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In Print: A Dog Called Bear

“Just because you can't see us doesn't mean we aren't here.”

The birds, hidden neighbours of the town, watch as this story of A Dog Called Bear unfolds during the years of lockdown. This illustrated book created and inspired by the community in Ellesmere Port is now available to buy.

Whilst working with the community at the Westminster Community Centre, as part of our Covid 19 Reflections project, artist Jayne Lawless began listening to accounts of the impact of the pandemic. But one day she and resident Deb Jones were interrupted.

“It was some of the loudest barking I’d ever heard,” said Jayne. “I looked at her thinking, ‘what the hell is that!’ She nodded for me to look outside of the community centre, and that’s when I first saw this ginormous, amazing, slightly terrifying dog.”

Sam, who the community nicknamed Bear, was Deb’s neighbours dog and when they began to discuss the impact lockdowns had had on him an unexpected project emerged.

“This little black German Shepherd pup was his new love. Then came Covid and lockdown and the owner had to shield, so the dog couldn’t go out either."

“The owner was known in the area as a dog lover and was seen out regularly with his previous dog who’d sadly died,” said Jayne.

“This little black German Shepherd pup was his new love. Then came Covid and lockdown and the owner had to shield, so the dog couldn’t go out either. Even when lockdown eased he had to be careful and by now the dog had grown so big he couldn’t walk him. He wasn’t trained and he literally pulled him over.”

The community began to keep a scrapbook of ideas and illustrations about the story and soon the idea for an illustrated book emerged. Then, shockingly the news came to the community over Christmas that the owner had passed away and Sam taken away by the police.

“Writer Ginni Manning had come on board to help us shape the story and expressed an interest in potentially giving Sam a home,” says Jayne. “We all thought that would be amazing, so she contacted the police who were still holding him for assessment. It was then we all got stunned with the news that he’s been put down.”

The group felt more than ever that they had to tell this sad and unexpected story about the impact of Covid. Illustrator Gill Smith came on board and A Dog Called Bear is the result.

“This beautiful book is a retelling of Sam’s story and honours his tragically short life. Initially we were able to print 60 copies and distribute them among the community that had helped create it.”

Now the book is available to buy.

“We hope we have done Sam and his owner justice in basing our story on them, creating a legacy that will hopefully resonate with people and dogs everywhere.”

A Dog Called Bear by Ginni Manning, illustrated by Gill Smith, and with concept by Jayne Lawless is available to buy in paperback for £10 here.

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