Stray inspires children’s book with message

Posted 9/9/21

Most things in life we choose, on occasion things seem to come to us. 

So it was with Wood County resident Nancy Falster and her passion about the proper care of dogs.

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Stray inspires children’s book with message


Most things in life we choose, on occasion things seem to come to us. 

So it was with Wood County resident Nancy Falster and her passion about the proper care of dogs. The messenger that brought her that passion came to her on Thanksgiving weekend nine years ago.

It was a fat Labrador-mix puppy, five of them in fact. Her husband, Karl, had found them while out hunting. He and a friend promptly scooped them up and into the pickup they went. It was quite a surprise when they got to the farm.

Four of the puppies were taken to town days later and found homes. One, the one who would wander into the kitchen and watch Nancy cooking, stayed with the Falsters. That was “Stuart.”

Stuart became an integral part of the Falster’s farm. With a great temperament and proper training, he became more than just a family pet and protector of the ranch. He has become a certified therapy dog and an unofficial representative for the proper care of animals.

Just to ensure that it was understood where Stuart and the other dogs at Falster farm stand, Nancy explained, “They are part of the family, but they are dogs, and we keep them as dogs. We do not treat them as people, because they aren’t.” Watching the four ranch dogs respond to the Falsters’ commands puts this in perspective.

It was how Stuart came to be a part of the family which caused the Falsters to consider how they could fight against the dumping of dogs.    

Karl, a combat veteran and specialty rancher, recalled how wearing seat belts came to be an accepted part of life. He explained that no one was convinced just by passing a law.

“It was the outreach through the schools to the young children which eventually got mom and dad to wear their seat belts,” he stated. 

With this in mind, Nancy set to work. The decision was taken to write a children’s book which told Stuart’s story.

In 2018, she had published “Stuart finds a Home.” The cleverly-drafted story is told from the perspective of Stuart and is beautifully illustrated by fellow Texan Molly Nichols.  

The purpose of the book is to encourage, educate and inspire young people to properly care for canines and to recognize that abandoning dogs is simply wrong.  

How big of a problem are abandoned dogs in Wood County? It is a huge problem. Numbers are hard to come by, but one local veterinarian estimated at least 300 per month. Those involved in animal rescue work believe the number of dumped dogs in Wood County to be in the thousands each year. 

The rural nature of the county, the many lightly-traveled county roads, and a good network of highways make Wood County a prime dumping area.

So what is the range of outcomes for dogs pitched out along a country road? There are plenty of critters in Wood County that would gobble up a puppy as a snack. Even large dogs are at risk from a variety of animals native to the county, especially coyotes.  

There is always the possibility of dogs becoming a feral pack and preying on livestock. The Falsters have had neighbors lose livestock to a wild pack of malamutes. 

But the usual answer is starvation, or being shot by a landowner who perceives the feral dog as a threat to his family and livestock. Either way, the outcome does not usually have a happy ending. 

Although there are animal shelters in Winnsboro and Mineola, for the vast area of Wood County, there is no place to give up animals. The City of Hawkins has recently been leading the efforts with the commissioning of an animal shelter for those within their jurisdiction. 

Hawkins Chief of Police Manfred Gilow remarked, “We have to take action to stem this problem, and we will do so.”

A county facility to receive discarded, stray and unwanted dogs is not yet at hand. At a recent neighborhood meeting held with the Falsters and their neighbors, Sheriff Kelly Cole expressed his desire for such a facility, but noted that there are presently no plans afoot. When Sheriff Cole asked how they would man the shelter, three of the 11 people at the gathering immediately volunteered.

No doubt there is a need. Beyond having a place where unwanted animals can be tended, the need to educate folks on the proper care of animals must continue.

Nancy Falster’s outreach efforts go forward, often with Stuart or his young protégé, Dillon, at her side. She explained that she will go to any event to further the initiative. It is her hope to obtain a sponsor for continuing the Stuart series of books and to get copies of the books into the hands of Wood County youngsters.  

As Stuart noted in the closing of his book, “They say people are never too old or too young to help an animal.”