KENT—Dogs are dominant in the life of Kent Animal Control Officer Lee Sohl and now she is using the furry creatures to impart some life lessons to small children.
Sohl has now produced four picture books featuring some of her 14 pets to help children learn lessons about such things as handling fear and recognizing emotions.
A former reading teacher in addition to being animal control officer (ACO), Sohl uses photographs of her pets, including her therapy dogs, Wynton and Wylie, to illustrate the colorful books. She includes her own small illustrations to expand on the themes.
She takes both dogs and her books into the library and schools to read her stories to children. “Kids love animal connections,” she said.
Sohl has been churning out her books, all available on Amazon, since early summer, having produced her first, “Wylie Grows Up, From Rescue Dog to Therapy Dog,” in July.
The story concerns a puppy born in a puppy mill whose life changes when he is adopted. As his life changes, so do his feelings as he becomes a proud rescue dog. Sohl’s illustrations punctuate the book, revealing his emotions.
It was followed in August by “Wynton Wonders: A Puppy Learns About his World,” in which Wynton, a Mi-Ki puppy, learns about his world by asking questions.
He wonders about things in his puppy life, often coming to the wrong conclusion. Little readers are invited to figure out the right answer before Wynton does.
“Annabelle and the Rat: A Small Dog Faces her Fears” followed in September. In the book, Annabelle, a brave poodle mix who barks to protect her family from intruders such as fawns, turtles and even a bear, meets a rat that doesn’t run when she barks—which frightens her.
To face her fears, Annabelle seeks help from the other dogs in her home. When she finally “meets” the rat, she discovers that it is only a metal sculpture and nothing to be afraid of.
Her most recent publication is “Rory is Thankful,” released just in time for Thanksgiving. In it, Ruthie, a puppy who has never experienced Thanksgiving, learns from Rory, who is older and wiser, what being thankful is all about.
“I am thankful for my toys,” Rory said. “But there are other, more important things I’m thankful for, too.”
Sohl said she had been telling stories about her pets for years until she met an author who advised her to publish them through Amazon.
“I thought having pictures would make the stories more exciting,” she said, “and I am able to do my own illustrations, which is helpful.”
The first three books proved popular, and a former student suggested the theme of Thanksgiving for the fourth. “I only had 60 days to prepare it,” she said.
Such a pressurized schedule is not unfamiliar to Sohl, who has been Kent’s ACO for more than three decades and who, since her retirement from teaching 18 months ago, now serves three other towns.
She also plays trumpet with six different organizations and teaches literacy for toddlers online to preschool teachers.
She said that activity as an ACO has decreased over the decades.
“I deal with way fewer dogs,” she said. “I used to have 60 dogs a year in Kent 30 years ago. This year I had 15 in all four towns.”
She said Facebook has helped in returning dogs to their owners and rehoming those who are not claimed.
“Most of the time, the dogs I pick up are not even in the pound overnight,” she reported. “If I know who owns them, I just take them home. Why traumatize them?”
While Northwest Corner ACOs are seeing fewer dogs, shelters throughout the state are full, she reported. She cited people relinquishing pets adopted during Covid and skyrocketing veterinarian costs for the high populations.