Alive in Print: Dog's Passing Inspires Children's Book

By Gabe Saglie
(published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on May 18, 2012)

As Jodie Boulet-Daughters and her husband, Tom, made the drive from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita, they felt like new parents.  The year was 1997 and, with a car filled with chew toys, they were on their way to adopt a new puppy.  Back home, a kennel was set up and prepped, awaiting the new arrival.

They almost never completed that drive, though.  Half way there, they got a call from the breeder -- a freak accident had just taken the life of the yellow lab they’d chosen.  Shocked, and deeply disappointed, the Daughters turned around.  But then the breeder called back – they could have the one remaining puppy instead, he said.  A seven-week-old black lab named Mambo. 

So begins a story that, years later and even after Mambo’s heartbreaking passing, continues in print, in a new children’s book penned by Boulet-Daughters titled “Mambo’s Tail.”

Mambo would grow up to be way more than just a house pet.  The Daughters, who don’t have children of their own, kept the name the breeder’s girls had given him because “it was cute and unique,” recalls Boulet-Daughters.  “We would jokingly call him the Mambo King.”  And, to say the least, she recalls his personality fondly.  “He was a very loving dog, very sweet, and always wanted to be with people.  Not necessarily to be physically in your lap all the time, but to be near you, at the table when you ate dinner, always sitting right next to you, always a companion,” says Boulet-Daughters.  “A true family member.”

The Daughters joined winemaker Brett Escalera to found Consilience Winery in 1999.  The label, which quickly gained acclaimed for its rich, complex renditions of wines like syrah, petite sirah and cabernet sauvignon, got its own tasting room along Grand Avenue in Los Olivos in 2004.  And right away, Mambo assumed a new role: tasting room ambassador.

“I started bringing him to work with me, and he started meeting people, greeting them, hanging out with them,” recalls Boulet-Daughters.  Tasting room visitors responded positively and enthusiastically and “Brett and I agreed right away he needed to be part of the picture.” 

Indeed, Escalera recalls that Mambo was “so sweet, and one of the mellowest dogs I have ever seen.  He was very easy-going, which is why he was so popular in the tasting room.”

Mambo’s presence soon encouraged canine-loving wine buffs to visit with furry friends of their own.  “We thought, if the animal was well-behaved, by all means bring them in,” says Boulet-Daughters.  “When people bring their dogs, they seem to be in a happier place, and it’s easier to have conversation and develop a connection.”

Mambo even got his own email account at the winery, “and humans would write on behalf of their dogs with messages like, ‘It was nice seeing you again,’ or, ‘It was fun playing with you,’” remembers Boulet-Daughters with a laugh.

The affable labrador even inspired his own line of products at Consilience, including coasters and hats with the clever slogan, “Sit.  Stay.  Taste.”  Most notably, he helped give rise to two eponymous wines.  Escalera has been making a “Cuvee Mambo” white blend – viognier, grenache blanc and roussane – and a “Cuvee Mambo” red blend – syrah, grenache and a splash of zinfandel – for the last decade or so.  The wines are popular among wine club members and tasting room shoppers, and they have inherent merit.  “When I’m putting blends together, I start with [Cuvee Mambo} and use the best things I have at my disposal,” says Escalera.  “We’ve always strived to make it a high-end wine.”

The wines also help proliferate the legacy of the dog that inspired them, of course.  And now, so does Boulet-Daughters’ new book.

“Mambo’s Tail” started as a series of journal entries inspired by Boulet-Daughters’ casual observations of her favorite dog.  “I was journaling a lot on my days off, but then would throw them away, or set them aside,” the author recalls.  “And then Tom asked me what I was doing, and why I kept tossing it aside, and he’s the one who said I should do something with it instead, like tell a story.  I certainly didn’t know I’d be writing a children’s book.”

But, starting about two years ago, and while Mambo was still alive, that’s exactly what Boulet-Daughters did.

The book tells a sweet, light-hearted tale about a puppy who, one day, and suddenly, discovers the wonders of his own tail.  Mambo, the protagonist, tells us, “I was playing in the yard with my brothers and sisters when all of a sudden I felt a ‘swoosh’ behind me!”  The journey of innocent, heartwarming discovery that follows is easily appealing to young children.  But even adults can appreciate Mambo’s playful observations, and the personification of this precocious pup allows any dog owner to find at least a bit more appreciation in their companion’s characteristic wag.  We learn that a dog’s tail is its voice.

“My tail sometimes gets in the way and even knocks things over…. I learned my tail sometimes gets me in trouble,” Mambo recounts.  When it tickles little boys and girls who come to greet him, Mambo’s tail “makes them laugh and laugh and ask for more… My tail brings joy and laughter.”  And at night, “I love to curl up with my favorite toy, close my eyes, and wrap my tail around me… My tail brings me warmth and comfort,” recounts Mambo. 

Part of the book is the author’s own creative whimsy, but much was inspired by true events.  “He did get his tail slammed in a car door,” Boulet-Daughters recalls, “and he did eat through an entire bag of food once!”  Both are among myriad experiences retold in the book.

The book’s production was a family affair.  It was illustrated by the author’s mother, Jo Boulet, who lives in Sun City West, Arizona; her drawings are richly colorful, remarkably textured and fun.  The author’s brother, Jayson Boulet, a Texas resident, took charge of the book’s graphic design.  And the book was printed by Brio Books, a publishing house in Boulet-Daughters’ home state of Minnesota. 

The real-life Mambo passed away last year.  “He lost function of his hind area and became paralyzed, and he couldn’t move or walk,” recalls his owner, noticeably emotional still.  “We were able to have the vet come over, and he euthanized him at home, in his own bed, with his favorite toy and his music.”  When Tom Daughters sent out an email to wine club members announcing Mambo’s passing, hundreds of personalized condolences came back.

Finishing and publishing “Mambo’s Tail” was a cathartic exercise for the author, a way to work through profound emotion.  And it immortalizes a dog she came to love deeply.  In many ways, Mambo’s memory also lives on in Ryder, the Daughters’ new black Labrador puppy, whom they recently found through a breeder in San Dimas.  Ryder is eight months old.  And yes, he’s become the new official greeter for thirsty visitors to the Consilience tasting room.


"Mambo's Tail retails for $15.99 through the web site, www.mambostail.com. It's also for sale at the tasting room, at 2323 Grand Avenue in Los Olivos. For more information, call 805-691-1020.




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