A local school bus driver and passionate dog lover has written his first children’s book, about the friendship between his two dogs and their adventures. “Welcome Home” is the first in a planned series called The Adventures of Aussie and Otis.
Rob Huttinga’s sled dog, Aussie, was rescued in 2010 from among a group of dogs that were killed following the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. At the time, 56 sled dogs were killed by the employee of a sled dog tour company after business declined. It resulted in international outrage and a provincial investigation.
Aussie, and many others, were not killed, and so were put up for adoption. At the time, Huttinga was looking for a companion dog for another elderly dog of his, Riley.
“We walked into the SPCA, we heard about the massacre, and we didn’t know how big this was,” said Huttinga. One of the attendants told him they had a shipment of sled dogs from the company, and recommended one dog in particular: Aussie.
“One look at her brown eyes, and that was it for me. I fell in love with the dog,” he said. When they met, Aussie was recovering from being spayed, and when she heard “Aussie, ointment time!” she rolled onto her stomach and complied right away. Right then, Huttinga knew the 12-year old dog was something special.
In his research, Huttinga learned more about Aussie’s history. He said she ran the Yukon Quest, a 1000-mile race, twice in her career, and was among several dogs in a CBC TV documentary about the race.
After six months, Riley died, and Huttinga’s daughter always wanted a puppy, so eight-week old Otis, a pug, joined the family. Aussie was skeptical of the new dog, but after some time, Huttinga said the older dog began to mother the puppy, and “they became best of friends.”
The book, called “Welcome Home,” is the first in a planned series, which will follow the two characters as Aussie shows Otis the ropes, which he hopes will encourage the adoption of sled dogs.
As a first time author with a day job, he encountered some skepticism before the book got published. Huttinga works for School District 63, and drives Route 2 on school days, at the north end of the district. He transports students to Deep Cove Elementary, North Saanich Middle and Parkland Secondary.
One day, when Huttinga saw both dogs sharing the same bed and walking the same trails together, he thought “someone should write a book about this,” but he said no one in his family took him seriously. He began to take notes, and he was at the Beacon Drive-In and started writing his story. It took four tries to get it right, but is now available through FriesenPress and on Amazon. He is pitching the book, aimed at readers aged 5-12, to local bookstores as well.
The book is dedicated to Aussie, who died in 2017, but as a character, she lives on in the series.
For more information, visit aussieandotis.com. A portion of the book’s proceeds go to the Victoria Humane Society.