The Dog Who Wouldn't Be

The Dog Who Wouldn't Be

by Farley Mowat


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Farely Mowat's best-loved book tells the splendidly entertaining story of his boyhood on the Canadian prairies. Mutt's pedigree was uncertain, but his madness was indisputable. He climbed tress and ladders, rode passenger in an open car wearing goggles and displaying hunting skills that bordered on sheer genius. He was a marvelous dog, worthy of an unusual boy growing up in a raw, untamed wilderness.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781567926125
Publisher: David R Godine Pub
Publication date: 10/01/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 52,232
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Farley Mowat was born in Belleville, Ontario, in 1921. He served in the Second World War from 1940 until 1945, and began writing for his living in 1949 after spending two years in the Arctic. Since 1949 he has lived in or visited almost every part of Canada and many other lands, including the distant regions of Siberia. He is the bestselling author of forty-seven books, which have been published in more than twenty languages in more than sixty countries.

Read an Excerpt

The Coming of Mutt

An oppressive darkness shadowed the city of Saskatoon on an August day in 1929. By the clock it was hardly noon. By the sun—but the earth had obliterated the sun. Rising in the new deserts of the southwest, and lifting high on autumnal winds, the desecrated soil of the prairies drifted northward; and the sky grew dark.

In our small house on the outskirts of the city my mother switched on the electric lights and continued with the task of preparing luncheon for my father and for me. Father had not yet returned from his office, nor I from school. Mother was alone with the somber day.

The sound of the doorbell brought her unwillingly from the kitchen into the hall. She opened the front door no more than a few inches, as if expecting the menace of the sky to thrust its way past her into the house.

There was no menace in the appearance of the visitor who waited apologetically on the step. A small boy, perhaps ten years of age, stood shuffling his feet in the gray grit that had been falling soundlessly across the city for a day and a night. He held a wicker basket before him and, as the door opened, he swung the basket forward and spoke in a voice that was husky with the dust and with the expectation of rebuff.

"Missus," he asked in a pale, high tone, "would you want to buy a duck?"

Mother was a bit nonplussed by this odd echo of a catch phrase that had already withered and staled in the mouths of the comedians of the era. Nevertheless, she looked into the basket and to her astonishment beheld three emaciated ducklings, their bills gaping in the heat, and, wedged between them, a nondescript and bedraggled pup.

She wastouched, and curious—although she certainly did not want to buy a duck.

"I don't think so," she said kindly. "Why are you selling them?"

The boy took courage and returned her smile.

"I gotta," he said. "The slough out to the farm is dry. We ate the big ducks, but these was too small to eat. I sold some down to the Chinee Grill. You want the rest, lady? They're cheap—only a dime each."

"I'm sorry," Mother replied. "I've no place to keep a duck. But where did you get the little dog?"

The boy shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, him," he said without much interest. "He was kind of an accident, you might say. I guess somebody dumped him out of a car right by our gate. I brung him with me in case. But dogs is hard to sell." He brightened up a little as an idea struck him. "Say, lady, you want him? I'll sell him for a nickel—that way you'll save a nickel for yourself."

Mother hesitated. Then almost involuntarily her hand went to the basket. The pup was thirsty beyond thirst, and those outstretched fingers must have seemed to him as fountains straight from heaven. He clambered hastily over the ducks and grabbed.

The boy was quick to sense his advantage and to press it home.

"He likes you, lady, see? He's yours for just four cents!"

Less than a month had elapsed since my parents and I had come out of the verdant depths of southern Ontario into the arid and dust-shrouded prairies.

It had seemed a foolhardy venture then, for those were the beginnings of the hard times, even in the east; while in the west the hard times—the times of drought and failure—were already old. I do not know what possessed my father to make him exchange the security of his job in Windsor for a most uncertain future as Saskatoon's librarian. It may be that the name itself, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, attracted him irresistibly. It may have been simply that he was tired of the physical and mental confines of a province grown staid and stolid in its years.

In any case he made his decision in the fall of 1928, and the rest of us acquiesced in it; I, with a high heart and bright anticipation; Mother, with grave reservations and gloomy prophecies.

