Emily’s Gift, written by Ellen Shane, is the True Story of Sherlock and Jackson is a moving tale of how the youngest Shane sibling tries to negotiate a puppy for her loving and pet-less family.
Emily’s Gift: An Interview with Ellen Shane and a Gift of Love Beyond Life
Written by Ellen Shane
Owning a puppy is a big responsibility, and oh boy, was Emily ready! It is too bad her parents disagree!
Emily’s Gift is the true story of Sherlock and Jackson and explores the various steps to pet ownership from parental consent to understanding the responsibility of owning a dog, selecting a puppy, and adequately caring for the new family member. Emily wants to experience one of the greatest joys on earth, dog ownership. This book is a chapter from the lives of the Shane Family. The Shane’s would not have met Sherlock and Jackson but for Emily’s consistent advocacy.
The Story Behind Emily’s Gift
Emily Rose Shane was tragically murdered on April 3, 2010. She was kind to all, compassionate, empathic, and eager to help anyone in need. She was a happy person who almost always had a smile on her face. Emily always tried to help any person or living creature in need. She still had an encouraging word, a hug, or an invitation to join her if you were alone. She brought smiles and happiness with her contagious laughter. The Emily Shane Foundation was founded in loving memory of Emily. The Foundation focuses on spreading her message of kindness and giving through the #PassItForward campaign, as well as the unique educational initiative, the Successful Educational Achievement (SEA) Program. This book celebrates Emily Shane and her unwavering love and persistence to obtain a dog. Proceeds from this book will go to her Foundation and Emily’s favorite animal charity.
To purchase a copy of the book and support The Emily Shane Foundation, click the book cover, or visit EmilyShane.org
OMTimes: Can you tell us one more thing we may not know about “Emily’s Gift,” your writing and illustrating style, and the mindset that gave origin to it?
Ellen Shane: The entire book came to me in a dream in 2012, two years after Emily was murdered. I literally saw the cover, turned the pages, and as soon as I reached “The End,” I immediately woke up. At that moment, knew I had to write the book. It felt like a clear message had been conveyed to me via the dream. I wrote the book but knew nothing about children’s books. For example, the very first draft was way too long. With help from various people (including OM radio’s Sandie Sedgebeer, who helped with initial editing early on) and ultimately the credited and final book’s editor (who I met by chance at an event for our nonprofit charity’s SEA Program), the book became a reality. The illustrators are talented animators from Canada (where my husband and I are from initially) and perfectly captured the vision of exactly what the book’s covers and illustrations looked like in my dream. It was uncanny. I did send them a slew of photos of our family and the dogs, so they could use them to portray us in the book. The entire story is true, and there are more books to come in the series that are all true stories about our dogs.
OMTimes: Emily’s gift is a book filled with tenderness and heartfelt beauty. Still, it brings about concrete issues such as Pet ownership and its duties & responsibilities. Why is it so important to teach our children how to care for Animals?
Ellen Shane: Animals are living beings – they are not inanimate toys! They must be cared for and treated correctly. They must learn about boundaries and limits. They have needs that we, as pet owners, must be sure to fulfill, as they are utterly dependent on their owners. Dogs need access to plenty of fresh, clean water daily. Walks and exercise are essential to staying healthy, as are regular meals. Children must know that while pets are fun, great companions, and family members, their very survival and well-being is up to us as their owners. I also believe that in teaching children to care for pets, we model how to care for all other living beings and how to conduct ourselves as caring and responsible members of society. The rewards of pet ownership far outweigh the work involved! They appreciate our affection, attention, and love – and providing this to them are all elements for not only their happiness and well-being but ours. Not only is having a pet a major responsibility, but it also allows children to nurture another being. During this time of a worldwide pandemic, pets are an amazing source of support and companions to those who are lonely, dealing with loss and/or any adverse outcome someone may be experiencing, and enhance our lives daily.
OMTimes: Can you share one highlight from the book that you have defined as a roadmap of the dream, and what you intend your book’s message to accomplish?
