Title: It’s a Dog’s LifeIts-a-Dogs-Life
Author: John R. Erickson
Pages: 127
Reading Level: 10 & Up
Star Rating: Undetermined

Yep, it’s Hank again….

The Story.

The night watch is over and Hank is just stretching out for a delicious, hard-earned snooze when Drover pulls in squeaking his silly little head off. His terror arises from the fact that he just learned that the world is going to end tomorrow. Yes sirree, tomorrow at 3 PM. Even Hank, veteran that he is, is a bit shook up. Do they really only have a day left to live? He decides to conduct and investigation.

His first plan of action is to penetrate the house and sneak a peek at Sally May’s calendar. Surely if the world were going to end, it would be marked THERE. But this delicate operation requires great skill; the slightest miscalculation on his part would land him on Sally May’s bad side real quick. So he posts Drover as guard as he slinks his way into the house.

Unfortunately, things don’t turn out quite as he might wish, and he gets the full benefit of Sally May’s *ahem* ire. But he does discover what he set out to find – the world is not going to end tomorrow. That means that somebody fed false information to Drover and duped both of them. The audacity…….

In his embarrassment at being fooled, Hank decides to head for town and visit his sister Mag and her cute little cowpups, Roscoe, Spot, April, and Barbara. But Mag isn’t as happy to see Hank as he’d hoped. And she’s a bit less than pleased when he teaches her cowpups how to act in a manner worthy of their…. heritage. So, she devises a way to get rid of him. And get rid of him she does. The question is, can Hank escape from her get-riddage of him? Will he ever return to his ranch and many responsibilities?

Funny Quotes.

After conducting the night watch solitarily, Hank tells Drover that he’ll have to represent both of them at their daily bark-at-the-mailman job. Drover has a bit of difficulty understanding and remembering his assignment…..

I looked at the runt and shook my head. “You forget things. How can you forget that the mailman comes by here every day at the same time? How can you forget that one of our most important jobs is to bark at him? How can you forget that you’re wasting my time and I’m ready to go to sleep? Tell me what you assignment is.”

He twisted his mouth around and squinted one eye. “Uh … let’s see …”

“Mailman.”

“Mailman. Mail-MAN. MAIL-man.”

“Bark.”

“Bark.” He shook his head.

“Bark at.”

“Bark at … bark at … mailman bark at … bark at the mailman!”

“Very good, Drover. Now, keep saying that to yourself and run up to the road before you forget again.”

“Okay, Hank, bark at the mailman.” He started off but stopped. “Hank, how come we bark at the mailman?”

I stared at him. “Are you asking why we bark at the mailman?”

“Yeah. If he brings the mail, how come we bark at him?”

“Holy cats, Drover, at your age you’re still asking a question like that? Son, if you don’t know the answer by this time it wouldn’t do any good for me to tell you. Now go on before I lose my temper.”

“Okay, Hank. Bark at the mailman, bark at the mailman.” And off he went to the mailbox.

I settled into my gunnysack and released my grip on the world. But you know what? I couldn’t fall asleep for a long time. I kept asking myself, “Why do we bark at the mailman?”

If you look at it in a certain light, it really doesn’t make much sense. As far back as I can remember, no mailman has ever killed a chicken, robbed a nest, broke into a sack of feed, or done anything worse than deliver the mail.

But that right there is one of the primary dangers of having an active, superior type of intelligence. On the one hand, it’s necessary for security work. On the other hand, it can come up with foolish questions. [pgs. 2, 5-6]

After Hank and Drover find out about the end of the world, Drover manifests certain signs of anxiety.

All at once I heard an odd noise. I stopped.

“Hold it! What’s that?” We listened. There it was again, a clicking sound. “It’s a time bomb, Drover! Red Alert! Run for your life!”

We dashed around to the front yard and hid behind that big hackberry tree there by the porch. I waited for the blast, and in the silence I heard that same clicking sound 0 right beside me.

