Pippi is a mischievous black Lab. Since she was a puppy, she has gotten into adventures and misadventures, all to the delight and chagrin of her owner, Katherine L. “Gig” Babson Jr. MBA’77, H’99.
“She’s an absolutely great dog,” Babson said. “All my friends say to me, ‘Gig, you got the kind of dog that matches your character.’ So, I am the happiest person in the world to have a dog that has as much character as she does.”
Since bringing Pippi home on Valentine’s Day 2020, Babson has captured her dog’s shenanigans in a series of Facebook posts written from Pippi’s perspective. For example, when Pippi ransacked a raised vegetable bed, plucked a ripe tomato off the vine, and gobbled it up, the post began: “Big Trouble, that’s what I am in. Once again, I shouldn’t be because I just did what I have seen Gig do.”
Now, those puppy tales form the basis of a self-published book, Tails with Gig: Stories from the Dog Blog, on which Babson collaborated with longtime friend and illustrator Katherine K. Macdonald MBA’99.
The result is not only the story of Pippi’s misadventures. It’s also a tale of collaboration, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy.
When Babson decided to compile her Pippi posts into a photo book to share with family and friends, she asked a good friend for help. Babson and Macdonald have known each other for years. The two Babson College MBA graduates are elected town meeting members in Wellesley, and they have worked together on several community projects.
Gig Babson is a trustee emerita of the College and a distant cousin of its founder, Roger Babson. A retired attorney, she has served more than 50 years in Wellesley town government, including serving on the board of selectmen and as town moderator.
Macdonald is a longtime marketing executive and the former executive director/president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. She also is an oil painter who recently exhibited at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, so Macdonald suggested that she could illustrate the posts instead, and the idea of a book took hold.
“The reaction has been that the illustrations have really made the book,” Babson said. “The text is funny, but the pictures really illustrate that.”
The whimsy of the original Facebook posts, written in Pippi’s voice, allowed for a lot of creativity. “I thought it would be boring if they heard from me, and it made it much easier to write from Pippi’s perspective,” Babson said. “It allowed me to not angst over grammar and sentence structure. I could just do it from a young puppy, and it made it much easier to poke fun at myself, which I like to do.”
While most of the original posts included photos, Macdonald had creative license to depict Pippi’s shenanigans. “The fun for me was to show the mischief in action,” said Macdonald, who used gouache and watercolor. Some illustrations took as little as an hour, while others took her several hours. “We did a couple that I thought were really funny, but I couldn’t make the illustration really work with the idea.”
Babson and Macdonald begin working on the project in May. It has been a learning experience.
Macdonald jokes that “Babson College would take back our MBAs because nothing has gone as planned.” But, like all good entrepreneurs, the duo has continually overcome challenges big and small. Macdonald learned how to use InDesign, and navigated the world of self-publishing.
“Kathy did everything,” Babson said. “She illustrated it, she did the setup, she figured out everything, and took it to the local printer.”
With the printed book in hand, Babson approached Wellesley Books, which agreed to take 10 copies on consignment. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive—and exhilarating. The pair, alongside Pippi, have done some paw signings, and are looking forward to a book reading at a local Montessori school. “Within a month, we sold over 200 copies,” Babson said. “We’re now in our fourth printing, and we’re on Amazon.”
The swift success didn’t slow Babson and Macdonald from improving the original book. “There were some things we found out right away before the second printing,” Macdonald said. They added the subtitle and moved the introduction in front of the dedication and forward to help the reader better understand that the book is in the dog’s voice, and explain who is whom. “I liked it because they were calling me ‘Pippi’ and calling my dog ‘Gig,’ ” Babson said.
“The good news is in inventory management that we keep selling out,” Macdonald said. “The bad news is we keep selling out.”
Knowing they could work well together, Babson said that she and Macdonald had two objectives in producing the book: benefit local business and make it philanthropic.
Macdonald has ridden in the Pan-Mass Challenge, the fundraising bike-a-thon, for 16 years. So, as compensation for the illustrations, “Gig made a wonderful donation to the Pan-Mass, which was really appreciated,” Macdonald said. “So, we tied philanthropy to this as much as we could.”
The proceeds of the book are going to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, which had previously provided care for one of Babson’s other dogs that had been stricken with cancer. “The care that they gave and the compassion … it’s a wonderful place,” she said.
Babson and Macdonald say they may try to collaborate on a second book because the process has been so enjoyable and rewarding.
“To be able to do something for pure joy in this day and age is a fun thing,” Macdonald said. “We just really want people to enjoy it, have fun reading it.”
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