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Debra Ross and Duke, a 95-pound Rottweiler mix, settle in to their new home

Debra Ross has six grandchildren: Netty is 8. Fiona and Wondi both are 7. Toby is 4. Benji is 3. Miles is just 2 and a half.

And Duke is older than any of them.

A 9-year-old Rottweiler mix, the Ross family dog enjoys spending time with all those grandchildren. He sees a lot more of them these days, too, since his family, Debra and Don, moved to Wilsonville’s Frog Pond area in 2012 in part to be closer to their two daughters, Amanda and Lindsay, and their families.

Photo Credit: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Debra Ross and her dog, Duke, have settled into their new home on Frog Pond Lane. Debra's book, 'Duke of Frog Pond,' is written from Duke's point of view and expresses the difficulty of moving and the joys of living in the Wilsonville area“When we lived in Medford and they would come to visit, he wasn’t as warm and friendly,” Debra said. “Now, he can’t wait for the kids to get here. He’s so patient with them.”

It’s a big change for Duke. And with help from Debra, the big Rottweiler recently expressed his feelings about the moving experience and his new home in a self-published book called “Duke of Frog Pond.”

After 28 years on a 5-acre property in Medford, the move to Frog Pond represented a big change for the whole family. Their new home in Wilsonville occupies five acres and has a big shop and enough space for Debra’s mother to occupy her own wing. There’s also enough room for a dining table big enough to accommodate the large extended family, all of whom live in Tigard.

“It’s been a big move for everyone, but it’s been such a blessing,” Debra said.

In the book, Debra uses Duke’s voice to express emotions that, at the time, she didn’t fully realize she was feeling.

“I missed all my old smells at the old house. I knew where things were,” Duke muses on the book’s first page.

“I didn’t realize I was expressing my own emotions about how hard moving and change can be,” she said.

One of Debra’s neighbors was the first to make the connection.

“Sue said, ‘This isn’t a book about Duke. It’s a book about you,’” Debra said. “It really shocked me. I had to think about that. By nature, I’m not a mover. This was a big change. And now I’m so thankful for the move.”

For Debra, as for Duke, being closer to family has made all the difference. Five of the grandchildren are featured in the book, appearing in the colorful illustrations by Aaron Boyd. Her sixth grandchild, Benji, was adopted after the book was finished. You’ll find him — and Duke — on the book’s last page, where an illustration shows Benji with his arm around the big black dog’s neck.

“His relationship with Duke is so special. He just took right immediately to Benji,” Ross said.

Even with so many family members to choose from, Duke has one clear favorite — one at a time, at least. Dan feeds Duke, and Debra’s mother gives him peanut butter in his chew toy. Still, Debra has a special role.

“I’m his walking buddy,” Debra said. “It depends on what shoes I have on. If I have my tennis shoes on, he’s up, excited, ready to go out the door.”

A rescue dog, Duke had two homes before coming to live with the Ross family.

“He was this out-of-control dog,” Debra recalled. “He was a happy dog. He wasn’t out to please anyone.”

Everything changed once summer came and Debra, a teacher who has since retired, had more time to spend with him.

“I walked him every day,” she said. “One day he just looked at me and said, ‘I want to please you.’”

“Duke of Frog Pond” is nonfiction, Debra said.

“Every event in here really happened. He doesn’t like broccoli. The carrots were sure scarfed up,” she said. “It’s all so ‘him,’ leaning on your feet.”

Like Duke, Debra has come to appreciate her new home in Wilsonville, deer, skunks, moles and all.

“It’s so community, kid-friendly. That’s what’s so great,” she said.

From the Kiwanis Fun Run, to Fun in the Park and the library, the Ross family and their grandchildren are enjoying the city.

“I hear wonderful things about the schools,” she added.

The book is self-published, and neither the author nor the illustrator — a family friend and a former dog-sitter for Duke — had any experience in the field.

“I said, ‘Let’s just put our heads together and see where it goes,” Debra said.

In the end, she had 200 copies printed and already has sold about 60 of them, with copies going as far away as Australia, South Africa and Greece,

“The desire was never about making money. The desire was to pursue a lifelong goal of making a children’s book.”

With that goal realized and Duke — and the rest of the family — settled into a new home, what’s left for Debra to accomplish?

“My daughters think there should be an ‘Adventures of Duke,’” she said with a laugh. “I’ve been keeping my mind open to it. It’s got to grab you before it can develop.”

To order a copy of the book for $10, contact Ross via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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