Ashley Napier, Special to the Daily Press
A foster husky was given a fair chance at life and found her forever home along the way thanks to a local family. Samohi graduate, Anastasia Khromova recently released her debut children’s early chapter book, titled “Stella” detailing her puppy’s inspiring journey overcoming Swimmer Puppy Syndrome.
Stella’s journey began in 2016, when Anastasia was a senior at Samohi. Her older sister was running a dog rescue, “Be a Voice. Adopt a Dog” in Los Angeles, when an employee brought in a two-month old, white husky puppy with striking blue eyes and an excited temperament. Although adorable, the puppy had a physical deformity and couldn’t walk, stand or run like other puppies her age, making it difficult to find her a home.
The family lived in Venice and had regularly fostered dogs, but “at one point we were fostering this insane amount of dogs,” said Khromova with a laugh, and was not sure whether they could take on another. After seeing the puppy’s condition, her family decided to make an exception and brought her home, deciding to call her “Stella.”
“We were just consumed by her from the moment we met her,” says Khromova, “which is a problem when you’re fostering.” After taking Stella to multiple veterinarians, the family found the dog had a deformity called “Swimmer Puppy Syndrome,” where newborn dogs are unable to walk or stand, thus laying flat on their bellies with their legs spread out from their bodies, only able to make flapping motions with their legs, like they are swimming.
Despite her deformities “she didn’t act like she had a disability,” says Khromova. “She moved as much as she can move, even if there was like this little, like, wiggle effect, you know, so it was really inspiring to see that.”
Khromova said that she and her family knew they had to help Stella overcome her disability, because her sister Dascha has severe Autism and needs help supporting herself, so it was never a question to assist Stella in any way that they could — “my family has a soft spot for, you know, helping people,” she says.
Multiple veterinarians recommended putting Stella down due to her condition, but Khromova’s family enrolled her in physical therapy and saw progress in just a matter of weeks. Although the Khromovas only meant to foster Stella, she became one of the family and they decided to adopt her, giving Stella her forever home.
Flash forward two-and-a-half years, Khromova graduated early from Chapman University with a degree in Marketing and a minor in Graphic Design and was saving up for an iPad, when her mom gifted her one for her birthday. Khromova started sketching and illustrating, finding a love for detailing her puppies life as a way to relieve everyday stress. She began “spending, like an insane amount of time” on the project she says, and “in a matter of a couple of weeks it was like a done product!”
She realized then that this could be more than a fun passion project, as she called it, and spent the next two years writing and editing the story, while perfecting her illustrations. Once she learned about self-publishing as an alternative to selling it to an editor or a publishing house, she decided to start her very first Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds needed to bring Stella’s story to life.
After posting her first Kickstarter campaign in April, Khromova says she received “well over a grand in like the first couple of hours.” The experience was an “emotional rollercoaster,” she remarked — “I had no idea what to expect.”
Her Kickstarter campaign increased in popularity and earned the “Projects We Love” badge on Kickstarter where the crowdfunding campaign site highlights “brilliant examples of creativity” and promotes it.
In just one month, Khromova raised enough money to print her book, appropriately titled “Stella.” Although writing a children’s early chapter book was never her goal, she has created an emotional story, she says, that details “the power of strength and the importance of the support system.”
“Stella” will be available on Amazon by late August in hardcover and Kickstarter backers will receive their copies in August as well. Khromova has pledged to donate half her book sales towards a Los Angeles dog rescue organization, Wags and Walks that finds shelter dogs their forever homes, a mission very close to Khromova’s heart.
As for what’s next for the new author, she says that her work has been “a great passion project,” but doesn’t see herself releasing a second book anytime soon, wanting to focus on her career in marketing. For those interested in publishing their own stories she says “just to go for it,” but to “take it one thing at a time.”