Loss of Pet Books for Kids
I was at the library the other day trying to find books for a silly list of a picture book featuring chickens (after my silly list of Top 10: Best Old Fashioned (or Not) Picture Books Featuring Spunky Ducks). I had a list of 6 books I was trying to find and struck out completely. That was a first for me and I was surprised to come up dry because my library who claims to have every book ever published.
Out of frustration, I started trolling through carts of picture books and including the bookcase of new books and ended up taking home a stack of interesting ones to read to my 6-year-old. The Blue House Dog was one of them and after reading it, immediately thought of another book that I own, called The Tenth Good Thing About Barney which deals with the loss of a beloved dog.
What I really like about The Blue House Dog is that it picks up the story of what happens after your dog dies. You know, when your child is ready to love a dog again and can actually contemplate getting a new dog. But this book also has a twist in that it is based on a true story published in the New York Times in 2001 about a stray dog wandering in a New York suburb.
In The Blue House Dog, Cody, a boy who is probably 8 to 10 years old, notices a stray dog in his neighborhood. As he watches the dog day after day, Cody starts to notice everything: where the dog sleeps and how it might feel, how the dog is scared of dog catchers and the police, how thin he is, his unusual eye coloring, and how no one else thinks this dog is special.
Interactions with this stray dog make Cody remember his own dog and how much he loved him: [How] “when you lose someone who’s as close as your own skin, the only place you can find him again is hidden inside your memories.”
Slowly but surely, Cody gains the stray dog’s trust until one day when it appears that the stray dog is ready to make his home with Cody, he names him Blue after his one blue eye.
For me, the most heartbreaking page in this book that reads like poetry is this:
“Whenever we pass the place
where Blue’s old house used to be,
he makes a sound
that I’m not sure
if I heard it
It’s a sad sound,
like a cry
from deep inside his heart.”
Now that I have a dog, I know exactly what that sound is and how a dog can communicate in soft little sounds as surely as a person talking. The book continues, and Cody and Blue continue past the site where Blue used to live in a house now torn down, to a nearby park. Cody gives Blue a present, a blue bandana, which is not as confining as a collar but communicates, “Hey, this is my dog! He is not a stray!”
And now the dogcatcher doesn’t come by anymore.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.