My ears, which are very sensitive scientific instruments, followed the sound and traced it to Drover. “Why are your teeth chattering?”

“What?”

“I said, why are your teeth chattering? And how can I conduct an investigation with you making noise?”

“Oh. I’m sorry, Hank. I guess I’m just scared about the end of the world.”

I shook my head and walked a few steps away. “I don’t know, Drover, sometimes I just think you’re not worth the dadgum effort. How many times have I told you that a cowdog has to be fearless?”

He hung his head. “I know, you’ve told me but . . . it’s the end of the world, Hank.”

“Maybe it is and maybe it ain’t. At this point it’s merely a suppository proposition and all we’ve got to go on is circumscribal evidence. We won’t know for sure until we get into the house and check Sally May’s calendar. Now, are you going to help with this investigation or do I have to send you down to the gas tanks for the rest of the day?”

He thought it over. “I guess I’ll go down to the gas tanks.”

“Oh no you won’t”

“I guess I’ll stay here.”

“That’s more like it. Drover, always remember this: it ain’t the size of the dog in the fight that matters; it’s the size of the fog in the dog. That’s what life is all about.”

He stared at me and then nodded his head. “I’d wondered . . . what was it all about.” [pgs. 16-17]

Hank faces several obstacles when he attempts to visit Margaret in the city.

The back gate was shut and a lot of dogs would have turned around right there and gone back home, but a locked gate never meant much to me. All you need is powerful back legs and remarkable athletic ability and you can hop over any gate that’s ever been built.

I cleared that rascal with six inches to spare. I mean, you’d have thought I was a deer the way I soared over it. Didn’t see the tricycle on the other side until it was too late. Kind of banged me up when I lit in the middle of it. Got a handlebar right on the end of my nose. [pg. 55-56]

When a man chases Hank and the pups away from a bunch of cats that they’ve been arguing with, Hank reacts quickly … perhaps too quickly.

When I saw him coming and heard him mention the dog pound, I canceled the invasion and sounded the retreat. “To the house, pups, run as fast as you can, retreat!”

They peeled off and headed north down the alley as fast as their little legs would take them. I waited until the last pup had made his escape and then I looked up at the cats.

“We’ll meet again, cat, and when we do that fence won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.” Don’t know why I said it that way. If you think about it, it don’t make a lot of sense, I mean, fences aren’t exactly … in the heat of battle a guy sometimes … never mind. [pgs. 81-82]

Cautions.

A buzzard throws up on a couple of coyotes.

Hank teaches his nieces and nephews several skills that their mother forbade them to try, then tells them to keep quiet about it.

Hank leads his nephews and nieces in a rousing argument with five cats. Each side does its best to out-insult the other. What they come up with is pretty hilarious, but is not speaking grace to the hearers. I may also encourage arguing among children.

In one scene, while Pete the barncat is admiring his reflection in the water trough, Hank knocks him into the water.

Hank dreams about Beulah several times, and when he leaves to visit town he tells Drover, “I’m going to town to visit my sister and maybe a couple of other women. If you get into a bind, if you need any help, if there’s any kind of emergency of any kind, don’t hesitate to take care of it yourself.” [pgs. 39-40]

‘Darn’, ‘heck’, ‘holy cats’, ‘geeze’, ‘gosh’, ‘dadgum’, ‘dadburn’, ‘dad-ratted’, ‘dang’, ‘shucks’, ‘holy cow’, and ‘golly’ are used frequently. There is some name-calling (idiot, stupid, silly, the like).

Conclusion. I, as a young adult, enjoy reading Hank the Cowdog. I find it offers me perspective and relaxation when I’m stressed, and, because of my age, I am able to enjoy the humor and leave the silliness behind. However, I do not believe that young readers will be able to read Hank the Cowdog without being encouraged in silliness and sarcasm. For this reason, I do not recommend Hank the Cowdog for young readers, while reserving the right to enjoy it myself.

Note: This is a review of It’s a Dog’s Life not the entire Hank the Cowdog series.

Review © 2012 Laura Verret

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