Since her father is a veterinarian and her brother owns a pet grooming and boarding business, writing a children’s book about a dog seems a natural for Teri Hackett D’Armond.
However, they weren’t the inspiration for “Cotton Feels Rotten.” Rather, it’s one of her children.
D’Armond’s daughter, McCall, has Turner syndrome, which is caused by a complete or partial absence of an X chromosome. The missing genetic material keeps the female body from maturing naturally, and occurs in about 1 of every 2,000 live female births, according to the Turner Syndrome Society of the United States.
The condition sometimes saps her energy, D’Armond said.
D’Armond had already started on this children’s book — the third she’s written, but the first she’s published — when McCall, 14, was diagnosed four years ago. D’Armond began to realize how much her daughter exemplified the message she was trying to communicate.
“She doesn’t feel well, but she continues to have a great attitude,” D’Armond said. “She inspired me, and that’s where the book came from.”
The book, which D’Armond has self-published, tells about a dog named Cotton, who writes a letter telling his veterinarian how he is feeling sick and sad. The vet, Dr. Bark, helps Cotton realize that simple things in life bring happiness and will lift his spirits. The ability to live in the moment and not get caught up in negative circumstances is the kind of spirit McCall demonstrates, D’Armond said.
“My husband and I both changed a lot in the process, realizing how thankful we are for our little girl. All that energy and those emotions came out in my book, and that’s how I came up with ‘Cotton Feels Rotten.’”
Her daughter isn’t the book’s only family connection.
She models Dr. Bark after her father, Dr. C.N. Hackett, who practices at the Animal Health Clinic in Baton Rouge. The protagonist is named and designed after the logo used by her brother, Michael Hackett, at Petz Plaza.
Michael Hackett created a plush toy of the same design — a white, blue and green dog with long, brown ears. Although Petz Plaza called its mascot Jelly Bean, D’Armond was denied a trademark on that name, so she called him Cotton.
“I wanted something Southern,” she said.
After interviewing illustrators, D’Armond chose a family friend, Dr. Tom Quaid, a retired cardiologist.
“He made Cotton come to life,” she said. “He did a great job. It’s kind of fun, because he’s connected medically as well. He knows a lot about Turner’s. He said the message of the book is what made him say yes. That made me feel good.”
D’Armond, 47, was a teacher before starting a family, which includes two other children. Since publishing the book, she’s thinking about a series.
Some of the proceeds of this book will benefit the Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.
“It’s a book that really speaks to me all day long. I think as moms and parents we get so busy and caught up in the daily routine and grind of life,” she said. “We start kind of feeling bad like Cotton does. It’s just the simple pleasures that God sets before us that bring us joy, like watching a sunset or holding somebody’s hand or listening or forgiving. … The love that you show can bring you peace and joy.”
The book is available at the Animal Health Clinic, Petz Plaza, Cottonwood Books, Victoria’s Toy Station, Oh! Baby, The Foyer, L.D. Linens, B kids and Caroline & Company in Lafayette.