Veterinarian Tiner’s debut is a middle grade reader told from the dog’s point of view.
The book opens as Jake, a large, black mixed-breed dog, leaves his mother to move in with his new owner. Jake is horrified to discover that his new master is an abusive man. He escapes to fend for himself on the city streets. But Jake has dreamed of finding a kind owner with a beautiful yard since he was a puppy, and he isn’t prepared to give up hope. As he searches far and wide, Jake befriends a homeless woman, fellow stray dogs Bo and Rico, and a feral cat and her litter of kittens. Though the violence that Jake suffers will be upsetting to young readers, Tiner avoids graphic descriptions; she writes, “Every day Joe would come out with the stick and beat Jake ruthlessly, and each time Jake just felt fear and confusion grip his heart.” The story moves along in episodic fashion as Jake and his friends struggle to survive in the city. In the spirit of such books as Black Beauty and Charlotte's Web, the animals can speak to one another; Chihuahua Rico’s stilted dialog may have been meant to evoke accented English, but instead comes across as awkward, tripping up the reader's flow. Occasional bouts of clunky phrasing also slow the pace of the story. Finally, the author’s failure to wrap up a few loose ends as the books draws to a close may leave readers wondering about the fate of Jake’s friends.
Young readers who like animal stories will appreciate this warm canine tale.