Illustrator and author Mark Teague
Meet Illustrator Mark Teague

Ike LaRue has been sent to obedience school, and he isn't happy about it. Even though the Brotweiler Academy is very cozy — in fact, a luxury resort for dogs — he is determined to get back home. So he writes letters to his owner, Mrs. LaRue, in which he complains about the awful conditions at school, and about how cruelly he is being treated. Of course he hopes she'll feel sorry for him, and maybe a bit ashamed of herself for having sent him to such a terrible place. Showing the difference between these two versions of reality was a lot of fun, and the main source of humor in the book. To do so, I used a "split screen" technique. The "real" scene is depicted in vivid color, while Ike's imagined hardship is in black and white. That way the two versions are always sharply contrasted, with Ike's version always grim and sometimes even a little spooky. In the cafeteria scene he imagines himself pleading for "seconds" of some awful gruel. The mean-looking cook is contrasted with the friendly waiter in the "real" scene, while the harsh sign on the wall contrasts with the menu of tasty dog treats. The book titled 50 Great Escapes gives a clear idea of what Ike is planning if all else fails.

Ike LaRue at Brotweiler Academy, an obedience school
 

Showing the difference between these two versions of reality was a lot of fun, and the main source of humor in the book. To do so, I used a "split screen" technique. The "real" scene is depicted in vivid color, while Ike's imagined hardship is in black and white. That way the two versions are always sharply contrasted, with Ike's version always grim and sometimes even a little spooky. In the cafeteria scene he imagines himself pleading for "seconds" of some awful gruel. The mean-looking cook is contrasted with the friendly waiter in the "real" scene, while the harsh sign on the wall contrasts with the menu of tasty dog treats. The book titled 50 Great Escapes gives a clear idea of what Ike is planning if all else fails.

Ike writes home about a mysterious illness
 

In the next scene Ike writes home complaining about a mysterious illness. I got this idea from a dog I once knew who was a master at faking injuries (which earned him lots of sympathy and attention). He could play the part of a wounded pooch just like a movie star. I tried to capture that same kind of dramatic flair in Ike's pose on the stretcher. In fact, he imagines the whole scene as one of high drama, with stony-faced hospital orderlies, a very tough bulldog, and the silhouette of prison bars on the wall. As always, his version is in black and white. (I'd been told that dogs can't see color, so I thought I was being extra clever in this way, until I heard on the radio that the idea has been debunked.) In reality he writes his letter from a comfy bed in a bright, airy room with a fresh breeze riffling the curtains. The Medical Digest book suggests that he's been reading up on diseases in order to make his own ailment sound particularly bad, the empty food tray suggests that he hasn't lost his appetite, and the doctor's diagnosis ("hypochondriac") indicates that, like me, maybe he hasn't been as clever as he had hoped.