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Posted by on Nov 19, 2013 | 0 comments

Jena Ball – The Sounds of Kindness: Part I

MsJenaia and Governor Square 1000x1000
The Sounds of Kindness: Part I

Thirty years as a journalist reporting on everything from environmental disasters to women’s rights, have left me a little jaded when it comes to public events. So I guess I can be forgiven for having rather low expectations for the “Dog Adoption and Humane Awards” ceremony being held at the Governor’s mansion on Saturday, November 16, 2013 in Raleigh.

What did I expect? Two radically different events that would unfold simultaneously – one a carefully orchestrated awards ceremony involving formally dressed government types making round sounds, the other a canine free-for-all driven by the infectious joy of the three dozen dogs waiting for adoption.

Oddly enough, all of the above was true: There were indeed meticulously coiffed legislators, reporters and HSUS staff (the organization presenting the awards) gathered around a podium to be photographed and quoted as they accepted awards for their support of HB 930 (a bill that would establish minimum health and safety requirements for commercial dog breeders). There were also plenty of happy go lucky dogs and people playing and falling in love with them. But there the similarities between my imagined event and the reality ended.

What I did not anticipate were the kindness and tears: First Lady Ann McCrory drawing strength from a tiny tan puppy tucked beneath her chin as she spoke with quiet authority about her determination to pass HB 930; the sincere regret in Senator Hunt’s voice as he talked about how difficult it is to find support for a bill that is so clearly “right;” and the tears that choked Representative Brown’s voice as she described the horrific conditions in puppy mills. From the moment the ceremony began it was clear these people not only cared, but were putting their differences aside to work on something that was bigger than politics. As Representative Saine said after the ceremony, while proudly showing me his award, “This is about our humanity, not bipartisan politics.”

But there was more. As the creator of the CritterKin stories and illustrator responsible for the image that adorned the digital press releases and invitations, I was there as an artist/storyteller not a reporter. Instead of recording facts, gathering quotes and trying to remain objective, I allowed myself the luxury of being part of the festivities. I talked to the legislators, sharing pictures of our pets on our iPhones, played tug of war with a tiny black and tan Chihuahua mix, and at one point found myself hugging Governor Pat McCrory. “Are you the artist who did the picture of Ricky Bobby?” he asked.

“Guilty as charged,” I smiled. “His story is also in the CritterKin book I wrote.”

“Well you have to meet my wife,” he said. “She’s a huge Ricky Bobby fan.”

And that’s how the second half of this remarkable day began, in which I was reminded that sometimes what the universe has in mind is infinitely bigger, brighter and more hopeful than anything you can imagine. Stayed tuned…

 Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted by on Nov 15, 2013 | 0 comments

Jena Ball – Look at Me!

Ricky and Meet the Mutts Postcard 4x5


I’m Famous
My illustrated portrait by Ms. Jenaia (aka Jena Ball) was chosen to appear on the official invitation and press release for tomorrow’s adoption and award’s event at the state capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ms. Jenaia also had my portrait printed and framed to give to the first lady.  I hope she likes seeing my smiling face on her wall:

CritterKin Pocket Pups are Available for Adoption:

Thanks to Mariah’s devotion to fashion, CritterKin has started its own line of clothing. The first will be called, “Pocket Pups.” Like all the CritterKin mutts, each of the pocket pups was inspired by an actual shelter dog. It’s a way for kids to show their support of rescue and adoption, and carry their love for shelter pups everywhere! To read the stories of the current pocket pups, visit:

We will be adding more pocket pups all the time, so if you would like to suggest a special dog to feature, please email us with his/her photo and story:

Remember that a portion of all our sales goes to IFAW to support their efforts to improve the lives of dogs and cats worldwide. Be sure to watch their amazing video about the program here:

I Won!
I was chosen as CritterKin Ambassador for Finding Fido! For those unfamiliar with the program it’s a project launched by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies to educate and prepare people to get a dog. In particular, Finding Fido encourages the adoption of shelter dogs as part of its efforts to discourage puppy mills. As a puppy mill survivor myself (who has the physical disability to prove it), I support their mission with all my heart. As their ambassador it will be my job to help spread the word. Check out the announcement:

RB Walks the Red Carpet
My real life counterpart RB (the dog on whom my CritterKin story is based) will be appearing with his wonderful person Megan at “To the Rescue!” tonight in New York. “To the Rescue!” is the HSUS’s signature national benefit to support the lifesaving work of the Animal Rescue Team, which saves animals across the country from natural disasters, cruelty, and neglect. See:

The CritterKin pack has lots more planned for the holidays, including readings and a special campaign to help shelter dogs throughout North Carolina. If you’d like to know more, drop by our blog, check out the events, or email Ms. Jenaia at We’d love to collaborate to make your holidays extra special!

And don’t forget to grab a copy of “Meet the Mutts” for the special children in your life. It’s funny, fun and full of activities and ideas to get kids thinking and caring about animals. More soon…



Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted by on Nov 12, 2013 | 0 comments

Jena Ball – Rockin and Rollin in Raleigh

Ricky Bobby - Web Optimized-Signed
Ricky Bobby here.  You won’t believe what a fuss is being made over me and my new set of wheels. Check them out by the way. Pretty spiffy huh? Don’t’ get me wrong. I love the attention, and it’s nice that folks are trying to shut down puppy mills because of me, but if I had my way Ms. Jenaia and I would be doing a lot less talking and a lot more walking.

