Saturday, May 08, 2021

Person of the Week

Creativity, ‘Corny’ Jokes, and Dogs Combine in New Children’s Book About ‘First Dog’


Killingworth native Bailey Cornell recently published a children’s book, which was inspired by the story of Major, the first rescue dog in the White House. 

Photo courtesy of Bailey Cornell

Killingworth native Bailey Cornell recently published a children’s book, which was inspired by the story of Major, the first rescue dog in the White House. (Photo courtesy of Bailey Cornell )

When it was announced that Joe Biden would be heading to the White House and bringing the first shelter dog, Major, along with his sibling Champ, Killingworth native Bailey Cornell was intrigued. The more she thought about Major and his life’s journey, the more inspired she became.

A story began to take shape in her head and from there, Major Underdog: From the Shelter to the White House, a children’s picture book was born.

“When I first heard there would be a shelter dog in the White House, I was really moved,” says Bailey, a 2011 Haddam-Killingworth High School graduate. “It was a stressful election on both sides and I thought this was an amazing and cute story. It was fun to think about the adventures of Champ and Major in the White House.”

Thinking about those adventures planted the idea for the book in Bailey’s head. The more she thought about the adventures two dogs might have in the White House, the more she wanted to put pen to paper.

At first, she was creating the story for fun, as a way to stay busy during COVID, but as she began to share her idea with friends and family, they encouraged her to publish the book. Though she had never imagined writing a children’s book, she found she enjoyed the process, especially working with rhymes and puns.

“With my last name, I like to say my jokes tend to be corny and I’ve always loved things that are fun and cute, and of course, I’ve always loved dogs,” says Bailey. “Once I started telling a couple family and friends about this, they thought it was super cute and had different ideas—that’s when it started to grow.”

Bailey found that the process of self-publishing a book less daunting than she thought it would be. She used online resources to find an illustrator, find a publisher, and release her book on Amazon.

When it came to finding the right illustrator, Bailey had a vision as to how she wanted to book to look, recalling different scenes such as Major in the Oval Office, in the Rose Garden, and sticking his head out of the limousine window. She began her research and reviewed illustrations from different illustrators.

“I knew I wanted it to be really cute and really fun with bright, colorful, cartoon-y pictures,” says Bailey. “The dog had to have different expressions and I wanted the illustrations to show how far Major has come. It was a really fun process working with the illustrator and talking through the sketches.”

The book was illustrated by Lau Rivers.

According to, “Major is a smart little puppy who lived in a shelter. He was adopted by a wonderful family and the rest is history! Follow his adventures to the White House with Joe, Jill, and Champ Biden. Major the Underdog knows that if you believe in yourself you can achieve great things, no matter your background.”

Though the paperback and ebook were self-published, one of Bailey’s friends connected her with Gatekeeper Press, which will be releasing a hardcover version of the book in the next month. Bailey is looking forward to seeing her book in hardcover, recalling the thrill of opening her first copy of the paperback.

“I got it in the mail, opened it up, and it seemed surreal that I had actually created a physical book that other people were buying,” says Bailey. “The first time I got an order from a stranger who didn’t know me, I was shocked and it was so cool when I saw a review from a stranger online that said it was great.”

Bailey is hoping that she is able continue her book sales with a goal of donating profits to an animal shelter. She has enjoyed seeing photos of people reading her book and has heard from teachers who have read the book to their classes.

“People have loved the takeaways of the book about how Major is the ultimate underdog story: He started in a shelter and is now in the White House,” says Bailey. “I want to get across to kids that if you work hard and are nice to other people, it’ll pay off and you can achieve great things. It’s like the American dream, going from humble beginnings to a super cool life in the White House.”

Bailey wrote and published her book in the past few months while working her full-time job at Google as a global marketing objective lead in New York City. She likes that her current job combines many of her passions and her past experiences as she gets to create YouTube videos for Google Ads.

Bailey studied communications and business at Bryant University. Her major was inspired by her experience at Haddam Killingworth High School, where she enjoyed being involved in the television department, working behind the scenes and in front of the camera for the morning news. She also took production classes in high school and remembers filming different things around town.

“That really inspired my love of film, TV, and communicating a message in general and it’s why I chose to go to school for communications,” says Bailey. “It’s cool I can take my background from high school and TV and my education to my current job as well as use the business side of things. I really lucked out in finding something that was good for me.”

Even though she lives in New York City, Bailey can often be found in her hometown, visiting her parents and friends and spending time outdoors. Her family has had dogs for all of Bailey’s life and her mother argues her first word was ‘dog,’ while her father insists it was ‘dad.’

There is some confusion now, though, when Bailey comes home as her parents, Sue and Bob, recently adopted an older dog named Bailey. Bailey also recently adopted a puppy, taking advantage of her love of word play, naming the puppy Kahlua.

“Together we’re a little mudslide and now at my parents’ house, they’ll yell, ‘Bailey,’ and you have to figure out if they’re yelling at human Bailey or dog Bailey,” Bailey says with a laugh. “My parents have been so helpful through all of this and I couldn’t have done it without them.”

For now, Bailey, who also enjoys pottery, art, painting, cooking, and travel, will be waiting to get her hands on the hardcover edition of her newly published book. She is already daydreaming of the adventures that Major and Champ might experience in the White House.

“Maybe I’ll write another story about their times in the White House,” says Bailey. “I’d love to pet the real Major one day or meet the Bidens. That’s the absolute dream.”

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Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .

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