Radio’s Bruce & Hobbes publish their first book
MIDDLEBURY — Many Addison County residents know “Hobbes” as the irrepressible little dachshund who has joined radio personality Bruce Zeman on the local airwaves for the past three years.
Well, Hobbes is now expanding his nascent media empire to print. With his owner Bruce Zeman lending him a voice, Hobbes in November will star in the first of potentially five children’s books that will tell the story of his rescue from an abusive home and hopefully help kids avoid and overcome similar situations.
Zeman and his wife, Tami, have been working on the new book for around two years. He called Tami “an amazing writer” who has tried her hand at children’s books before. They agreed that Hobbes’ story was touching and could be inspirational on a human scale, for children who have known the torment of bullying and/or domestic violence.
“The way I had seen the public respond to Hobbes’ story, I said, ‘I’ll do some research and we’ll see what we can come up with,’” Zeman recalled. “And honestly, the book kind of wrote itself.”
That’s because Hobbes has led a very eventful seven years, half of it filled with memories he would probably just as soon forget.
“He had a really bad beginning,” Zeman said of his beloved sidekick, who had been terribly abused before being rescued by the Addison County Humane Society (ACHS) in November 2009.
Zeman — whose family has raised dachshunds for 50 years — was invited to the ACHS Homeward Bound Animal Welfare Center in Middlebury to take a look at the then-sad, cowering canine.
“He had been beaten almost to death,” Zeman said. “When I first met him … I was shocked at how bad he looked.”
Zeman had previously helped care for dogs in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, as well as at other disaster sites. Hobbes was one of the worst examples of an abused dog that he had ever seen.
“Nothing could really prepare me for what I saw,” Zeman said. “I picked him up out of the crate he was in and he was very sticky. I pulled my hands away, and it was blood, where he had apparently been thrown against the wall.”
Zeman still gets choked up remembering the state in which he found Hobbes. He was determined that day to make sure the dog was given a new lease on life.
“I sent a photo of him to my wife … and she said, ‘We can’t leave him there,’” Zeman said. So they decided to adopt him.
The couple took Hobbes in for a trial run to make sure the dog could again trust in humans. Gradually, Hobbes came out of his shell and then a bond formed between him and his new family.
“I picked him up and I looked right into his eyes and said, ‘No one is ever going to hurt you again,’” Zeman said.
Hobbes was — and continues to be — somewhat afraid of strangers. But he has overcome a lot of anxiety in a short period of time.
It wasn’t long before Zeman started sharing stories about his new dog while doing his show, at the time on WVTK 92.1 FM in Middlebury. Listeners seemed to get enjoyment out of the stories, and it wasn’t long before Hobbes accompanied Zeman to the station, culminating in the dachshund getting equal billing as part of the “Wake-up Crew with Bruce & Hobbes,” now heard on Farm Fresh 102.9 FM.
Hobbes is the only canine in Vermont history to be honored as a police K-9 in three communities, Middlebury, Vergennes and Bristol, and is also the “official” fire dog of the New Haven Volunteer Fire Department. Since 2009, Zeman and Hobbes have helped over 600 animals find homes, and raised over $40,000 for the Homeward Bound center.
“The more I talked about him, the more people wanted to hear his story,” Zeman said.
Of course there’s really no business model for a man-dog radio team, so Zeman just went with the flow. He refers to Hobbes frequently during the show, talking about their adventures and his antics.
“If you think about it, it’s about relationships,” Zeman said. “It’s like anything else; husband and wife, mom and dad. It is a relationship that’s unbreakable.”
A CAUTIONARY TALE
It’s a formula that has worked well, as the duo has garnered quite the fan base that has become interested in Hobbes’ neat new life while remaining cognizant of his rough start. Indeed, Zeman has wanted to publicize Hobbes’ escape from abuse, to serve as a cautionary tale with a happy ending.
“To me, it’s an amazing story of what one person can do if you care enough to make it happen,” Zeman said.
So Bruce and Tami got to work on that story in 2011. They were assisted along the way by a number of people, including former ACHS Executive Director Jackie Rose.
“We met all these great people who wanted to help us,” Zeman said.
The authors learned that it would be somewhat tricky to turn Hobbes’ story into a book for kids in grades kindergarten through 8. They couldn’t make the book too graphic for kindergartners, and needed to make it a compelling enough read for young teens. The book is illustrated by California-based artist/illustrator Shauna Peterson.
“We decided to come up with a happy medium that told the story from (Hobbes’) perspective and that incorporated our perspective, and it really had an impact,” Zeman said.
The first print of 1,000 books is scheduled to be ready by Nov. 25, according to Zeman. They will be available at local bookstores and through Web-based sources such as Amazon.com and on bruceandhobbes.com. Zeman plans to read from the book at schools throughout Vermont, inviting state officials (such as Gov. Peter Shumlin) and community leaders to join him in imparting the broader, related message of stamping out animal cruelty, domestic abuse and bullying.
A dollar from the sale of each book will be donated to the ACHS.
“The message is, if this type of abuse is happening to you, tell an adult,” Zeman said of the book’s message. “There is hope. And there are a lot of things that love can fix.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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