Author of the Month: Grace Vest

By Susan L. Peterson

Grace Vest loves dogs.

The notion that happiness can be achieved by doing good was instilled in Vest as a young girl. She has vivid memories from her childhood of visiting animal shelters with her dad, which led to her volunteering with rescue organizations.

About six years ago, she saw a book about rescue dogs, and she wondered if she could produce a similar book specifically for Arkansas. After all, she was a recent media communications major from University of Arkansas at Little Rock who had experience writing for the university newspaper. It seemed like the perfect project.

In a little over a year, she achieved her mission with the publication of ”Home Sweet Home: Arkansas Rescue Dogs and Their Stories” (Et Alia Press 2017). And in typical fashion, Vest donated a portion of the profits to pet rescue organizations. In addition to her aim in producing a beautiful book, she wanted to highlight the many issues dogs face, from puppy mills to avoidable health problems.

Vest’s first step was to find the stories. She started a Facebook page, friends told friends, and there was even a news story about her search. Within three months, she received more than 500 submissions. Some stories were heartbreaking, causing Vest to cry herself to sleep at night.

The publication process went smoothly. Using the help of friends and family, everything seemed to line up throughout the process. A friend gave her contact information for Erin Wood, publisher of Et Alia Press. After hearing her pitch, Wood was enthusiastically on board. Vest’s stepsister, June Upton, designed the book, and a friend, Whitney Bower, took the photographs. 

“Home Sweet Home” is available online. If purchasing, use code ‘PUP501’ for 10% off plus $1 shipping.

In choosing which stories to include, it was important to represent all areas of the state. But some stories stood out. There was Frankie, a dog found in a parking lot in Little Rock that became the first dog trained to detect thyroid cancer. And Priscilla Louise became a therapy dog at Arkansas Children’s Hospital before moving to Arizona and working at a hospital there. Rocky was found in an attic following Hurricane Katrina, and Django was found with a chain embedded in his neck.

Vest’s love for dogs also led to her meeting the love of her life, her husband, Patrick. When she was 19 years old, she took her rescue dog Rascal for an outing at Murray Dog Park. Rascal not only showed interest in other dogs but also Patrick, who had his rescue dog there. Soon the two struck up a conversation. Seven years later, they were married.

In 2019, Vests took a job as a marketing director for Sunshine Equipment, a John Deere dealer in Mandeville, La., but they often return to the area to visit friends and family. In addition to two dogs, the couple now has two children, Townsend, age 6, and Teddy Grace, age 2. Grace no longer has time to write, but she has considered writing about some of the wonderful farm dog stories she hears about through her work.