We always had dogs when I was young. My dad wasn’t a big fan but my mum loved them. She'd often tell me about the animals that would ‘follow her home from school’. There were cats, injured birds, and even the occasional possum, but mostly they were dogs, mutt dogs, often in desperate need of TLC. Like the Mutt Dog in this story:
He's just a little bit scruffy, but it’s not his fault. Because even though he lives in the city, he belongs to no-one.
He tries to be a good dog, but being alone is hard!
“He had to be brave,
just to survive.
He ate whatever he could find.
And looked for a new place to sleep… every night”
One day, Mutt Dog wanders into a halfway house where, yet again, there is no room for him. A kind woman who works there gives him some food and a bed for the night but then sends him on his way. She wishes he could stay but it’s just no place for a Mutt Dog.
That's quite the heartbreaking moment in the story! But...
Then, the lady makes a choice; she takes Mutt Dog away from the city into her family.
Because of the kindness of this stranger, Mutt Dog's life changes and we get to see his gentleness and loyalty - although he is still brave, fast and smart!
"And each night when he goes to sleep…
… he knows where he belongs."
Mutt Dog! is a sweet story that deals with some very real issues:
It’s a gentle conversation starter about the concept of homelessness, lovely for young and tender hearts. There are many homeless people pictured but not referenced in the story. So the topic can come up when they are ready as young minds notice and ponder on what those images mean.
It touches on our responsibility to care for all creatures, but especially those that we have made reliant on us through domestication.
Mostly though, it shows us the miracles that kindness and acceptance can invoke and the joy that comes from knowing that we belong somewhere.
It’s a calm and heartwarming story, best read with a cuddle. It might raise feelings of sadness and concern, but the story is soft, the illustrations are friendly and cute and the ending is beautifully filled with hope.
Kids and adults of all ages will fall in love with Mutt Dog! And Stephen Michael King also illustrated the very funny Fizz chapter books - about another incredibly appealing little dog.
P.S. You might like to also check these posts with homelessness components - some are not for the very young set though.