Take this Saturday for example. Ms. Jenaia will be visiting the North Carolina governor’s mansion read my story to kids during the Dog Adoption and Humane Awards event . She’ll also be handing out color postcards with my handsome face on the front, and presenting the first lady with a signed, limited edition print of my portrait.

Though shaking paws and schmoozing are not my things, I’m sure the 30 dogs coming from Wake, Charlotte, and Guilford counties will be happy to oblige. They have been invited by the first lady and will be looking for belly rubs and forever homes. The event is open to the public, so if you’re in the market for a new best friend, be sure to stop by. I can tell you from personal experience that there’s nothing better than finding your “happy-ever-after-person.”

Okay, so enough with the talking and on with the walking. It’s time to chase squirrels and check in with Ernest, Newton, Clue, Sprout, Mariah, Lance and Doxie at the dog park.  If those names aren’t familiar, you clearly haven’t done your homework! Hurry on over to Amazon and grab a copy of “Meet the Mutts.”  My story in Chapter 8 is clearly the best, but you’ll enjoy the others too.

One last thing. I’m seriously considering upgrading to high end, all terrain mountain bike tires for my cart. I’m looking for something that provides low rolling resistance, good straight line control, and optimized durability and traction. Feedback and suggestions are welcome. Email me at:

Ricky Bobby

P.S. Look for photos from Saturday’s event soon.


Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted by on Nov 9, 2013 | 0 comments

Jena Ball – Ms. Jenaia Visits the Governor’s Mansion…

And You’re Invited Too!

Ms. Jenaia has been asked by Governor Pat McCrory and First Lady Ann McCrory to read Ricky Bobby’s story from Meet the Mutts aloud to children on Saturday, November 16th at the governor’s mansion, and you’re invited too!

Ricky Bobby - Web Optimized-Signed

The event runs from 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and is open to the public.  Ms. Jenaia would love to see you there!

 Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.


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Posted by on Nov 9, 2013 | 0 comments

Jena Ball – Becoming Ms. Jenaia

Simply put, there is nothing like it. Dressed in baggy overalls stuffed with tennis balls, poop bags, dog treats and leashes, I’m sitting on a folding chair in front of 45 six to eight year olds. The kids are sitting cross-legged on the floor, their eyes glued to my face as I read the story of a mother dog and her puppy who were abandoned at a garbage dump.

As the story, which is based on true events, unfolds their expressions are like mirrors, reflecting sadness, concern, disgust, laughter, and finally joy when the dogs are rescued and find their forever homes. The moment I read, “The End,” hands fly into the air as the kids compete to share their own stories and ask questions:

“Why did the people abandon their dogs?”

“What did the dogs eat when they were at the dump?”

“Did they have to fight the vultures for food?”

“Why do you think black things like vultures are so creepy?”

“What happened to the homeless men who lived at the dump?”

“Who’s helping the dogs now?”

As always, the kids knock my socks off. The questions they ask are smart, intuitive and full of compassion. They have thrown their hearts into the story and want answers that make sense. They want what I am hoping my stories give them – a way to see and be in the world that respects, values and cares for other creatures. I want them to learn that stories can help them figure out who they are and what really matters to them.

Afterwards, as the kids are gathering their things and putting on their backpacks, a six year old with red hair and freckles flings her arms around my waist, hugs me tight and says, “It was perfect.”

Like I said, there’s nothing like, but it took me 53 years and many sidetracks to discover that my love of animals, storytelling, drawing and kids could be harnessed to change the world. For most of those 53 years I was the proverbial odd person out. I never fit comfortably into the boxes corporate America and Japan assigned me.  I questioned authority, shared ideas that were not part of my job description, and expressed my opinions freely. In Japan, where women are expected to keep low and pretty profiles, I was told I had “a bad personality for a woman.” Back home in the states, I launched a career as a freelance journalist. The fact that I managed to support myself says more about my tenacity than my skill. Though I met and interviewed many remarkable people I was never happy telling other people’s stories.

Then in 2008 I made two huge course corrections. First, I came up with the concept for CritterKin – a loveable pack of mixed breed mutts and their leader Ms. Jenaia. Together they are on a mission to teach kids that animals (critters) are family (kin). Second, I met and agreed to work with Martin Keltz, the Emmy award winning producer of such acclaimed children’s programs as “The Magic School Bus,” “Goosebumps,” “Charles in Charge” and “The Babysitters Club.” Marty, as he insists on being called, has a long and fascinating history in children’s education. A former teacher, who pioneered using 8 millimeter filmmaking in classrooms, and editor of Media and Methods Magazine he went on to be the co-founder and president of Scholastic Productions. Since then he has followed the evolution of education with interest and concern. He firmly believes, and I agree with him, that we have an obligation to foster emotional as well as intellectual intelligence in kids.

Marty took one look at my outlines, character sketches and illustrations for CritterKin and said, “You’re Ms. Jenaia and you’ve got to do this!”

Fast forward to here and now. I’ve been embodying and giving voice to Ms. Jenaia for more than six months now, and the experience continues to startle and touch me. As Ms. Jenaia I live both as an illustrated cartoon and as a character who walks from the pages of books into children’s lives. The moment I put on those baggy, faded overalls, put my plastic daisy pen in my pocket, and clip my poop bags to my leash, I leave my day-to-day existence behind and step into the world I have imagined for and with the kids. Together we leap feet first into stories: embody the characters, practice their voices, draw their faces, and try to imagine what they are thinking and feeling. For our short time together I am Ms. Jenaia, the champion of dogs and the kids who love them. What more could a writer ask for?

See the kids:



Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.

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