Jackson McLeod Smith
My numerous dreams about Finley inspired this book. I was very sad when Finley died and miss him a lot but it makes me feel better knowing how much fun he is having in Heaven. I hope this book helps to comfort all kids (and adults too) after losing a pet they love.
Jackson is a nine-year-old 4th grader at J.B. Watkins Elementary school in Midlothian, Virginia where he is an honor roll student. He is a member of the chess club, Cub Scouts, the VCU Junior Rowdy Rams and the N.C. State Junior Wolfpack Club. He loves basketball games at the Siegel Center and football games at Carter-Finley Stadium. Jackson enjoys traveling, reading, origami and LEGOS. Some of his favorite foods are pizza, nachos and a fine steak.
Knowing my son’s family so well, I admired how they loved and cared for their Cavaliers. With the loss of Finley, it was the love, joy and hope that Jackson brought back into the home of a grieving family that inspired our book.
Currently, Janie is a new teacher mentor for the College of William and Mary. Prior to this, she served as a University Supervisor and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Education at William and Mary.
She holds a B.S. in Education from Old Dominion University and a M.Ed. in Special Education from the College of William and Mary. Most of her 30 years of teaching involved working with exceptional children in Hampton, York County, and Chesterfield County, Virginia. She worked with students with Specific Learning Disabilities for eight years at L.C. Bird High School in Chesterfield County and spent her last five years teaching Reading and Virginia History to fourth graders at Coventry Elementary School in York County.
She was President of her sorority, Chi Omega, and is active in her church, River Road Presbyterian Church, in Richmond, Virginia. She enjoys spending time with her son’s family. She adores her grandson, Jackson, and loves playing golf with friends.
I feel extremely blessed to have been given the opportunity to illustrate this wonderful story. Anyone who has lost a cherished companion knows how much it hurts. When I learned of Jackson’s dreams, it brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. I was inspired by the love and innocence of a child and his belief in Heaven.
Self-taught, Gail’s artistic interests and abilities have been part of who she is her entire life. Starting with crayons and a Polaroid camera, she has evolved into an artist with a unique style all her own. Having an ‘Enjoy the moment, for it will all too soon be gone!’ outlook comes through in her work. Her love of the natural world and its inhabitants fuels a desire to capture their beauty, while her sense of humor and appreciation of that which is magical and whimsical is also a driving force behind her art. Her portraits are renditions which capture the character of her chosen subjects, as she ‘casts’ them in roles which give a glimpse into their ‘personality’. Her ‘Wordplay’ series showcases her love of a good pun, and her animal renditions are executed with great care and an obvious love of the natural world. ‘My art is my passion! Creating works which bring joy to others feeds my soul. Enjoy life, look for the good, try to find a giggle in every day, and most of all do your best to give joy to all you come in contact with, are the words I try to live by. If my work brings a smile or a moment of peace to the heart of its viewer, then I have done my job.’ Gail has been a professional photographer and prolific artist for seventeen years. She is an active member of the local art community, and exhibits on a regular basis at several venues in the Richmond/Chesterfield area.
“Many times I’ve been asked by my parishioners if I believed their pets went to heaven. Always I have said that God made all creatures and the world “good” and a “Good God would of course have a place for our beloved pets to go to wait for us. In the Hebrew scriptures (Genesis 1:24 God made all kinds of animals and creatures of the earth and pronounced them ‘good.’). We humans have been domesticating animals especially dogs and cats to be our companions and friends as long as humanity can remember. It isn’t surprising then that when these dear companions die they leave a large hole in our hearts.
There are two heroes in Finley Finds Heaven, Finley the marvelous loving Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and his beloved young owner, Jackson a third grader who helps us all to understand the biblical truth that God loves all the creatures of the earth and assures us we shall be reunited with them some day in a paradise reserved for all who love God. Jackson really is a living breathing little boy who helped his family and himself through a dream of his beloved Finley returning to him to tell him he was ok and would be reunited with them all one day. For those faithful believers who have lost both human loved ones and beloved pets I hope and pray this little true story will enable you to hold fast to the belief that God loves you, you are never alone, and one day you will be reunited with all whom you love and hold dear.”
Carroll A. Londoner, PhD
(Honorably Retired) Presbyterian Minister. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)
For anyone who’s lost a beloved pet, Finley’s story will help you to smile through your tears. A very comforting read.
Reading Specialist and dog lover
A wonderful story with an interesting perspective from a beloved pet looking down from heaven, on his wonderful family. Sharing memories of his fun life, Finley helps his family deal with his death. As an elementary guidance counselor sharing this story with students who have loss a pet would be beneficial.
Elementary Guidance Counselor