22 December 2016

by Janice Howden
Published by DriverWorks Ink
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$13.95 ISBN 978-192757031-9

Before reading Rescued-Saskatoon writer Janice Howden’s touching story for young readers about a dog’s journey from a puppy mill into the arms of a loving “forever home” family-I’d never heard of Tibetan Terriers. As their name implies, these shaggy-coated dogs originated in the Himalayas, and their “big round feet act like snowshoes in the deep snow.” They’re intelligent, determined, and affectionate, and, as Howden proves in this hybrid story-part non-fiction, part fancy (as told by the canine protagonist)-they can be inspirational.

Howden’s combined her passion for promoting pet adoptions from animal rescues, her love for the puppy Hawkeye (later renamed Rahj) she adopted from the Saskatoon SPCA, and her writing skills into a story that works well between the genres of fiction and nonfiction. After an italicized introduction into what lead to Hawkeye’s adoption, she switches to storytelling mode. Here Hawkeye takes over the narration, and this little guy’s feisty. He says the story thus far is “being told rather badly by the human,” and he goes on to share how he and his meek brother, Freddie, were evicted from the kennel (aka puppy mill) they’d been born into because a new litter was coming and the owners had to make room for younger and more easily-adoptable dogs.

Hawkeye’s the thinker of the siblings, and he resents it. As they scavenge for food and navigate through dangers that include a “huge, angry dog,” alley cats, traffic, and cruel boys, Hawkeye says “Good grief … How come I have to do all the thinking?” They find temporary shelter in a park, but soon Freddie’s caught by animal protection officers, and Hawkeye’s capture follows shortly after.

Howden establishes a strong and humorous voice for the lead dog using tricks like understatement. While wandering free in the park, Hawkeye muses “So far, it had not been too bad-if you didn’t mind sleeping in the cold, eating from garbage cans and being chased by mean boys.” Later in the book, after another italicized, “human” section, the dog responds to his inability to play fetch by saying, “Really, who thinks fetching a sock sounds like fun?” He’s also quite the dramatic dog. Three different times he says “This was the worst day of my life!” Fortunately, he also has the opportunity to later exclaim about “the happiest time” in his life.

Rescued is about acceptance (ie: Rahj must win over Howden’s husband), generosity, and the bond between humans and pets. The book contains black and white illustrations and several photos (so you can see Rahj in the flesh, er, fur), and would be suitable for juvenile readers, or as a story read to younger children, but be warned: reading this might result in a trip to your local shelter and the addition of a four-legged family member.

Howden’s on the board of the Saskatchewan Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and promotes “compassion and respect for animals” through education. Buy her book, and a portion of the sale’s donated to animal welfare organizations.


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