When I was a kid, I went to day camp for exactly one summer. I remember it well because that was the same summer we adopted a German Shepherd puppy. I wasn’t much of a camper – I hated getting dirty, for starters – but I loved arts and crafts, which was the whole reason I went to camp in the first place.
One day, I came home clutching a special project. Made of cardboard and yarn, it was sort of a kid version of rug weaving. I’d woven all of my favorite bold, bright colors into a pattern that was basically a masterpiece.
That night we ate supper outside at our picnic table – the kind with attached benches. I showed off my project to my rapt family members while our puppy romped around the table, probably hoping for a bit of hot dog or a dribble of ketchup.
After my family expressed boatloads of admiration for my project, my mom warned me to put it away so I wouldn’t spill something on it. So I set it down on the bench. Where I promptly forgot all about it.
Later, when we kids were bathed and ready for bed, I suddenly remembered my art project. (I probably wanted to sleep with it!) I raced outside to grab it off the picnic bench.
Only what I found was – you guessed it – not my art project, but my used-to-be art project. Chewed to shreds!
And there was our puppy, bounding over, happy as can be. I was so mad, I could hardly think! I gathered up the soggy bits of cardboard and strands of brightly-colored yarn. Seething with anger, I waved them in front of his nose.
“Bad dog! Bad dog!” I yelled over and over while that innocent little guy just cocked his head and stared at me, his eyes completely blank. He obviously didn’t feel the least bit sorry for what he did, which just made me even madder.
My mom must’ve been alarmed because she ran outside to stop me. She told me the dog couldn’t understand why I was upset.
“It’s pretty simple,” I shouted. “He destroyed my project!”
My mom gently explained that yes, but to him, that was a Long Time Ago. He probably couldn’t even remember doing it. If I wanted to teach him not to touch my things, I had to catch him in the act and say, “no!” right then. Otherwise, he couldn’t make the connection.
What?! That was certainly news to me. I had no idea dogs didn’t understand things the same way we do. That revelation made a big impression on me.
Back then, I never imagined I’d grow up to write books for kids from a dog’s point of view. But now that I think about it, I draw on that experience with my puppy all the time. I guess he did me a favor!
Victoria J. Coe grew up a huge fan of books, dogs, and the Boston Red Sox. Today she and her family live just outside of Boston where she and her dog are always on the lookout for delivery trucks. And squirrels. You can find her on Twitter here.
FENWAY AND HATTIE (Putnam/Penguin, Feb 2016), told from the view of Fenway, Hattie’s Jack Russell terrier, is Victoria’s first novel for kids ages 8-12.