Father spent that winter building a caravan, a trailer-house which was destined to carry us westward. It was a long winter for me. On Saturdays I joined my father under a shed and here we hammered and sawed industriously, and the caravan took shape. It was an unconventional shape, for my father was a sailor at heart and he had had but little experience in the design of land conveyances. Our caravan was, in reality, a houseboat perched precariously on the four thin wheels of an old Model T chassis. Her aspect was bluff and uncompromising. Her sides towered straight from the frame a full seven feet to a gently cambered deck (which was never referred to as a roof). She was big-boned and buxom, and she dwarfed poor Eardlie—our Model A Ford convertible—as a floating derrick dwarfs the tug which tows it.

Some of Father's friends used to come by now and again to watch our progress. They never said much, but when they went away it was with much thoughtful shakings of their heads.

Perhaps our caravan was no thing of beauty, but she was at least a thing of comfort. My father was an ingenious builder and he had fitted her cabin with every nautical convenience. There was a compact galley with a primus stove on gimbals, gimbaled lamps, great quantities of locker space, stowage for charts, a Seth Thomas chronometer on the forward bulkhead, two luxurious berths for my parents, and a folding pipe-berth for me. Dishes, our many books, and other loose oddments were neatly and securely racked in fitted cupboards so that even in the wildest weather they could not come adrift.

It was as well that my father took such pains to make the interior seaworthy, for, as we headed westward, we discovered that our wheeled vessel was—as sailors say—more than somewhat crank. Slab-sided and immense, she was the prey of every wind that blew. When a breeze took her from the flank she would sway heavily and, as like as not, scuttle ponderously to the wrong side of the road, pushing poor Eardlie with her. A head wind would force Eardlie into second gear and even then he would have to strain and boil furiously to keep headway on his balky charge. A stern wind was almost as bad, for then the great bulk of the tow would try to override the little car and, failing in this, would push Eardlie forward at speeds which chilled my mother's heart.

All in all it was a memorable journey for an eight-year-old boy. I had my choice of riding in Eardlie's rumble seat, where I became the gunner in a Sopwith Camel; or I could ride in the caravan itself and pilot my self-contained rocket into outer space. I preferred the caravan, for it was a private world and a brave one. My folding bunk-bed was placed high up under the rear window, and here I could lie—carefully strapped into place against the effect of negative gravity (and high winds)—and guide my spaceship through the void to those far planets known as Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Dakota.

From the Paperback edition.

