A small, gray dog barks excitedly at the front door of a Colonial home in St. James while an American flag billows in the chilly January air.
Little did Baxter, a miniature schnauzer, know he would be famous all over town.
Marie Marsh, the owner of the home and the dog, is also the author of "Courage." The children’s book, released last July by AuthorHouse Publishing, is about a puppy that unites a family after a son is deployed to Iraq.
The story is based on characters in Marsh’s life — the little sister, Faith, represents her 29-year-old daughter, Jessica. The military son, Lt. Mike, represents Marsh’s own son, Navy Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Bob Marsh, 34, who deployed to Iraq in July 2005.
And the new puppy was inspired by Baxter, of course, who wears a red, white and blue bandanna, just like his fictional self.
“I never intended to write a book, but the writing kept me focused on positive things,” said Marie Marsh, who works full-time as an office manager at a cosmetic dentistry facility.
Marsh said she hopes the book's light and child-friendly tone can help military families cope with the pain of a deployment.
“After the deployment, my family was just coming unglued from the anxiety and sadness of him leaving," Marsh said. She and her husband, Dennis, along with Jessica and Bob, got Baxter the day Bob left to serve overseas.
“Baxter gave us something to have in common with Bobby while he was gone,” Marsh said of her son, who has since served in Afghanistan and is now stationed in Fort Bragg, N.C.
Marsh said she tried to infuse the colorful pages of "Courage" with a patriotic spirit, which to her means “loving one’s country and those who serve.” To that end, the book is dedicated to her son along with his fellow servicemen and women.
“There are problems with America, but Dorothy Gale had it right,” Marsh said, referencing the popular "Wizard of Oz" character, “because there’s no place like home.”
"Courage" is available at the St. James General Store, Quaint and Classy in St. James, and Amazon.com. Marsh will do a reading and book signing at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization Educational and Cultural Center in Stony Brook. For more information, call 631-689-5888 or visit wmho.org.
Above: Marie Marsh, left, and daughter, Jessica Marsh, both of St. James, pose with their miniature schnauzer, Baxter, one of the inspirations for Marie's children's book, "Courage." (Jan. 14, 2012)