Pages full of paws for dog-loving readers

BOOKS FOR KIDS

April 29, 1994|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Sun Staff Writer

Dogs are loving and smart. Or slobbery and stubborn, depending on how you look at it. If you share a house with a dog or two, here are a few books that will remind you why you got involved with them in the first place.

* Anyone who has watched a pet grow old and feeble can relate to "Toby," by Margaret Wild, pictures by Noela Young (Ticknor & Fields, $13.95, 32 pages, ages 4-8).

Toby is a 14-year-old golden retriever who is "a little blind and a little deaf, and he often makes such bad smells that everyone shouts and leaps for the window."

The narrator has a younger brother, Ben, and an older sister, Sara, who is almost 12. Toby and Sara grew up together as best friends. But now that Toby is old and sick, Sara doesn't want to have anything to do with him. That makes her brothers angry.

They take care of Toby, and they don't believe it when their mother says that Sara still loves Toby. "Sara's growing up, and she's not sure she likes it," Mom says. "Sara doesn't want anything else to change. She doesn't want Toby to get old and die. She wants him to stay just the way he always was."

Then the vet comes and says that Toby is in pain, and it would be best to put him to sleep. Tomorrow, Mom says. That night, the boys are crying, and they decide to go downstairs and stay with Toby until morning. But Sara is already there, cuddling her old friend.

* "Socrates," by Rascal, illustrated by Gert Bogaerts (Chronicle Books, $13.95, 32 pages, ages 2-8) is about an orphaned puppy in the city. The other street dogs won't share their scraps, and none of the people he tries to befriend will take him home. Then Socrates finds something magical on the street. It perches on his nose, and everywhere he goes, people smile and pat him on the head and give him things to eat. Everywhere he looks, the world is bolder and brighter.

Socrates doesn't know how to explain the magic, but readers do: Those are eyeglasses perched on his nose. At the end of the day, he meets the musician who has lost the glasses. At first Socrates doesn't want to part with his wondrous discovery. But his generosity wins out, and Socrates' kindness is rewarded with a friendship.

Mr. Bogaerts' paintings, which include a tribute to Edward Hopper, are wonderful.

* Some dogs are more loving and smarter than others. One example is the star of "Rosie: A Visiting Dog's Story" by Stephanie Calmenson, photographs by Justin Sutcliffe (Clarion, $15.95, 48 pages, ages 4-7.

Rosie is a Tibetan terrier, a middle-sized dog with long, silky hair that hangs in her eyes. Her owner, Ms. Calmenson, tells how Rosie was trained to become a visiting dog -- a Delta Society Pet Partner and a member of Therapy Dogs International.

After four months, Rosie passes all the tests. When she visits a little girl in a hospital bed, she doesn't nip at the intravenous tubes. She is quiet and calm. When a walker clangs to floor in front of her, Rosie doesn't snap or skitter away. She just steps out of the way.

Then we go with Rosie as she visits some disabled kids and some nursing home patients. One old man, Bill, wants to be left alone. But Rosie wins him over, and after she leaves, Bill regales his nurse with stories about the dog he had when he was a child.

* Just as inspirational is "Hugger to the Rescue," by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, photographs by William Munoz (Cobblehill Books, $13.99, 32 pages, ages 7-10). It's an introduction to the Newfoundland dogs -- or Newfs -- trained to rescue people trapped in avalanches or buried in earthquakes or lost in shipwrecks.

Newfs are huge -- from 100 to 160 pounds -- and incredibly fond of humans. They have an instinct for saving people. Take Chelsie, one of the dogs raised by Susan and Murphy Foley for their volunteer organization, Black Paws Search, Rescue and Avalanche Dogs.

When Chelsie finds a conscious victim, "the searchers know right away because they can usually hear the person protesting her enthusiastic dog kisses."

This book shows how the Newfs are trained to wear harnesses so they can be lowered by helicopters to remote sites, and how they learn to ride ski lifts. Most amazing, a Newf can ride in a rescue boat, locate a scent in the air, and bite at the water to show divers where to find a person who is drowning.

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