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Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Boy Who Spoke Dog by Clay Morgan

What I Liked:

I read Crusoe, and Treasure Island, and I enjoy a good survival story. This one is about average except for a weak ending because it is a set-up for the sequel. The humans are decent, Jack is resilient, and the dogs in the story are the best of dogs in accord with their qualities of loyalty, vigilance, hard work and bond with humans.


The point-of-view is primarily from the point of view of one of the dogs on the island where Jack, a young boy, is washed up after a storm-at-sea. Jack was an orphan before the sailors took him on board. He found a good home with the sailors, and they saved his life by tying him to a makeshift raft and heaving him overboard during a severe storm.

The book is less about the obsessive details that can consume a person in a survival scenario than a tale about the lives of the dogs who inhabit the island and the boy who interacts with them.

The previous inhabitants who owned the sheepdogs deserted them when the homestead burned down. Now, there is a pack of wild dogs, who are no longer considered real dogs by the sheepdogs because they lost their vigilance and their courage when they turned on the sheep in hunger. Now, the wild dogs,fangoes, have a precarious balance of order with the loyal sheepdogs who still guard the sheep and wait for the humans to return.

Jack washes up on shore after the storm. He is a bit less than what is expected by the young pups who no longer remember the humans . Moxie, the one Jack names, is obsessed with Jack and desires to guard him in the true fashion of a good dog.

Jack becomes one of the pack right before his shipmates re-appear.

What I Didn’t Like:
This could be titled, The Boy who Became a Dog.

It stretches the bounds of credulity to the breaking point when Jack, a boy who has acquired language and lived amongst humans for his formative years, in so short a time actually forgets entirely how to be human and so becomes a part of the pack that he can’t easily access language when rescued again.

The dog, Moxie, retells a story of creation far removed from the biblical view. In Moxie’s version, animals are a bit superior to the violent humans whom the dogs teach and tame. There is the crucial distinction between a soul made in the image and likeness of God and an animal soul. I'm uneasy about how blurred the distinction becomes in this story.

Jack communicates at the dog’s apparently silent and complex language level. He functions as one of the pack by the end. To add some new-agey weirdness, his first communication is with a dead dog whose spirit is still hanging around right after his death.

An acceptable story was buried here that might have celebrated the good of all creation and the bond between man an animal, but it hits the mark too far off from the creation-order. Maybe it is that without the correct understanding of the hierarchy of creation, such a story cannot resonate powerfully in a soul created in the image and likeness of God.

If Christians want, they could just attribute the creation story to a fictional perspective. But, I am respectful of the power of stories, and I felt veered off a bit too far. It took too much for me to explain it all to a tween without enough pay-off.

If you read it, it would make a great paper to contrast it with Julie of the Wolves in light of the Church's teaching on creation and creation of the human soul.

See: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 363; 373; 2415; 2416; 2417



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