Deena C. Bouknight
Last November, service dog Atlas Atticus received his first experience in the limelight when he and his owner, Macon Early College student Kristina Masta, were featured on CBS’s “Dream Team’s Lucky Dog” with animal trainer Brandon McMillan. The CBS segment was filmed last year when Kristina and her mother, Michelle Masta, co-owner of Black Bear Paving & Construction, were in California during a service dog training session with McMillan.
Atlas, an Anatolian shepherd, was destined to live out his days on a farm guarding livestock against predators like wolves and coyotes. However, Atlas could not prove his mettle as a sentry and, instead, ended up at an animal shelter in Oregon because of his shy nature. How Atlas was “discovered” as an ideal companion dog for Kristina is the plot of a new children’s book titled “How I Became The Mighty Atlas,” co-written by Kristina and local writer Faithe Giaquinto. The book is illustrated by Amberly Downs, owner of Atomic Annies Tattoo, Gallery and Education Center in Franklin. The book’s theme drives home the message: “Every animal has a purpose.”
Sixteen-year-old Kristina was born prematurely, weighing 1 pound, 1 ounce, and eventually developed retinopathy of prematurity, which causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina. Her story is detailed at the end of “How I Became The Might Atlas,” which is told in narrative form through the voice of Atlas, the Anatolian shepherd. In the Nov. 21, 2019, edition of Macon County News, Kristina described her sight as “looking through wax paper with some small holes in it. You miss lots of stuff.” Since Kristina is not completely blind, she needed a service dog trained for specific needs – not just as a general guide dog for the blind.
Atlas has fit the bill, according to Kristina’s mother, who explained that proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to build a security fence for Atlas so that he can run and play when he is not working for Kristina.
“How I Became The Mighty Atlas” is available for sale at Books Unlimited in Franklin as well as at Amazon.com.