TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What was the most important thing Snowball gave Paulsen? Why would Snowball remain fresh in his memory 50 years later?
2. Why does Paulsen regard Ike as a friend, not as a pet?
3. Why does Paulsen leave Dirk at the farm rather than take the dog with him?
4. What does Rex get out of the work he does?
5. Is “Caesar: The Giant” a funny or a sad story?
6. Why does Fred’s eating tomatoes mean to Paulsen that “Fred had won”?
7. Why does Paulsen say that Quincy “should have been named White Fang”?
8. Why would Paulsen’s dogs remember the words “Dairy Queen” and “DQ”? What does this say about Paulsen’s relationship with his dogs?
9. Why does Paulsen say that Josh is “like a spirit, like an extension of my mind”? How does Josh’s behavior illustrate this?
10. Why does Paulsen think that dogs are “mandatory for decent human life”?
11. What overall impression does My Life in Dog Years give of how dogs have shaped Paulsen’s life?
IDEAS FOR REPORTS AND PAPERS
1. Who was Jack London? What dog stories did he write? Were any like those in My Life in Dog Years? Why would Paulsen refer to him?
2. Who is White Fang? From what book? Write a book report on it.
3. Who were pin setters? Where did they work? What were their jobs? What were they paid? In what years were pin setters needed?
4. Paulsen mentions “Border collie field trials.” What are these? Who competes in them? What are the rules? Where are they held?
5. For a time Paulsen has the companionship of Ike, a dog trained for duck hunting. What sorts of dogs are good for duck hunting? How are they trained? How do a dog and a duck hunter work together?
6. Paulsen says that he could not walk around without treading on spent cartridges and other relics of the war when he was a child living in the Philippines. What happened in the Philippines during World War II that would have left the islands covered in wrecked military gear?
7. Paulsen’s father was posted in the Philippines after World War II. What was life like in the Philippines in the first few years after the surrender of Japan?
8. What is the history of Great Danes? What are their origins? What makes them special?
9. What is the history of Border collies? What are their origins? What makes them special?
10. Quincy is an abandoned dog. How many dogs are abandoned in a year in the United States? Why are they abandoned? What happens to them?
11. There are numerous accounts of dogs throwing themselves in harm’s way to protect a person. Why do dogs do this?