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‘Doggie Tails’ author offers inspiration, enertainment

It’s not necessarily the dogs; it’s how they inspire.

OK. Maybe it’s the dogs.

Arkansas children’s author David M. Sargent, Jr., uses hisbeloved canines in his line of books, “The Doggie Tail Series,” andthey travel with him on annual treks across the country to visithundreds of schools during the school year. The dogs – currentlyDaphne, Emma, Spike and Tatum – are the protagonists in his books,which are remarkably non-fiction, and he uses them to inspire kidsinto creativity.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the dogs are a mixture ofshort-legged, pot-bellied wildly fuzzy and cute, as the youngerchildren of Brookhaven Academy will attest to after Sargent’spresentation Tuesday.

“How many of you believe those are true stories,” Sargent askedBA’s elementary students, referring to the titles and stories toldwithin his books, where his dogs lovingly gnaw on his feet, pullhis hair and destroy rolls of toilet paper and entire bags oftrash.

“All of the books about my friends are true,” he continued.”When you’re sitting down to write, look around for yourcharacters. You could see something to write about every singleday.”

For Sargent, what has become a series of inspirational speakingengagements at schools nationwide began as a joke to hismother.

His black Dachshund, Vera, used to hold down his mother’s dog, awhite Pomeranian named Buffy, and pull its hair out. Sargent wrotea short, children’s-style book to his mother, not so muchapologizing as it was poking fun at Buffy, describing the incident.She published the book.

“And here we are,” Sargent said.

A dozen books later, Sargent now uses the same style, and thesame message, to teach children to harness their own creativity andsee where it leads them.

“Hopefully, the kids will see the mechanics of the assembly, andit might encourage them to write, to tell stories, to communicate,”he said. “Their teachers and parents are always telling them to usereal characters and events, but it doesn’t always click. It doesn’thave to be dogs, but it’s the medium that works for me. It may betheir dogs, a mouse, anything – as long it helps tell a story theywant to tell.”

Sargent believes storytelling to be a major form ofcommunication, and a good way to re-establish communicative skillsthat have been dulled by modernity like TV and the Internet.Teaching children storytelling skills will not only allow them torelive the fun times, he said, but will also help them grow andlearn from the bad times.

The one thing children should take away from his books, his dogsand his story, Sargent said, is the inspiration to enjoy life anddo what you love. It’s worked so far for him.

“I would just write about the dogs and the things they did, andif the publisher didn’t like it, it didn’t become a book,” Sargentsaid. “Do what you love. Find out what you’re good at and run withit.”

With Ozark Publishing, Inc., backing him, Sargent and his dogstravel as many as 90,000 miles annually, visiting up to 10 schoolsper week to show off his books, his dogs and their tricks.

He was a hit at BA, and school librarian Loree Coleman knew hewould be. She said her students already know and enjoy the works ofSargent’s parents, David and Pat Sargent, who are also children’sauthors.

“I knew it would be exciting to have him come. The childrendon’t always get to meet an author,” Coleman said. “And, of course,the dogs – who could resist the dogs?”