Rachel Kaplan dreamed of having a fur baby since she was in preschool at Temple Kol Ami. In her second book, “The Adventures of Smokey,” she recounts the tale of adopting and learning to care for her first dog.
Smokey is a schnoodle, a cross between a schnauzer and a poodle. Weighing in at around 20 pounds, he is mostly black, save for his gray muzzle. When Kaplan is at home, he follows her everywhere. When she is at work, he waits by the door for her to come home.
Kaplan, 25, works at Family Eyecare of Glendale. Now the author of two self-published books, she also makes and sells jewelry with Keep Collective in her free time. As she recounts in her first book, “Growing Up With a Disability,” she has overcome a number of challenges stemming from mental and physical impairments.
Whether it was learning to swim, dealing with ignorant bullies or conquering her dyslexia by becoming an author, Kaplan never let her disability hold her back.
“I wrote the [first] book to tell people that it’s OK to be different,” Kaplan said.
It was two years later when Kaplan asked her mother, Sue, if she could adopt a dog. As she recounts in the book, Kaplan promised her mother that she would feed, clean and love her dog.
Sue Kaplan enthusiastically agreed and brought her daughter to Arizona Foothills Rescue, a no-kill animal shelter in Scottsdale to which Kaplan will donate the book’s proceeds.
“One of the things that I’ve always believed in and spread to Rachel and her sister is the value of giving back, just like in the tradition of tzedakah,” Sue Kaplan said.
Though many dogs vied for the young Kaplan’s attention, one dog in particular caught her eye.
“His eyes seemed so sad,” Kaplan wrote. “He looked like he needed love and a friend.”
The dog whined and Kaplan picked him up and comforted him. When he curled up in her arms and rested his head on her shoulder, she knew he was the dog for her. They immediately began the adoption process.
“What was really impressive about Arizona Foothills was that they put us through an incredible interview process,” Sue Kaplan said. “They were so concerned with where this dog would be placed, to the point that we even had to go home and bring back our other dogs so they could meet to make sure that they interacted well together.”
The pack played well and Kaplan now had a new problem: choosing a name for her pet. Staring into his little eyes, Kaplan thought he looked like a Smokey. She tested out the new name and after some face-licking approval, Smokey had a new home and a new name.
As Smokey adapted, the Kaplans realized the skittish but loving puppy had likely been abused by a previous owner.
“When he got sick and threw up inside, he was so scared that someone would yell at him that he went outside and dug a hole,” Kaplan said. “It was just so sad.”
Over time, Kaplan’s patience and love won out. Now she reads Smokey to sleep every night and gives him a present for Chanukah, Kaplan’s favorite holiday. He even has his own plush dreidel.
In addition to raising funds for the animal shelter, Kaplan is also helping plan a fundraiser for Holocaust awareness with the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix and BBYO.
She will read from and sign “The Adventures of Smokey” on Saturday, June 30, at 11 a.m. at the Barnes and Noble at 10500 N. 90th St. in Scottsdale. JN