Sep 13, 2015

The Dog Who Came to Stay

by Hal Borland

This quiet book is a story of life in the countryside, life with a good farm dog. Well, I don't know if I could entirely call it a quiet book, as there are plenty of dogfights, fierce encounters with bobcats and porcupines, confrontations with rude trespassing hunters and poachers. But overall, it has a calm, quiet voice. It's full of nature writing- just as much a story of the changing seasons, the wildlife and forest around the farm as it is about the dog. How he came to their farm, a wandering stray who gradually settled into their lives. The story tells of the dog's personality, his intelligence and flaws, his run-ins and friendships with other dogs in the neighborhood, his skills at hunting and his yearly battle against woodchucks (when the dog saw that his people didn't want woodchucks in the garden, he took it upon himself to go after any woodchucks in the area). It's obviously a book written from a different era; the dog is disciplined with slaps and a rolled-up newspaper (but his new owners are concerned that he shows fear of brooms and mops- they surmise he must have once been beaten with those objects, which they consider abuse). The dog is welcomed in the house but forbidden certain rooms and sleeps outside in a refurbished woodshed- oddly enough people complain about this on other reviews sites but if you pay attention in the book, the author tells how when the weather was particularly bad or the dog recuperating from injuries, they invited him to sleep in the house and the dog made it apparent he preferred to sleep in the hay in his shed. (Where he was locked in to keep him from roaming at night and being a nuisance to neighbors or wildlife). One aspect of the book I most liked was reading about how readily the man could communicate with his dog, understanding its intentions and wants from body language, facial expression, the tone of its bark or whimper, general demeanor. I think any dog owner can appreciate the depth of connection a person and dog can develop.

You might be glad to know that although the dog is old and showing his age near the end of the book, it does not end with his death but shows him gracefully entering his 'golden years' in the home he has chosen.

In many ways this book reminded me of Where the Red Fern Grows, but a more in-depth story written for adults.

Rating: 3/5     192 pages, 1961

4 comments:

Thistle said...

This sounds like a book I'd really enjoy. It's so nice to have found someone with similar tastes. :)

I' currently reading one of those Garry Kilworth books I found, Frost Moon, about hares. I'm enjoying it quite a bit, it's just the kind of animal book I like: The hares come off as real animals, not humans wearing an animal shape.

Jeane said...

I was just thinking of that one myself, because there was quite a bit in this book about rabbits being chased by the dog (it was considered a good "rabbit dog") and then I wanted to read a book from the perspective of the rabbit!

Yes, I'm glad to have found a fellow animal-book lover too! We're few and far between I think.

Jeane said...

I forgot to mention in the review: there was an interesting bit about a collie dog in the book. The opposite of Lassie, this collie was bought to be a companion for children, but after a few years it left its home and went to another farm where it seemed to prefer herding livestock. Its owner brought it home several times but the collie always ran off to the other farm again. It ended up living there instead.

Thistle said...

It's nice to see a different view on collies, especially one that makes sense like that. While some herding dogs can adapt to herding kids, I'd think most would be happier working with animals.