The only thing that Trout Strazzulla likes better than exploring holes in the ground is writing books.

The Jack Russell terrier had help, of course, when it came to creating the first title in "Trout's Adventure Series." In "The River," Trout takes the reader along as he explores nature with his owners.

They are Anna Strazzulla, 12, who channeled Trout to write the text, and Elizabeth Strazzulla, Anna's mother, who took all the pictures of Trout pursuing fresh leads.

"He just turned 2," Elizabeth said. "He is probably the youngest author in New England."

At the same time that "The River" suggests ways to explore nature with your dog, the book celebrates the fact that people don't have to practice social distancing with their pets.

"What is interesting, and great to see, is more people going outside, families going for walks, which is nice," Elizabeth said. "Any time that dogs go outside, they love it."

Like any dog, but especially given his breeding as a hunter, Trout is simply following his instincts when he explores outdoors.

But for Anna, the journey with Trout that is recorded in the book began in response to an assignment from school.

Her sixth-grade class at St. Mary of the Annunciation School in Danvers was required to attend a nature camp, which would have meant that Anna had to leave Trout behind for a week.

They asked Principal Sharon Burrill if it would be OK for Anna to do an alternative project that would involve Trout, and she approved.

"We live on the Parker River in Byfield and have enough nature in our backyard," Elizabeth said.

That included the log that a beaver had gnawed on, which Trout uses in a lesson about telling a beaver's age by measuring the width of its teeth marks.

Anna said that she learned about that from her mother, who said she learned it from a Maine guide.

"The other things I noticed, I looked up online to see how the animal would live," Anna said.

For instance, when Trout found a raccoon's den in the rotten trunk of an old tree, Anna's research revealed that it was a likely spot for a raccoon to live because it was near the river, where they like to hunt for frogs and other small creatures.

"It's fun to learn about the animals that you see every day, and I think it would be nice for other people to learn about them, too," Anna said.

Trout has a nose for plants, as well as animals, and a page of the book shows him sniffing a plant called, appropriately enough, a trout lily.

"There are many plants at the river such as moss, grass and skunk cabbage," Trout writes. "I would never eat any of these, but a lot of the animals at my river would."

Elizabeth had been photographing Anna's trips to the river with Trout when Anna's sister, Lucia, suggested that she should record his adventures as a book.

"I really like to write," Anna said. "English class is one of my favorite classes because I like to read, too. This year, I was very happy to be inducted into the National Junior Honor Society."

Trout is joined in "The River" by Cody, a golden Labrador retriever who sometimes takes the lead in exploring nature, but more often follows Trout.

"If they go swimming, Cody's the leader," Elizabeth said. "Sometimes, if they're chasing animals, Trout is definitely the leader. Cody is funny. He's a little bit of a fraidy cat and won't go out unless Trout goes first."

That's why it makes sense for the the series to be named after Trout, who is currently working on a book with his family about exploring beaches in Essex County.

"Anna and I hope the Trout books encourage people to get to know the natural world and to discover the delight in seeing their canine companions enjoying our beautiful area," Elizabeth said.

 

Fetch a copy

"The River — Trout's Adventure Series" is available at saltysown.patternbyetsy.com and at The Natural Dog, which has stores at 155 State St., Newburyport, and 22 Railroad Ave., Hamilton. Trout's adventures can also be followed on Instagram, @the_trout_tales.

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