A Dog's Life

Discover A Dog's Life

We asked author Ann M. Martin to read an excerpt from her book, A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray. Listen and follow along as she introduces the book and reads two passages from the story.
Listen to Ann M. Martin
read from A Dog’s Life

Hi, I'm Ann M. Martin. You may know me as the author of the Baby-Sitter's Club books. I also wrote several novels set in the 1960s: Belle Teal, A Corner of the Universe, and Here Today. Now I'm going to read to you from another book of mine, A Dog's Life.

A Dog's Life is the story of a stray named Squirrel. The first section I'm going to read to you is the opening of the book, which gives an idea of what Squirrel's journey has been like over the years.

The second part of the book that I'm to read takes place much earlier in Squirrel's life, as she and her brother, Bone, are just starting to explore the world beyond the shed where they were born. While living in the shed, Squirrel and Bone were befriended by a boy named Matthias Merrion, but now they are on their own.


The fire is crackling and my paws are warm. My tail, too, and my nose, my ears. I'm lying near the hearth on a plaid bed, which Susan bought for me. Lying in the warmth remembering other nights — nights in the woods under a blanket of stars, nights spent with Moon, nights in the shed when I was a puppy. And the many, many nights spent searching for Bone. The fire pops and I rise slowly, turn around twice, then a third time, and settle onto the bed again, Susan smiling fondly at me from her armchair.

Warmth is important to an old dog. At least it is to me. I can't speak for all dogs, of course, since not all dogs are alike. And most certainly, not all dogs have the same experiences. I've known of dogs who dined on fine foods and led pampered lives, sleeping on soft beds, and being served hamburger and chicken and even steak. I've known of dogs who looked longingly at warm homes, who were not invited inside, who stayed in a garage or a shed or under a wheelbarrow for a few days, then moved on. I've known of dogs who were treated cruelly by human hands and dogs who were treated with the gentlest touch, dogs who starved and dogs who grew fat from too many treats.

I've known all these dogs, and I've been all of these dogs.

* * *

Bone and I walked and walked until the trees became fewer and we could see their separate shadows, and the shadows were long. Finally there were no more trees, and we were walking through a field, and then I heard a swishing noise that reminded me of the sound of cars on the road to the Merrions' house.

Bone heard the noise, too, and he stopped. He froze in place and his hears stood up stiffly as he listened.

The noise meant cars, I was sure of it, even though the whooshes weren't exactly the same as the one at the Merrions'. They were louder and quicker. . . .

I watched Bone. He began to walk again, more slowly. We saw an abandoned tractor in the field and made a wide circle around it. We saw a rabbit and Bone ran at it, but the rabbit disappeared. . . .

Bone, panting from his chase, stopped to catch his breath, and it was then that we saw the house. It was smaller than the Merrions', and sat at the edge of the field, tidy and somehow friendly looking, but Bone and I turned away from it and walked in the other direction. We walked until the field came to an end and in front of us was a road, a highway. And there were the whooshes. One car after another zipped along the road. The cars went by so fast they looked blurry, and even when Bone and I retreated to the edge of the field, each car blew our ears back with a rush of hot wind as it sped by.

I squinted my eyes against the dust and the wind and turned around. We could creep through the fields again, avoid the house, and return to the woods where we could hunt. I was partway along a row of tall, scratchy plants when I realized that Bone wasn't with me. He was still standing at the side of the road. And he was sniffing the air. An odor came to my nose. I sniffed, too.

Chicken — just like Matthias would bring us. The odor was coming from across the road. I ran back to Bone, strained to see past the rushing cars, and when there was a little break in the traffic, I saw a paper bag lying on its side.

There was chicken in that bag, and Bone and I knew it. My mouth started to water and I drooled as I stood at the edge of the field, separated from the chicken by two lanes of cars.

Bone took a step forward, then another. I was right behind him, but when a truck whizzed by me, I jumped back, yelping. Bone glanced at me, then faced the traffic again. He looked as though he were getting ready to run — to bolt across the road and hope for the best — when suddenly one of the cars that had just sped by pulled to the side of the road and screeched to a stop. Other drivers honked their horns, but the people who had stopped, a woman and a man, ignored them. They jumped out of the car and ran to Bone and me. Bone still had his eyes on that bag of chicken, but I was watching the people, and I wanted to get away from them. I couldn't leave Bone, though.

I let out a warning bark.

Too late. The man scooped Bone into his arms, and the woman scooped me into her arms.

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