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Local author’s new children’s book charts the journey of a young man and beagle as their special bond heals both

BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon resident has penned a new children’s book that follows the journey of her son and his dog as they recover from soul-crushing heartbreak and find healing, hope and a safe haven with one another.

“You are my Doggo, and I am Your Person” is nurse practitioner and associate West Virginia Wesleyan College professor Theresa Poling’s first book, and it’s about her 30-year-old son, Nate, who adopted a beagle named Annie. Annie’s original dog mom could no longer care for her due to illness, so she lived in three different foster homes in as many states before finding her ‘fur-ever’ home with Nate, who was, at the time, struggling with recovery from addiction.

The book, which will be available for sale at Artistry on Main beginning Jan. 5, 2023, is about the healing journey Nate and Annie experience as Nate recovers from substance use disorder and Annie learns to trust that she’s finally found her forever home.

“This book is about love, loyalty, and healing,” Poling said. “I was inspired to write it when Nate was struggling early in his sobriety, and Annie came into his life. When Nate was sick, there were few resources to help him; Annie was one of his main lifelines. Although there are still barriers to care, the shift in treating substance use disorder as a chronic disease instead of a purely criminal justice issue has allowed for more resources for patients. While this is a story about recovery, the theme of togetherness can be applied to almost any issue.”

Poling said that around the same time Nate was adjusting to sober life, one of her friends, fellow professor Dr. Kim Bjorgo-Thorne, had posted about a dog who needed a home on social media.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to get a dog for Nate, and they’re going to take care of each other,’” Poling recounted.

Nate Poling and his fur-ever daughter, Annie. / Submitted photo

Soon after, Annie, the beagle, arrived from upstate New York, and Nate adopted her.

“He would say to Annie, ‘Annie, I think you’re broken like me,’” Poling said.

Published by Baltimore, Maryland-based Silent Books Publishing founded by WVWC alumni Angel King Wilson, the children’s book simplifies complex themes of love, loyalty and addiction in a way children – and even adults – can understand.

In “You are my Doggo, and I am Your Person,” Poling explains substance use disorder as a chronic disease that occurs “when your body and brain crave something that is not healthy for you.”

“It is a children’s book good for preschool to school-age children, but it has a powerful message for the whole family,” Poling said. “I deal with substance use disorder in my practice and see so many families disrupted by substance use disorder. It’s so prevalent that I think we need to get rid of the stigma surrounding it. I talk about it just like I do about diabetes; we need to make it safe to discuss.”

Nate Poling said Annie still experiences some anxiety, but now she has another canine friend, Opie, to bond with while he’s at work or away from home. He appreciates the messaging in the new book and hopes that it will spark some essential discussions among friends and family members.

“I think it’s really important to teach our children compassion and acceptance and connection,” he said. “This book really simplifies those large feelings. A lot of people are taught that you can’t be open about the difficult things. We have to change this behavior for the future, and we do that by teaching our tiny humans.”

“You are My Doggo, and I am Your Person” may be purchased at Artistry on Main soon or by contacting Theresa Poling directly online or via her PayPal email account, tapolingfnpbc@gmail.com.

Poling said currently $5 from every purchase will assist her son’s third cousin, Seth Poling, who is living with ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. You can read more about Seth’s story here or learn more about how you can help him here.

In the future, she will find other ways for her book to support those struggling with substance use disorder or other issues.

“I want to use Nate and Annie’s story to help others,” Poling said.

Author Theresa Poling / Submitted photo

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