HUDSON — “Just A Girl and Her Dog” is a book about the love between an owner and her cairn terrier, Kuchen (pronounced Koukin), but the inspiration to write the book came from a different kind of love.
Author Pam Meoli of Northborough wrote the book, which features photographs of her dog Kuchen doing everyday things, after losing her sister Maria Pilato Brown, 63, to cancer in November 2022.
Meoli, who is a member of the Assabet Valley Camera Club, wrote the book by first putting in the illustrations, which are photos of herself with Kuchen with a filter from the Prisma app, and then writing the story.
Despite her diagnosis, Brown fought a private battle and planned her son Jordan’s wedding on Plum Island in October 2022, while learning to play Chicago’s “Colour My World” on the piano. She sang the song with her daughter, Lauren, at the nuptials, and it was one thing she was proud of accomplishing.
To process her grief after Brown’s death, Meoli started to journal in a blue notebook adorned with dragonflies, a visual theme in “Just A Girl and Her Dog.” This led to creative ideas for the book, and, although her intention was not to make money with the book, she wanted to do something to help others.
The book was made possible by an act of kindness with two editors Christine Orme and Sara Judith Gravett from Canada and England respectively. She met them in a cairn terrier Facebook group, and they offered to help with the book.
“I wanted to compensate them, of course. But their response was, ‘We don’t want pay. We just want to see your dream come true,’” said Meoli.
She added, “Amazing, huh?”
What began as a personal challenge and way to process her grief has turned into a published work that benefits the Hudson nonprofit Tend to You, which was founded by its president, Ellie McDonald from Northborough, and provides locally-sourced care packages to cancer patients in active treatment.
“I have been friends with Ellie McDonald for years,” said Meoli. “She is an amazing young lady who has beat breast cancer.”
McDonald said when Brown passed away, “We grew even closer.”
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 24 years old, McDonald turned to practicing mindfulness in her life by taking care of herself. She took inventory of what she used for her beauty routine and things she ate. How she treated her body became very important to her.
She also received support from others in the form of care packages, which led her to think about supporting others in the same way. When she recovered, she turned the idea into a reality and started Tend to You in June 2020.
She said, “There are many ways up the mountain, and no real guides. But we can help each other along the way, and that’s what I’m trying to do with Tend.”
McDonald thanked Meoli for “always showing up for Tend to You” and being a steadfast supporter.
According to Chief of Operations Lauren Sheehan, the goal of Tend to You is to “help the cancer community feel seen and supported so that they can reduce stress and feel empowered through mindful self-care.”
In November, it donated $1,000 worth of care packages to Christopher’s Haven, which has the mission to operate a community consisting of temporary apartments for families of children being treated for cancer in Boston hospitals.
“We hope that through our carefully-curated products and activities that people can take the time to slow down and take the space to breathe in a time that is overly hectic and scary,” said Sheehan.
Brown was the middle sister of three, including sister Marla, and raised two children of her own with her husband in Southborough. And, although they had different hobbies, Meoli and Brown always supported each other’s interests and talents.
Meoli said, “All three of us sisters spent years together living and working in Germany. My oldest son was born there in fact.”
Brown was “an amazing entertainer and cook” who started her own Youtube channel 10 years ago, @mariabrown8015, Meoli said. When Meoli asked why Brown began the channel, she said, “I want to be remembered like this. I want my children and grandchildren to be able to find me and cook with me.”
Meoli said, “And remembered she sure is.”
Tend to You is also helped by donations from a tournament named after Brown that was begun by her golf team, as she was an avid golfer.
Meoli said, “The spiral of acts of kindness continues.”
Meoli has sold 287 copies of her book and has raised an estimated $1,000 for Tend to You.
She said, “The ultimate goal of the book is to help support Tend to You and the cancer community. It’s just that simple. No other motive.”
“Just A Girl and Her Dog” by Meoli is available at Amazon.com. For information about Tend to You, visit https://tendtoyou.org. For every two care packages sold, one is donated to a member of the cancer community.