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Alum’s Children’s Books to the Rescue

Expanding Series, Foundation Educate About Shelter Dogs

By Shannon Clark M.Jour. ’22

Jason Kraus, his fiancée and their dog, Gibbson

Jason M.S. '16 and Michelina Kraus pose with Gibbson, their rescue dog that spurred the alum's bestselling "Belly Rubbins for Bubbins" book (below) and the foundation of the same name that educates about animal neglect and abuse.

Photos courtesy of Belly Rubbins for Bubbins

Jason Kraus’ fiancée had to break through his anti-pit bull prejudice before he finally agreed to adopt an elderly dog with thyroid cancer, but soon the couple were having nightly cuddles with the affectionate pooch.

As Kraus '10 got to know 10-year-old Gibbson, he began focusing on the little things about his new friend—and some of them shook him deeply.

“I’m looking at him and he has cropped ears, they shaved down his teeth flat and he has scars all over his neck and his body,” he said. “I’m just thinking to myself, ‘How can people do this to a living being?’”

Belly Rubbins for Bubbins book cover

Those nights on the couch sparked the beginning of “Belly Rubbins For Bubbins: The Story of a Rescue Dog,” his bestselling 2019 children’s book that has spawned a hit sequel, a version for young special-needs audiences, a line of merchandise and a nonprofit that teaches about animal neglect and abuse and the lives of rescue dogs, based on a maxim from the book, “We can spay, neuter, shelter, foster and adopt, but until we educate it won't stop!”

Kraus, who majored in criminology and criminal justice and had been working in the financial crimes division of a Big Four accounting firm when he and his now-wife Michelina—who runs the Belly Rubbins for Bubbins foundation with him—adopted Gibbson. Today he works full-time on the foundation, but credits his education for helping him to understand the scope of the problem, and formulate an answer.

“I remember hearing … in my counterterrorism classes that the only way to stop terrorism long-term is education”—which holds true as well for animal abuse, said Kraus. “The problem is we aren’t getting to the core of the issue. We aren’t being proactive; we are just being reactive.”

His answer was a story featuring a cartoon Gibbson stand-in, Bubbins, that traces a dog’s harrowing journey from abuse and neglect to a shelter, and finally to the loving home that he never gave up hope was awaiting him. It rose to No. 2 on the Barnes & Noble Bestseller’s List the day after its release, and attracted hundreds of Amazon.com reviews from readers who gushed that the heartwarming book made them cry and promoted an important message.

To date, the Krauses have taught their Bubbins Rescue Education Workshops, which include book readings, Q&A sessions and completing Bubbins book lesson plans, to more than 6,000 elementary school students in several states.

“Kids are really interested in this information because they interact with dogs regularly,” said Kraus. “For kids this isn’t sad. Kids say, ‘Okay, what can I do about this?’”

Kraus last year published the sequel, “Belly Rubbins For Bubbins: First Day Home,” also illustrated by Connor DeHaan, along with an accessible version of the first book that features simplified illustrations, an outline around Bubbins to support visual processing and picture symbols below text on the page to aid in comprehension.

He was inspired to do so after he received an email from Sydni Cohen ’14, M Ed. ’15, a Maryland special education teacher who worked with Kraus to adopt the book into more accessible versions.

“I was surprised when [Kraus] answered and was on board,” said Cohen. “I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere, but after our call we started immediately from there. It’s been so fun to be able to use the original book, but make the book more appropriate to read for my kids.”

Belly Rubbins for Bubbins is focusing on creating corporate partnerships, as well as directly donating 51% of its net profits from book and other merchandise sales to rescues and shelters.

Gibbson, the dog that started it all, passed away last year, but his legacy will ensure thousands of other shelter pets have better lives—and maybe even get those coveted “belly rubbins.”

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