illustrations will help with the comprehension.The caregiver and the child will have lots of opportunities to stop and discuss real life situations that are similar to the topics and illustrations in this book. My review of this book is here.
Lorna: Welcome to our Author Interview Series. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Charmaine Hammond >> My first career was in the justice field, I was a Correctional Officer, which ignited my passion to pursue a career in dispute resolution. I went back to school, got a Master’s Degree in Conflict Analysis & Management, started my own business in 1997, and was a mediator in corporate disputes. My secret passion was speaking and training, which is what I do now, I am a professional speaker and corporate trainer helping businesses build inspired and resilient teams. We adopted a dog Toby, a Chesapeake Bay retriever when he was five years old. We soon discovered that Toby came with his own set of issues – house wrecking behaviours that included opening and emptying closets, rearranging furniture, turning on taps, and breaking toilet tank lids. We learned that Toby was a dog who needed a purpose, a job. Toby became a pet assisted therapy dog, volunteering in a mental health hospital, and it was this experience that inspired me to write. My story Volunteering from the Heart was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul- What I learned from the Dog.
Lorna: Toby, the Pet Therapy Dog, and His Hospital Friends is based on the true story from the book and movie, On Toby’s Terms which is about when you and your husband adopted Toby, a five-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever. Tell us about the book and movie On Toby’s Terms and how it led to writing a children’s picture book?
Charmaine Hammond >> On Toby’s Terms is published by Bettie Youngs Books, when my husband and I adopted Toby, a five-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever, we figured he might need some adjusting time, but they certainly didn’t count on what he’d do in the meantime. Soon after he entered our lives and home, Toby proved to be a holy terror that routinely opened and emptied the hall closet, turned on water taps, pulled and ate things from the bookshelves, sat for hours on end in the sink, and spent his days rampaging through the house. Oddest of all was his penchant for locking himself in the bathroom, and then pushing the lid of the toilet off the tank, smashing it to pieces. After a particularly disastrous encounter with the knife-block in the kitchen— and when Chris discovered Toby’s bloody paw prints on the phone—they decided Toby needed professional help. Little did we know what we would discover about this dog.
On Toby’s Terms has been a best seller, won an honorable mention at the Hollywood Book festival and was runner up in the Indie National Book Excellence Award and the Alberta Exporting Award. It is also in development to become a major motion picture and will be in theatres everywhere soon!
Lorna: On your site I read,”We are proud to release the first in the Toby the Pet Therapy Dog series, “Toby the Pet Therapy Dog–and His Hospital Friends.” Five other books in this hit series are underway.” How far are you with the series? Will we see the other picture books soon?
Lorna: You were fortunate to find such a talented illustrator! Rose Anne Prevec’s wonderful illustrations transform your ideas to life. The colorful, realistic illustrations are accurate to the plot, characters, and setting. Bravo Ms. Prevec! Will you still have the same people working with you for the other books in the series? What comments about your book have made all the work worth it?
Charmaine Hammond >> What is most special is Rose Anne, the incredible illustrator, is my best friend. We met when we were about five years old, and have been lifelong friends ever since. We will definitely have Rose Anne do all Toby illustrations on the children’s series as she brings his character to life. We have received very positive feedback from children, parents, grandparents and schools about the book. I have had the opportunity to present at many schools across north America, in fact to 10,000 students, to child serving organizations (e.g. Children’s Services, day cares), and at many child related events.
Lorna: Once Toby, the Pet Therapy Dog, and His Hospital Friends has been read, parents, teachers or caregivers can use the fourteen “Questions to Enhance Children’s Critical Thinking Skills” found on the last page as a spring board to great discussions about hospital stays and treatments, about friendships, about one’s fears, and about helping others. Why do you feel kids must learn Critical Thinking Skills? Do you find these skills are not developed enough in our educational system?
Charmaine Hammond >> We wanted to provide an opportunity for teachers, parents, grandparents, babysitters to generate conversations with children about pet therapy, being in service and helping others, and being a good friend. With On Toby’s Terms, we provided questions at the back for book clubs, and used a similar approach with our children’s book. We have received very positive feedback about the questions. In fact, one grandparent has read the book six times to his grandchild and he said the favourite part is when the book is done and his granddaughter says “Papa, ask me the questions. I know all the answers.” That just gives me so much joy to hear.
Lorna: What are the benefits of having a pet therapy dog? What advice do you have for parents who are thinking of buying their own pet therapy dog?
Charmaine Hammond >> Pet Therapy dogs are used in many settings including hospitals, group homes, senior facilities, hospices, reading programs in schools, and counselling programs. The benefits are many including reduced stress, health benefits, reduction in depression and anxiety, to name a few. Typically the dog and the owner become a therapy team, or the owner accompanies the animal to the volunteer job. With Toby, he and I were a team. It was a wonderful experience for us. It would be important to know that the animal would need to pass a number of tests (e.g. obedience and temperament) and undergo some training so owner commitment is very important.
Lorna: From your site I learned that you speak to audiences around the world on the importance and power of building resilience. Please elaborate.
Charmaine Hammond >> As a professional speaker and corporate trainer I provide presentations about resilience. Much of my career has been in the field of resilience building, so much so that I created my professional brand the Hammond Group.
Lorna: Thank you for taking the time in your busy schedule to take part in our Author Interview Series. Please tell us where to buy your books and movie and your links to follow you.
Lorna: To follow Charmaine Hammond:
Toby’s Tales blog
Toby’s Tales Facebook
Bounce Forward with Charmaine Hammond- Transformational keynote public speaker for your corporation, Hammond International Inc.