For Throwback Thursday, I’m traveling back roughly a year in time to celebrate the book signing I held at Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens for Frebie Dog Tales (The New Mailman, The Dog Catcher and the Judge).

No, I didn’t write the book. Betty Reese Freberg, a Christian speaker, teacher, filmmaker and author, conceived the story and wrote the book.

The book was inspired by a true tale. Frebie was a mixture of Chow and German Shepard. As a six week old puppy, Frebie met and won the heart of his master, a Baylor University college student by the name of Doug. It was the start of a thirteen year love affair between two free spirits. But then Doug moved to Washington D.C. and couldn’t take Frebie with him. So he asked his widowed mom to let Frebie move in with her. Neither Frebie nor Mimi could imagine the adventures they were about to share.

While Betty wrote the story, I did the illustrations. I think you’ll agree that they complement the story and enhance Betty’s simple and straightforward narration.

I did a total of twelve illustrations while working with Betty at her home in Azle, Texas. (Don’t worry, Azle is west of Dallas and out of the path of Hurricane Harvey.) I included the originals in  Palettes: Past, Present & Pursuits, my retrospective at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in January of 2017.

The use of illustrations in books has a long and storied history. Even before Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, medieval monks “illuminated” the manuscripts they copied out by hand. What they’d do is add gold and silver leaf letters, borders and images. As you can imagine, the books they produced were pretty expensive. Only the wealthiest patrons could afford one of these hand-produced illuminated manuscripts.

Printing made illuminated manuscripts obsolete, but did not obviate the desirability of including illustrations in printed text.

You’re familiar with Charles Dickens, right? He wrote such classics as A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations. Well, Dickens fully embraced the use of illustrations to enliven his novels and short stories.

What he’d do is give his illustrators an outline of his plot before beginning the text. He would then monitor their drawings to ensure that they matched what he had in mind. The drawings helped his readers envision the characters and storyline that Dickens described in words.

Dickens’s most famous illustrator was H.K. Browne. He worked under the pen name “Phiz.” He worked so closely with Dickens as to the specific appearance of characters and the composition of plates that Phiz’s visual interpretation of a character became as important as Dickens’s description, if not more so.

Like Doug and Mimi (Freebie’s owners), many of us have enjoyed the privilege of sharing a portion of our lives with a fur friend or other pet who touches our heart in a very special way. (While Mike and I don’t have a dog, we have our cats and Soloman, our wise and venerable cockatoo that we’ve had since he was just a hatchling.) Many of the folks who came to the book signing shared inspiring stories about the pets who’ve enhanced their lives. It was so much fun.

Frebie Dog Tales is available for purchase on Amazon and at Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens, which is located at 4637 Pine Island Road on sunny Matlacha Island. For more information, please telephone 239-938-5655.