The Good Dog
What’s this book about?
In the Colorado mountain town of Steamboat Springs there must be three hundred dogs. Jack’s malamute, McKinley, is the leader of them all. But Jack, being human, has no way of knowing that. For him, his family’s dog is just a great pal. And protector.
Jack cannot know that Redburn, a “leash-licking” Irish setter, is McKinley’s rival for the job of head dog. The boy cannot know, with the sudden hillside appearance of a she-wolf, Lupin, that not only McKinley’s job—but his life—is in danger. Lupin’s message: Dogs free yourselves from mankind. Come join us, we who need you to replenish our diminishing wolf pack in the wild.
But imagine how a good dog, loyal to his human pup, would hear Lupin’s call!
McKinley’s thrilling story tells itself, as first he and the boy together encounter Lupin in a canyon perfect for an old-time ambush, and later as they try to save her from both Redburn and a neighbor, a vicious man armed with a gun and a grudge. No one—not even McKinley—can foresee the end.
Story Behind the Story
My two sons, Robert and Jack, though four years apart in age, were inseparable friends. But when Robert started high school, my wife and I decided Jack needed a new friend. That’s how McKinley, an Alaskan malamute, came into our lives. He would live with us for almost fourteen years, and become the quintessential family dog. A big, handsome dog, weighing more than a hundred pounds at his peak, he was much loved, was very affectionate, playful and close—in his own way—to every individual member of the family.
He was very big, big enough—with his wolf-like looks—to alarm strangers. That said, he was endlessly affectionate. But when sirens blew—fire engines, an ambulance—he would lift his head and howl like a wolf, a deeply beautiful and resonate call from and to the wild.
Awards and Recognition
- The California Young Reader Medal, 2005–2006
- Children’s Crown Award, 2004
- Rocky Mountain News, one of the best books of the year, 2001
- Children’s Choice nominee, Pennsylvania, 2003
- Children’s Choice nominee, Minnesota, 2006
“The action moves along at a crackling pace, reaching a crescendo in a dramatic moonlight confrontation. The dog’s‑eye point of view allows for some creative touches, including insights into animal behavior and the vocabulary McKinley uses for various human objects (‘eating sticks’ for utensils, ‘a block of staring papers’ for books, ‘glow box’ for television). But most compelling of all is the transformation of McKinley’s happy-go-lucky character into a truly majestic leader.” (Publishers Weekly)