Ellen Shane: The initial vision of the book’s cover was the roadmap to all that followed. The message that came forth was to not give up on one’s dreams and to be ready to take on what is necessary to make them happen. It teaches how we must adapt to changing circumstances, be sensitive to others, and stepping up to the responsibilities of what a decision to do something entails. I also wanted the book to have some humor, as there is much that was funny (such as Gerri trying have ladybugs as pets, the “furless” guinea pig we had, etc.) We had a significant life transition before Emily brought the dogs into our lives, in moving from Montreal, Canada to Los Angeles, which is in the story. I really wanted it to be exactly as I “saw” it – 100% true and conveying actual, real-life events.
OMTimes: Do you believe that Compassion for Animals (and People) should be a subject taught in Schools?
Ellen Shane: I feel that compassion for all living beings is something that should be conveyed from the start at home. Children emulate what they see and hear. By demonstrating this, they will come to know this as the “norm.” While the message can be reinforced at school through many subjects (history, social studies, art, etc.), the best time and place to plant this seed is for parents and all role models to act in a manner that models kindness, caring, and compassion for all living beings.
OMTimes: Which five words would best describe your book, “Emily’s Gift”?
Ellen Shane: The five words I would choose: Relatable, positive, funny, happy, and real.
OMTimes: What role did these two fur babies play (Sherlock and Jackson) in your family’s grieving process?
Ellen Shane: Emily brought the dogs into our lives in December and was killed in April. They were still puppies and needed attention, walks, playtime, etc. My husband calls them “rescues” even though they came from a family whose dog had a litter of puppies, and as they already had three dogs, they did not want to keep them. The reason my husband calls them rescues is that they rescued us. They required us to take them out for walks and necessitated us taking care of them. Their affection (jumping on our laps, kissing us, cuddling, etc.) and presence was and still is like a living part of Emily here. There is no doubt that they were a significant factor in helping us through the grieving process. On some level, I felt that Emily knew she was leaving and brought these dogs into our lives to ensure we would not be alone. (Our eldest daughter was off to university, and our second eldest was leaving soon. We would have had a quiet and lonely empty nest much sooner than would have been having Emily been alive, as she was in eighth grade and would have been starting high school.) Sherlock and Jackson are genuine, in every sense of the phrase – and the book’s title – “Emily’s Gift.”
OMTimes: What is coming next? Is this book the first one of a series? Is this book being published in other languages?
Ellen Shane: Indeed, this book is the first in a series of true stories about our dogs. When I initially wrote “Emily’s Gift,” I created an outline for six more books in the series. I am working on the second one now. Still, lately, I have minimal time to write as I am incredibly busy with our nonprofit charity’s SEA (Successful Educational Achievement) Program. All sales of the book help support this work providing disadvantaged, failing middle schoolers with essential one-on-one academic tutoring, mentorship, focusing on organizational skills, study skills, etc. to set them on a positive pathway for their future. I will likely have more than six books, as I have so many ideas of stories to share. However, I will work on one at a time!
OMTimes: What books are on your nightstand today?
Ellen Shane: I am an avid reader who has several books on my nightstand. I just finished “Maybe You Should Talk To Someone” by Lori Gottlieb. I found it interesting as I provided private grief support and enjoyed reading about her methods and style used in therapy and her own experience. Following Emily’s tragic murder, I studied grief extensively and took a course for practitioners with David Kessler. While I am not formally credentialed, I have helped many. As with my work with The Emily Shane Foundation, I find it incredibly rewarding. Another book is “Born A Crime” by Trevor Noah. While humorous, it was very enlightening about his life growing up in South Africa. I learned a lot from it.
Waiting for me to start is a book called “The Old Drift” by Namwali Serpell.
To learn more of the story of Emily and Ellen Shane, please read Dealing with Loss: Emily Shane Foundation
About the Author
Ellen Shane is a dog lover, wife, mother, public speaker, author, co-founder, and executive director of The Emily Shane Foundation. In addition to Ellen’s work with the Foundation, she provides private grief support counseling. She is working on the next book in the series of true stories about their dogs, who came into their lives thanks to Emily. Ellen received the KNX 1070 Honda Hero of the Week in October 2018, the Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama in 2015, and many other noble awards. She has a degree in marketing with a concentration in Organizational Behavior from McGill University in Montreal. Ellen lives in Southern California.