A middle-grade novel that follows the adventures of two homeless dogs.
In Feinstein’s debut, dogs can talk with one another and understand human speech. Jethro, a Labrador retriever mix, has a comfortable life as a well-cared-for stray in the town cemetery, but he’s curious about a new dog spending time in the graveyard. Fritz is a military-trained German shepherd struggling to adjust to civilian life. His grief over his late handler, who was killed in the war, has brought him to the young man’s gravesite. After the two dogs are forced to huddle together in a cemetery shed during a strong hurricane, they become friends—even though Jethro sometimes finds Fritz’s gruff personality confusing. Fritz’s well-trained nose soon sniffs out trouble brewing in town, and it falls to the dogs to save the day and prove that they’re far smarter than the humans around them. The author relates Fritz’s back story via flashbacks to his puppyhood and his time in the military, and young readers get a glimpse of what life is like for a bomb-sniffing dog. The story focuses on the animals, with humans as secondary characters—even people who are important to the dogs, such as cemetery caretaker Gus and Fritz’s handler, Tim. The touching story has a happy ending, but it’s not without some sad moments. The third-person narrator mentions a few terms that may be unfamiliar to younger readers, such as attention deficit disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. At other times, the narrator is a little too intrusive, as in the parenthetical aside: “Cell phones are commonly used to set off explosives during wartime, and they are feared greatly in Iraq.” However, the story’s near-constant action keeps things moving swiftly along.
A charming story that introduces children to warfare while also delivering a satisfying tale of canine adventure.