Author's Notes, Authors and Illustrators

It's A Dog's Life Author's Note

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

Ever since my daughter, Hazel, was old enough to talk, she has been asking for a dog. Every Christmas, birthday, and special occasion evinced new and imaginative pleas for a furry four-footed friend. She even practiced baby-sitting neighbors' dogs, and scooping up their poop to prove she was responsible enough to care for her own pet.

I have saved lists of the hundreds of dogs' names Hazel so diligently recorded, so that she would be prepared if and when the amazing day of dog ownership ever arrived.

I am the non-realistic parent, who assumes that every day will have plenty of time for any event, and no problem is too big to be surmounted. Even owning a dog when you, the ever-traveling parent, spend much of your time on location, many miles from home, frequently dragging the family on last-minute jaunts to places that don't allow dogs even if you could get them on the plane with you.

My wife is the responsible parent. She will be the first one to tell you to wear galoshes after recovering from the flu, and will be happy to remind you never to go swimming with an ear infection. She loves dogs, but is well aware of the impossibility of a dog ever fitting into our chaotic life. My mind agrees with her completely, but my heart has a hard time accepting the inevitable. And so, the battle rages. Soon our daughter will be old enough to buy her own dog, and take it to college with her.

How, I wondered, could I ever get my daughter a dog, and ever hope to remain in the good graces of my sensible wife?

Well, I said to myself, I suppose we could handle a bionic dog. A dog that saved the world and was smarter than Einstein. A recently orphaned dog to whom no one could deny a home. In other words, I created the one impossible scenario I thought might ever successfully lead to getting a dog into our home.

If my daughter's fervent wish for a dog could only be granted along the lines of that aforementioned impossible scenario, then so be it. I would write a book in which the impossible could happen. Better than nothing, I thought. And so McGrowl was born.

By the way, I do have a secret plan. You must promise not to mention a word about this to anyone. If the book, McGrowl, is successful enough, I will write so many sequels I will run out of ideas, and have to get a dog for inspiration. I will let my daughter choose the dog, and she will help care for it, and train it. The truth is, it will really be her dog, only we won't say it out loud. We might even call it McGrowl.

Sometimes you have to go a long way out of your way, to get the thing that was waiting right in your own back yard. And that's okay with me. So, Hazel, don't give up hope. A dog of your own may be just around the corner.

—Bob Balaban

  • Subjects:
    Family Life, Animals, Dogs, Pets
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