“Can I Be Your Dog?” by Troy Cummings is a book that should be on the shelf of every family who loves dogs. It’s an extremely touching story of a homeless dog who wants nothing more than a home of his own.
He decides to try to find a home by writing letters to the people who live on his street, Butternut Street. He starts with the nicest house on the street and explains in his missive that he is potty trained and has his own squeaky bone. He even offers to get along with their cat. They respond:
We’re so sorry, but you cannot be our dog. Our cat is, um, allergic to dogs. Good luck in your search!
Arfy’s face is sad as he reads the letter, but Arfy doesn’t give up. He writes a letter to the butcher lady offering to keep her floor clean. The illustration shows the mail carrier reading the letter as she walks up to the Chop Chop Butcher Shop to deliver the letter.
Each time Arfy writes a letter and the mail carrier delivers it, he is rejected. The last letter he sends is heartbreaking:
Dear last house on Butternut Street,
Can I be your dog? I see that your yard is full of weeds, and your windows are broken, and there’s a funny smell. But I’m not picky. Just lonely. Arfy
When the letter is returned to sender, the reader can see the return address. “Arfy, Soggy Box in the alley.” And Arfy cries. It’s raining and Arfy goes into his soggy box and sleeps there, alone.
But the next morning, there’s a letter waiting for Arfy! A letter with a pink sticker that says “to Arfy.” And unexpectedly, Arfy has a home of his own.
The story is lovely and kids will be rooting for Arfy to find some happiness. Depending on the age of the readers, a discussion might be had about how Arfy ended up alone and homeless. On the last page are some tips about helping a homeless animal. The suggestions include adopting a shelter animal, volunteering at a shelter, spaying or neutering pets, donating to a local rescue group, and helping find animal friends forever homes.
Cummings includes a curious dedication: “To the real Arfy.” Who is the “real” Arfy? Cummings explains:
“As for the “real Arfy” in my book dedication, it’s sort of a combination of two dogs in my life. Arfy’s name comes from a raggedy-old stuffed toy dog I had as a kid. And his heart comes from a real-life scruffy mutt who showed up at our house when I was about six years old. Those dogs and I had a lot in common: we loved to cuddle, we loved to play in the woods, and we all really needed a bath. I lost both dogs around third grade, and still have dreams about them. So this book is, in part, a little thank-you letter to those two puppies.”
Cummings goes on the share that he and his family are “big supporters of rescue…both in terms of the animals we live with, and by volunteering our time and money to helping our animal pals.”
Cummings must enjoy visiting schools to share his work because he commented on how much he loves seeing the dog and cat posters that students create when trying to help animals. In fact, he says, “Student-created dog and cat posters are pretty much my favorite thing ever.” He’s hugely impressed by students, especially those in elementary school, who donate their time and money to save animals.
So if you want Cummings to visit your school, a great incentive might be to have a fundraiser for a local rescue in his honor! He’d love it and the local rescue could probably really use the help!
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Random House Books for Young Readers, for review purposes.