Monday, June 9, 2008

A 'Second Chance' Bethlehem author is inspired by the bond between her adopted child and an adopted dog

The Express-Times
June 5, 2008
by Jessica Hoogendoorn

"Never say never to me, I'm the daughter of a Marine."

Sandra Gerencher doesn't let anything stand in her way, especially when it comes to rescuing dogs.

This Bethlehem woman has somehow found time in her busy schedule of being a single, working mom to express her creativity and add a new chapter to her 10-year saga of helping misfit dogs.

Gerencher's children's book, "Second Chance: How Adoption Saved a Boy with Autism and His Shelter Dog," was published recently by Tribute Books of Eynon, Pa. Five percent of the profit from each $12.95 book will be donated to the national Humane Society, the author says, plus 5 percent of sales at Humane Society book signings will go directly to the local shelters hosting the events.

"(Sandra) is very passionate about saving animals from shelters," Nicole Langan, owner of Tribute Books says. "She thought it would be a great way to give back. She's very generous."

The Humane Society of Lackawanna County is one of the local shelters that will benefit from Gerencher's book. The shelter doesn't receive any state or federal funding and relies heavily on donations.

"We really appreciate her doing that for us because it is very hard to take care of all the animals entrusted to us," Beverly Bright, director of the shelter says. "We really have an over abundance of pets to take care of."

The money donated from Gerencher's book sales will go toward utilities, food and other essentials needed by animals in the shelter, said Bright.

Family ties

The characters in Gerencher's book are inspired by her family.

"It's real life, it's what goes on every day," Gerencher says. "And that's what inspires me, just my life, my son, the dogs and the kids at school."

It took Gerencher three years to publish her book and fulfill her goal of simplifying adoption so that a child could pick up a book and understand the process.

"She's a great person," Langan says. "She opened her home and life to her son and the animals she rescued. A lot of people can relate to her."

According to Langan, about 500 copies of the book already have been sold.

A dog's story

Gerencher's tale is told from the perspective of a dog adopted from an animal shelter by a family with an autistic child. The story is 28 pages long and written for children ages 9 to 12.

"Not only can a child pick this up, but also an adult with disabilities," Gerencher says. "That is why I geared it toward a child."

Gerencher lives with her adopted autistic son Terry, 13, and three rescued dogs named Shelby, P.J. and Ramsees.

Chance, the Rottweiler-German shepherd mix from the book, no longer lives with the family. He grew too large for Gerencher's house and is now in a new home. Gerencher said she was originally told he would only grow to be 70 pounds, but at a year old he was already 160 pounds and was going to get bigger.

Although Chance was with Gerencher for a short time, he had a very big impact. Terry's interaction with Chance is the basis for Gerencher's book.

"They told me (Terry) would never speak in full sentences," Gerencher says. "But he would speak to Chance in full sentences as if the dog could understand him."

Gerencher said she doesn't understand it, but Terry has always had a special bond with dogs.

More to come

The author plans to publish two more books. Her second, scheduled to be published in October, will be about disabilities, specifically autism. The third book will be about death and loss. All three of her books are intended to simplify and explain complicated subjects so children can understand them.

"(The book about disabilities) is to teach kids why others are different," Gerencher says. "Kids nowadays aren't exposed to (people with disabilities), but kids are naturally inquisitive."

Langan chose to publish Gerencher's work because she prefers authors who are off the beaten path and have new ideas and fresh perspectives. These are the authors that are often ignored by big-time publishers, according to Langan.

Never about getting rich

Gerencher will receive only 10 percent from each book sale, but that is fine with her.

"I never expected to make money," she says. "My whole goal with this book was to make children more aware, to help children. And if I've accomplished that goal with a child, then that more than satisfies me."

When she isn't writing books or rescuing dogs, Gerencher works as a special education teacher in the Bangor Area School District.

In fact, her class was the first group of children to hear the story. She wanted to test out the book on her students to make sure the book was enjoyable and understandable to her target audience.

It turned out to be a hit. Some students even asked if her dog really could talk.

Sandra Gerencher, and an occasional furry companion, will be promoting the author's recently published children's book at several locations.

Book signing, meet and greet with P.J. the Pomeranian:

Noon, June 21, at Anthology in Scranton.

11 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 5, Barnes and Noble College Booksellers, Wilkes-Barre.

Book signing with Sandra:

Noon, July 12, Whitey's Annual Block Party, North and Linden streets, Bethlehem.

1 p.m. July 19, Waldenbooks in the Palmer Park Mall, Palmer Township.

2 p.m. to 4 p.m. July 26, Borders, Scranton.

International Homeless Animal's Day Event book signing:

Noon, Aug. 16, Lehigh County Humane Society, Allentown.

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