A happy dog tells the story of his life in this debut children’s book, illustrated with photographs of the star.
Toby, 12, is a friendly, joyful yellow Labrador retriever who lives with a family consisting of a mother, father, two boys, and a girl. He’s also close to the children’s grandmother, who, Toby says, has agreed to write down his stories. Toby is an intelligent animal who understands several words, like “Grandma,” “dinner,” and “walk.” But the most important thing to Toby is food: “I love to eat and I can never get enough!!!” he says, with typical doggy enthusiasm. Sometimes this passion gets Toby in trouble. He adores counter surfing, so food must be kept out of his reach. In addition, carrying too much weight is hard for the aging Toby, who’s developed arthritis and has had leg surgery. But he sees the vet regularly and gets medications. Toby does report several times that he’s getting better about not eating people food; he wants to be a good dog. Besides his family and meals, Toby also likes wandering around his nice big house and yard, which has plenty of room to run and play with his toys; romping in the snow; going for walks and hikes, especially with Grandma; people-watching and enjoying the sights, like Christmas lights; and cavorting with other canines. In her book, Cutler paints a vivid portrait of a cherished family dog who’s sometimes naughty but mostly a very good boy. The writing, however, is unpolished, with the feel of something transcribed from a recording. The text skips around from subject to subject and back and forth through Toby’s timeline in no particular order, and the stories are slight. It’s a simple book about a simple dog—yet even so, it has the charm of its affable, cheerful narrator. The many family photographs are very helpful in rounding out the tale and giving a clear sense of Toby and his surroundings.
Toby’s actual family and friends will certainly appreciate this remembrance, but young readers with beloved canines of their own may enjoy it as well.