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The Dog Who Wouldn't Be (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a heart stopping book with all the details and You will love it and so will anyone who loves a good laugh or a great children or dog story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was going to be a regular,boring book, but looks can be desiving! This book, I believe, should be a book that all people should read. This book was smart, exiting, funny, and sad all at the same time. This book is not well known in my town, which is sad because it is too good a book for people not to know about it.
stornelli on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An autobiographical account of a boy and his dog¿s adventures growing up in the Canadian Prairie province of Saskatchewan during the Depression era of the 1920s to 1935.Illustrations were penciled in black and white. A compelling story of a boy¿s attachment to his dog.Title is derived from the father buying a ¿mutt¿ but training it to be a hunting dog.The story is narrated by the boy in the first person. A few anecdotes about societal values of the era.
usnmm2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I came across this book and grabbed it right up. I had read it many many years ago in the 5TH grade, and it was as good as my fond memories of it were.This is a classic story of a boy and his dog (or maybe a dog and his boy).Guaranteed to make you laugh out loud and bring a tear to your eye, a must read to anyone who has or had a dog.
HomeSchoolBookReview More than 1 year ago
It is 1929, and eight year old Farley Mowat moves with his father and mother from the verdant depths of southern Ontario to the arid and dust-shrouded prairies of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Canada, so that Mr. Mowat can take a new job as Saskatoon’s chief librarian. Shortly after arriving, Mrs. Mowat purchases, for four cents from a boy trying to sell ducks for a dime, a nondescript, bedraggled pup. Farley called him “Mutt” and wrote, “I suspect that at some early moment of his existence he concluded there was no future in being a dog. And so, with the tenacity which marked his every act, he set himself to become something else.” The book chronicles the adventures of Mutt with Farley, his family, their friends, and a host of others, as they hunt ducks, chase cattle, deal with cats, battle other dogs, climb ladders, learn to sail, take vacations, catch creatures, make pets out of owls (the ones Mowat writes about in Owls in the Family), mess with skunks, and eventually return to Ontario. Can you imagine why one day Mutt would turn up with fur colored black and blue instead of black and white? These stories are hilariously funny. Unfortunately, the “h” word occurs a few times, and the “d” word occurs rather frequently, along with some other interjections like “For God’s sake, By God, Sweet Jesu, and Mother of God.” There are also occasional references to drinking whiskey, beer, and rum. If it weren’t for these, the book would be suitable for anyone, but as it is, I would recommend it only for those 13 and up. The Dog Who Wouldn't Be, which splendidly tells the entertaining story of the author’s boyhood on the Canadian prairies, is sometimes called Farely Mowat's best loved book. As I said previously, aside from the language, it is truly amusing. SPOILER ALERT: I won’t go into any detail, but I will say that there seems to be an unwritten rule that any story about a dog and his boy has to have a sad ending. However, all dog lovers will find that Mutt is always full of surprises.
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Da_Fish More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book in elementary school through Scholastic Book Club in the late 1960's; it is one of two books I remember from childhood. It's an easy read, of course, but is just as enjoyable as I remembered and expected. The writing is excellent; it enables the reader to imagine nearly every scene. Read & enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I havn't read this book yet,but from what i've read and heard, i'll love it. I first heard about this book from school. I took an SRI test and it was recommended. Then later, I told my mom about it, and she said that she'd heard of it and it was a great book. So I'm now really looking forward to reading this. Especially because I myself am a dog lover, and I have two dogs. So hopefully i'll get this book soon and be able to see why people love it so much!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is definitely one of the best books I've read in a long time! It centers around Mutt, a true mutt with extraordinary talents... The book is aimed at younger readers but is entertaining enough for all ages to enjoy! Mutt shows his intelligence in many ways - learning to walk the tops of fences to avoid the neighborhood pack of dogs, climbing ladders/trees/mountains, outsmarting/retrieving live birds... He gets a rep as the BEST retriever ever and no one believes his talents until they witness them in person. Though the story is based around Mutt, the other characters in the book are just as entertaining, esp. Father. If you enjoy books about dogs, or are just looking for a good laugh, find a copy of this book! You won't be disappointed. =)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Perhaps the most remarkable canine who may have lived. Both a hilarious and tender account of a boy and his dog. You'll laugh throughout, but you won't finish the book without a tear. One of my twelve year old son's favorite books by Mowat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It all starts when the author is a young child who has just moved with his family to an unfamiliar prarie. His mother, never one to turn down a bargain, buys a *ahem* puppy. She thereby saves the family at least $100, as dad wanted a purebred something or other. This puppy, eventually known as mutt ends up growing up with the author, and what an adventure it turns out to be. Mutt is the dog all of us wanted as kids, but never were able to enjoy. Your dog chased cats perhaps, but did he ever decide that since the cat's ran across the top of a fence, it was his duty to learn how to first, climb a ladder to get up to the top of the fence, and then, the balance needed to walk the top of the fence as well? And, while most dogs fight when they must has yours ever '...turned upon his back, with his legs working as though he were riding a bicycle...' in order to confuse the other dogs? Pity the other dogs in these encounters. By the time one reaches the hunting sessions, the pump of laughter is fully primed. Occasionally one must lay the book down in order to let one's ribs rest. I laughed until I cried as a child, and then when reading it again as an adult I couldn't help but laugh aloud until my daughter came over and demanded to know what I was reading. After reading her several passages, I lost custody of the book until she finished reading it. Any book which makes you laugh by telling you the truth and nothing but the truth is a keeper. This is one book that we have had to buy multiple copies just to replace the one's we've worn out reading. We don't loan it out for fear of not getting it back. So, if you want to read it, you're either going to have to buy your own or see if the library has a copy.