The animals in Judy Archibald’s picture book, The Mutt and the Mustang, are more than just furry, kid-friendly characters.
“It was rescuing Raven that really brought me back to peace after my husband died,” Archibald says.
Twenty years ago, Archibald moved to Estes Park with her husband, who died of cancer in his forties.
“I had been widowed,” Archibald says. “It was only after getting back into horses and all my pets that I again found joy, with The Mutt & the Mustang.”
Archibald speaks warmly of all of her pets, several of whom make an appearance in her book. In addition to Raven the mustang, readers meet Rio the paint horse, Cloud the cat, Cheyenne the German shepherd and the little mutt Kody. The Mutt and the Mustang tells the story of Kody, the primary character, discovering his self-worth when the otherwise unruly Raven allows Kody to ride on his back. Yes, the title is literal and the story is true.
“It was only last year sometime as I was leading the horse around the pasture with Kody on his back that I thought, ‘Gosh, I wish kids could enjoy this,’” Archibald says. “It was always a cute kid’s story.”
Archibald’s book is the happy ending to many otherwise sad stories. Cheyenne came from a breeder but has had several physical problems, including surgery to insert a 6-inch metal plate in her back leg. Rio was rescued from an Indian reservation in New Mexico before he came into Archibald’s care. Raven worked as a stable horse in Estes Park and would often escape into Archibald’s pasture to eat grass because he was underfed. Cloud, who is missing an eye, was adopted from the Boulder Valley Humane Society. Kody was rescued from a puppy mill.
The animals have built relationships among themselves since coming to their new home.
“Each horse seems to like their dog more than they like each other,” Archibald says. “Rio nuzzles Cheyenne and Raven nuzzles Kody. They’ve each bonded with their own dog.”
Archibald takes pleasure in her animals’ happiness, particularly Raven’s.
“It’s fun to see Raven have another buddy because he had a hard life,” Archibald says.
Archibald says she benefits from her animals and their story as much as they benefit from her care.
“It’s fun to share the story with other people because it is so strange the way it happened,” Archibald says. “It’s very socializing for me.”
The story meant so much to Archibald that she started her own publishing company, Pet Pals Publishing, in order to maintain control over how the book was illustrated. Archibald says it was important to her that the animals in the book resembled the pets they were based on. After taking several submissions from illustrators, Archibald said Patricia Greenberg’s drawings were the obvious choice.
“I liked Patricia’s drawings the best,” Archibald says. “I really thought she captured their personalities well.”
The book that inspired a new career for Archibald is featured in 30 Colorado stores and carried by four distributors. Since it’s publishing date, The Mutt and the Mustang has sold over 1,000 copies, and Archibald already has plans for a sequel since discovering more about Raven’s history as a wild horse in Colorado’s oldest mustang herd.
“He got taken there when he was just a foal,” Archibald says. “I think the next story will be about his life from that time until he got here.”
GO! Archibald will be selling and signing The Mutt and the Mustang at Colorado Horse Rescue’s open house in Longmont on Dec. 10 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Published in Longmont Magazine on 11/12/11 (see PDF below).