The hunting dogs at Lazy Dog Hacienda deal with an interloping horse in this children’s book.
Chicoree’s Hickory Doc, a shorthaired pointer dog, his brother Zeke, and Deacon, another dog, feel threatened when a horse named B.J. arrives at their hacienda. The dogs inform her that her physical traits, such as her “solitary toes,” aren’t conducive to hunting. B.J. and the dogs swap insults, and Zeke and the horse get into a physical altercation, causing Zeke to stumble into a garden, where he gets bitten by a turtle. The dogs are jealous that B.J. receives extra attention, but Doc reassures the others that their canine assistance is still necessary. He tells Zeke that “B.J. can’t creep through the tall grass and find quail. Why, she would scare them off!” Angry after he spots B.J. snacking on dog food, Zeke proposes that they race, with the winner getting to eat all the chow in the barn. On race day, Zeke feigns illness, requiring Deacon, who has three legs, to compete instead. B.J. falls while attempting to nip Deacon’s nonexistent back leg. Deacon wins and shares his prize with the others—including B.J. (Doc reveals that their owner later sent B.J. to a new home because she “took a bite out of upholstery in his old red truck.”) Although this story features characters from Harkey’s (The Remarkable Story of Willie the Crow, 2018, etc.) other books, it works well as a stand-alone title, as it includes introductory details, such as the dogs’ pedigree names, family history, and physical descriptions. A subplot about a cowbird who takes up residence in a dove’s nest feels underdeveloped, and it detracts from the main storyline; it might’ve been better as the focus of another book. The resolution of the main plot is also easy to predict, but this doesn’t detract from the book’s overall appeal. Returning illustrator Minick’s colorful, cartoonish images provide additional context; for example, the dogs’ owner is referred to only as “The Great One,” but the images clarify that he’s human.
Fans of Harkey’s previous works will enjoy this adventurous story of silly animal antics.