Virginia surgeon goes to the races with a new children’s book

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) – Ray Chung can’t stop creating.

He used some of his creative skills to modify a handful of commonly used surgical instruments, but his love for his rescue dog Mukha and the peaceful life his family and the dog once enjoyed at their country home in Rapidan inspired Chung. to create a children’s book.

“I thought it might be a great way to entertain the kids and give them a taste of life in the country that they might not otherwise have been exposed to,” said Chung, an orthopedic surgeon from the hand of Fredericksburg. “Put the pieces together, I wondered what would happen if Mukha ended up in an obstacle course.”

Released April 11 and published by Belle Isle Books of Richmond, “Off to the Races With Mukha the Goofy” is 40 pages, and Chung said it’s not just fun for kids ages 2 and up, but it also provides several life lessons between color illustrations by Boston-based artist Emily Hurst Pritchett.

“The book was originally intended as a sort of entertaining, just more fun book highlighting certain facets of life in Central Virginia,” Chung said.

Chung calls his new children’s book a true “story of resilience” that includes many of the challenges that Chung himself faced early in his life.

“I really didn’t feel like asking for help,” Chung said. “It sounds a little strange, but I guess one of the lessons of history is this: it’s okay to ask for help.”

Chung, who practices at the Orthopedic Specialty Clinic, which will soon merge with Mary Washington Orthopedics, said her book centers on the innocent adventures and good fortune of her dog Caroline Mukha, who died in 2020.

“After Mukha’s unexpected passing, (writing the book) took on special significance as a way to commemorate her,” Chung said.

Chung said he chose a country steeplechase horse race and the people and events surrounding it as the primary setting for the story. Chung said these types of occurrences are not uncommon near his rural home in the Piedmont region of the state, or in any country across America where horses can be found.

Steeplechase races pit horses against a number of obstacles along the course, such as fences, water, or ditches. Before heading to America, the event first gained popularity in Ireland in the 18th century, when runners relied on church steeples as reference points along a route.

The story of the book begins with Mukha jumping into the bed of the family van and wondering where her family is going after seeing large coolers and a number of folding tables and chairs stuffed into the bed of the truck, but the daydream of Mukha is quickly interrupted when the family pile into the truck and drive off.

The truck eventually drives to the race site, where Mukha sees many people gathered, including “ladies in nice hats and men in tweed jackets”, but a bump in the road suddenly brings the truck down. truck dog in a pile of leaves. . As Mukha begins to run to catch up with her family, she sees a ‘no dogs allowed’ sign posted on the fairground so she takes cover, fearing that she will end up in ‘dog jail’ if caught, all wondering where his lost family might be.

Mukha thinks a pack of terriers running together at a nearby racetrack might know where her family is, so she jumps into the race, only to be ignored by the dogs who are too busy trying to cross the finish line. . As Mukha crossed the finish line, the announcer said to the crowd, “Watch out, everyone. The winner of the terrier race final is… A dingo? Was it a dingo?

Mukha then finds herself helping a man struggling to carry supplies and a cooler, but she runs away after helping the man who exclaims, “I think it was a dingo.”

Later, as Mukha is hungry and tries to grab a snack from a nearby food table, she ends up stopping a tray of food from falling off the table and a human thanks her as people at the fairgrounds ask: “Was it a dingo? as Mukha runs off to win the women’s hat contest.

Mukha eventually reunites with her family in the grand finale of the steeplechase race, but not before she has won a few first place awards and has been recognized by race officials.

“We also know from a reliable source that your dingo was very helpful to the participants throughout the day, and she set a good example for these children,” the race manager told Mukha’s family.

Joan Evans of Culpeper recently read the book to her three grandchildren, ages 10, 7 and 6. Evans thinks Chung did a great job of telling a “wonderful story” that held her grandchildren’s attention for all 40 pages.

” This is delicious. I loved the book,” Evans said. “The fourth grader, you’d think a picture book wouldn’t hold their attention, but it does. He really enjoyed it. This is a good book for all ages.

As for his future as an author, Chung said he has a collection of written works featuring Mukha and his siblings that highlights their adventures in and around their country home. He thinks he has enough material on hand to become creative again in writing.

“I wish they were released as well,” Chung said.

Paperback versions of “Off to the Races with Mukha the Dingo” are available online for $13.95, while hardback copies sell for $24.95.