Literary Qualities

Paulsen is a sort of poet of the wilderness, and he paints pictures of it in spare sentences that are vibrant with color, as in “The maples were red gold and filtered the sunlight so that you could almost taste the richness of the light.” Paulsen does not waste words, but each story is amply described, with not only colors but smells and sounds making the background of the events he relates seem abundantly populated with life.

Although there is sadness in My Life in Dog Years-dogs die sooner than people do-the book is usually happy and uplifting; the stories of the dogs are stories of love with no strings attached, of affection for the sake of affection. The overall impression of the book is of someone sitting and telling some folks about his adventures with some of his favorite pets. The tone is relaxed, the events earthy, and the stories calculated to be pleasing.

This snippet from “Josh: The Smartest Dog in the World” is a good example of what Paulsen offers in My Life in Dog Years. He has spotted a rat in his barn that has run behind a sack: I looked at him [Josh] and told him, “Get ready-get ready now. There’s something there. Are you ready? Ready?” until he was excited enough to jump out of his skin, and then I moved the sack and the rat made its break. Josh grabbed it without hesitation but didn’t kill it. Holding it in his mouth, he looked up at me in total disgust as if to say, “You fool-I’ve got a rat in my mouth,” then turned sideways and spit it out-he distinctly made the sound ptui as he did it-and then walked away from me.

This is great fun, and the humor is universal enough that one does not have to be a dog lover to enjoy the book.

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