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Saving August

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Gallatin resident Debra Zemke and her dog August are featured in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Really Did That? book, which went on sale Aug. 8. /SUBMITTED
Jake Zemke with August two days after the dog was rescued from a field on New Shackle Island Road in Hendersonville in August 2004.

Debra Zemke was emotionally drained and just trying to get her teenage son to Merrol Hyde Magnet School on time when she pulled up to a stop light on New Shackle Island Road in Hendersonville on a rainy Friday morning in August 2004.

The Gallatin resident, who had just found out her husband wanted a divorce, was admittedly not paying much attention to the small 20-pound dog that had been abandoned in a nearby field.

"At first I didn't even know what it was," Zemke said with a chuckle. "The light changed and my son Jake turned to me and said that if I didn't go back to get (the dog) he would never forgive me.

"I didn't want her at first. She started off as a big distraction for us, but she ended up becoming a member of the family that actually carried us through some pretty traumatic things."

Zemke's story of her relationship with the dog named August is included in the recently released Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Really Did That? The book, which went on sale Aug. 8, features 101 stories from pet owners that were chosen out of thousands of submissions.

"Be prepared to fall in love with your dog all over again as you read these stories about our hilarious, heartwarming, heroic and absolutely lovable canine companions," said Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is donating royalties from the book to the nonprofit organization, which focuses on animal welfare issues. The effort is part of the company's widespread support for animal shelters and pet adoption, including the donation of Chicken Soup for the Soul pet food and books to shelters across the country.

"Too often people don't realize what a pet can give to them - even a stray in the field," Zemke said. "It's a great gift that those people decided to drop her off there. We needed her and she needed us."

In the 13 years since the rescue, the dog and her owner have stayed by each other's side through several life-changing events that began with the death of Zemke's husband, Mike, from lung cancer in June 2005.

The two were also together the following year when a tornado ripped through their neighborhood and damaged their house. August later overcame a near-death battle with pancreatitis and would travel with Zemke whenever she visited Jake at Georgia Tech before he graduated in 2015.

"I would encourage people to adopt pets," Zemke said. "I have loved all of my dogs, but there is something special about a rescue. It's like they know that you are rescuing them. I truly feel that I didn't save her, she really saved me."

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