Children’s book will support Association to Rescue Kritters
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
An internationally acclaimed wildlife artist from Grayling and volunteers from a local organization dedicated to the rescue of displaced wildlife have teamed up the publish a children’s book.
Kim Diment and the Association to Rescue Kritters (A.R.K.), which is based in St. Helen, are releasing the book “Rascal and the Berry Bandit,” in time for the holidays.
The A.R.K. was officially founded by Ruth and Denny Fruehauf in 2001. They started rehabbing out of their home for many years, but quickly realized they needed more space.
Around that same time, Critter Alley, a rehab center in Grand Ledge, was closing its doors. Ruth and Denny had worked with Critter Alley on a few occasions. Critter Alley donated its remaining assets, including caging and a few education animals used for outreach programs, to Ruth and Denny. It was then that the A.R.K. officially began.
The rescue is located on property next to the Fruehauf’s home. A cottage was converted into a nursery, and an emergency room was created in an attached garage.
“We just turned it into a center, practically overnight,” Ruth said.
With over 23 years of experience, Ruth is still the director at the A.R.K. She and her team of volunteers carry out the day-to-day care of wildlife, education, and fundraising. A.R.K. is a non-profit organization solely run on donations and volunteers.
It has been a long-time goal of Ruth’s to publish a children’s book regarding the animals and taking the proper precautions to deal with wayward wildlife.
“Rascal and the Berry Bandit” is a fiction book, but is based on a true story.
Rascal is a raccoon, who was living at the A.R.K. At that time, Barts Fruit Market, a produce store based in Houghton Lake, donated strawberries to the animal rescue operation because they were too ripe to sell.
“Everybody got strawberries that night,” Ruth said.
Enticed by the strawberries, a wild raccoon attempted to snatch one, but got its head caught in a fence surrounding Rascal’s cage.
Ruth discovered the trapped raccoon as she started the day at the animal rescue.
“I turned its head every way I could and he was just struggling and screaming,” Ruth said.
In the book, Rascal comforts the raccoon by telling him stories about other animals who have been brought to the A.R.K.
Denny was called to the center from work to take apart the fencing to free the raccoon.
Ruth dictated the stories for the book. Kathy Hedrich, who lives in Prudenville and volunteers at the A.R.K., wrote the stories for the book.
Hedrich has a background in writing for her education and she is also a college professor.
“This is amazing,” Hedrich said. “This is kind of a dream, because I had always wanted to write children’s books, and I have always loved animals.”
Diment, a wildlife artist and co-owner of the Main Branch Gallery in downtown Grayling, did the illustrations for the book.
Diment, and her mother, Beverly Diment, took a goldeneye duck to the A.R.K. who had been stranded near Oscoda. At the time, the Great Lakes were frozen over, and the ducks were landing on the roadways. Because they need a stretch of water to fly again, the duck became stranded.
Hedrich pitched the idea of illustrating the book to Diment as she was caring for the duck at the A.R.K.
“I read it and liked it and thought it was really cool,” Diment said. “I’ve been involved with dropping animals at the A.R.K. and getting reference photos for paintings from the A.R.K. and have just had a lot of interaction. It seemed like a really nifty thing that was right up my alley. I love animals as well. That is the common thread with us all.”
Each chapter in the book includes stories about a variety of animals including a swan, a hawk, raccoons, fawns, opossums, and porcupines.
A glossary of terms is included in the book regarding the animals and proper animal rescue procedures.
“We tried to cover a variety of animals, but also when I was writing the different chapters, it was important to use the scientific terms that the kids will have to learn in their class,” Hedrich said. “It was important to support the stuff they were already learning in science and make that terminology understandable to support the science curriculum.”
Another aim for the book is to get children interested in the outdoors.
“We’re trying to reconnect kids with nature. There is such a total disconnect across the board where kids are not getting out in the woods anymore,” Diment said. “They’re not seeing opossums and raccoons anymore and they’re not connected. With this book, maybe reading some of the stories and looking at the pictures may make them want to get out there or just be more interested.”
Diment said that she hopes the book will rekindle an appreciation of the animals and the role they play in the ecosystem.
“There are so many people who will take a shotgun and blast an opossum or skunk because maybe they don’t like them,” she said. “If you can present them in a story form, and give them an interesting story to tell and you have some neat pictures about them, you change people’s minds and perceptions.”
The book ends with a letter to readers from Rascal, detailing animal rescue procedures. For example, if eggs fall out of a bird’s nest, they can be placed in a basket with straw or leaves and hung in the tree. The mother bird will care for eggs in the nest and the basket. Also, fawns are left camouflaged in the wild by their mothers. Ruth said the mother will return to care for the fawn, and humans should not try to relocate them.
Proceeds from the book will help fund ongoing operations at the A.R.K.
“It’s a constant struggle, having enough money to do what we do on the scale that we do it,” Ruth said.
A.R.K. has rescued over 5,000 animals and returned them to their natural habitat. Ruth stressed that human interaction, people’s pets, buildings and homes and vehicles often disrupt the animals.
“All we’re trying to do is put them back where God intended them to be, and give them a second chance,” Ruth said.
Diment, who specializes in acrylic painting, drew the stories for the book with charcoal and graphite.
“It’s been kind of fun,” she said. “I like drawing and I haven’t done it in awhile and the book brought that back for me.”
Diment said drawing has provided a new venue to sell her work since she can complete the artwork in a shorter amount of time than painting.
“There are a lot of galleries and people who don’t have that kind of artwork so it has been selling rather well,” she said.
Two other books, which will be part of series called “Tales from The A.R.K.” are already in the works to supplement donations to support the animal rescue operations.
“We’re doing well right now, but depending on the economy, it really effects our donations,” Hedrich said.
The book will be available at the Main Branch Gallery and at the A.R.K. For more information about sales for the book, contact the A.R.K. at (989) 329-4356.