The Not Perfect Hat Club is the story of three perfectionists – a purebred golden retriever who failed as a show dog, a skateboarding slam poet, and a classical violinist – discover that perfect is not an option and become the best of friends in the process.

Jabber

Meet Jabber, a skateboarding slam poet. Jabber has a lot to learn about being hard on himself and others. Outside he acts tough, but inside he cares more than he likes to admit about his canine buddy Newton and his new friend Kylee.

Newton

Meet Newton, therapy dog extraordinaire and the canine leader of the CritterKin pack. Newton’s first family wanted him to be a show dog,  but he hated trying to look like all the other dogs. When he didn’t win any ribbons, he was put up for adoption. Now Newton works with his person Carl to help kids like Jabber and Kylee understand they are perfectly Not Perfect too.

Kylee

Meet Kylee, a talented violinist who thinks she should be able to play perfectly. She practices hours every day and is very hard on herself when she makes mistakes. Recently she’s so nervous when she plays that her fingers freeze. Kylee really needs Newton’s help to relax and learn that no one is perfect.

Read an Excerpt from The Not Perfect Hat Club

Chapter 1: A Not Perfect Dog

My name is Sir Isaac Oliver Newton, but you can call me Newton. This is the story of how I found my forever home, and learned it’s okay to be not perfect.

Sir Isaac Oliver Newton is the fancy, purebred name my first family gave me. Being a purebred dog meant I was supposed to grow up to be a champion.

From the moment my trainer started teaching me to sit, stay and heel, I did my best. I didn’t chew my sister’s ear or bark at other dogs. I even ignored the stinky cats in our backyard. But there was one thing I couldn’t do. I couldn’t change the size of my nose, the length of my tail, or the color of my fur.

Every time I went to dog shows, and stood beside all the other beautiful golden retrievers, I wanted to hide. I knew that when the judge came to look at me he would find something wrong. “Better luck next time,” my disappointed trainer would say as we left the show ring.

Back at the kennel, the other dogs would make fun of me. “Newton is a loser,” they’d bark. This hurt my feelings and made me sad.

Then one day, instead of going to school, my trainer Mark drove me to a big brick building called  Animal Control.

After pulling into a parking spot and turning off the engine, Mark opened the back door and said, “Okay buddy, out you go!”

“No, no, no,” I whined.

When I still refused to get out of the car, Mark clipped a leash to my collar and pulled me out. “Heel,” he said. Reluctantly I followed him down the path to the place I call “Catastrophe.”

Catastrophe means something terrible has happened, and that’s just how I felt. All around me confused, sad and frightened dogs were being left at the shelter by their people. When it was my turn, Mark handed my leash to a lady who smelled like hand sanitizer. “Be a good dog Newton. I’m sure you’ll find a good home,” he said. Then he turned and walked away.

I’m not sure how long I lived at Catastrophe because every day was the same. Early in the morning, Carlos and Rita would arrive to feed us breakfast and clean our cages. The second they turned on the lights, the barking would start. In the beginning, it was just one big BARK, but after a while I started to recognize voices. There was Hercules, a black-and-brown shepherd with a deep voice who barked for his person all day, every day. “Come back, come back, come back,” he called.

Then there was Foxy, the terrier whose sharp yaps let everyone know she was mad! “Unfair, unfair, unfair!”

But the voice that made me saddest belonged to Midge, the beagle in the cage beside me. Every morning Midge would lift her nose to the sky and cry, “Why, why, why?” She didn’t understand how her person could leave her in this place, and neither did I.

Every day Midge would give me advice. “If you want to find a home, show people you’re a lovable, friendly guy,” she said.

“Okay, okay,” I grumbled. I would shake people’s paws, ask for belly rubs and chase my tail to make them laugh, but no one took me home.

Many days and many visits later, a tall older gentleman and a funny looking woman in overalls came to see us.  The woman knelt down, offered her hand for me to sniff, then reached into her pocket for a treat.

“Hello Newton,” she said. “My name is Ms. Jenaia.”

Fortunately, I remembered my manners and took the treat very gently from her fingers.

“He’s quite a gentleman,” said the man.

“Yes, ” Ms. Jenaia agreed. “Newton, can you sit?

“Of course,” I said, plopping my butt down.

“Lie down?” the man asked.

“No problem,” I replied, rolling onto my side.

“He’s a sweetheart Carl,” Ms. Jenaia said. “He might be one. Let’s ask to take him outside.”

“Sounds good,” Carl said.

“And let’s take the beagle too,” Ms. Jenaia said. “Newton seems to like her.”

“Great, great, great!” Midge barked in her happiest beagle voice.

Ms. Jenaia and Carl took us outside to run and play fetch. Then Ms. Jenaia took Midge for a walk so Carl and I could talk.

“Newton, I have a question for you,” Carl said. “My job is helping kids, and I’m looking for a therapy dog. That means a dog who doesn’t mind being hugged and can help me talk to them. Do you think you could do that?”

I tilted my head to one side, and tried to look like I understood the question. I didn’t know any kids, but I already knew I’d do anything for Carl. “Yes, yes, yes!” I panted.

“Well, what do you think?” Ms. Jenaia asked when she returned with Midge.

“Newton and I have agreed to a trial,” said Carl. “He will be my assistant, and I will give him food, shelter and belly rubs.”

“Excellent!” said Ms. Jenaia. “Then you won’t mind adopting Midge too.”

“What?” Carl exclaimed. “One dog is enough!”

“Oh, I disagree,” Ms. Jenaia laughed. “Newton and Midge are best friends, and will keep each other company. I’d never forgive myself if I left her here.”

“But,” Carl sputtered.

“No buts Carl,” said Ms. Jenaia. “It’s settled.”

And that, my friends, is how I was rescued from Catastrophe, got a new job and a new best friend all in one day. Pretty good for a not perfect dog, don’t you think?

Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.