The Good Dog

The Good Dog

4.5 49
by Avi

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When the Wild Calls

McKinley, a malamute, is a good dog -- he's reliable and trustworthy. Whether it's watching over the other dogs of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, or taking care of his human pup, Jack, McKinley never even thinks of letting anyone down -- until he meets Lupin. Lupin is a she-wolf and she's urging


When the Wild Calls

McKinley, a malamute, is a good dog -- he's reliable and trustworthy. Whether it's watching over the other dogs of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, or taking care of his human pup, Jack, McKinley never even thinks of letting anyone down -- until he meets Lupin. Lupin is a she-wolf and she's urging the dogs of Steamboat Springs to leave their domesticated lives and join her wild pack. And though she scares McKinley, he also finds himself drawn to her and the life of freedom that she offers.

For the first time, McKinley's loyalties are torn. Should he stay with his humans and continue to lead the dogs of Steamboat Springs? Or should he join the wolf and live freely, like his ancestors did? When the wild calls, what will McKinley's answer be?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Themes reminiscent of Jack London's The Call of the Wild ring throughout this vividly imagined animal story. From a canine perspective, Avi (Poppy) relates how a malamute named McKinley's life changes after he encounters a wolf. Head dog in Steamboat Springs, McKinley leads a busy life, protecting his family (including his "human pup," Jack) and keeping order among his canine compatriots in the mountain town. While trying to aid a runaway the forlorn greyhound, Duchess, whose owner offers a reward for her return McKinley encounters Lupin, a wolf who hopes to recruit dogs for her dwindling pack. Lupin's indictment of dogs ("tongue-lapping, tail-wagging slaves who take their food from bowls!") both stirs and shames McKinley; he soon finds his loyalties torn as he simultaneously tries to foil Jack's misguided plan to join the wolves, keep a wounded Lupin safe from those hunting her and fend off Redburn, a conniving Irish setter bent on usurping the hero's place as head dog. The action moves along at a crackling pace, reaching a crescendo in a dramatic moonlight confrontation. The dog's-eye point of view allows for some creative touches, including insights into animal behavior and the vocabulary McKinley uses for various human objects ("eating sticks" for utensils; "a block of staring papers" for book; "glow box" for television), but most compelling of all is the transformation of McKinley's happy-go-lucky character into a truly majestic leader. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Avi's latest quick read comes from the perspective of McKinley, Jack's beloved malamute. McKinley and Jack share many qualities and concerns of adolescent boys. When a lone she-wolf wanders the outskirts of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, searching for dogs willing to help her to repopulate the pack, McKinley becomes pulled between the wild, free world of his wolf ancestors and the secure confines of his human family. Jack, McKinley's "pup," is an adventurous youngster who wants to share a "jungle book" type of experience with this wolf by joining him for a period in the wild. McKinley is torn between protecting Jack from the wild lupin and exploring his wild animal side while maintaining his leadership position with the town dogs. This turn on point-of-view will keep readers riveted through the last page. 2001, Richard Jackson Book/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $16.00. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Mary Sue Preissner
The renowned author of two Newbery Honor books, Avi tries something a little different this time. The story is told from the point of view of McKinley, a German shepherd. In a remote Colorado town, a wolf is trying to make contact with the dogs of the area. The wolf has great disdain for the domestic lifestyle that the dogs comfortably have accepted, yet she wants to recruit a few of them to replenish her pack. This message comes just as an arrogant, spoiled Irish setter begins challenging McKinley for the position of head dog in the town. McKinley is faced with one dilemma after another—considering the wolf's offer himself, preventing his young master from joining the town's wolf hunt, helping a runaway greyhound escape from its owner, and keeping the interfering Irish setter away from them both. Things get more complicated when the wolf is injured and McKinley hides her and then gets in trouble by stealing meat from his home to feed her. A final confrontation with the hunters and the setter and a daring escape bring the story to a satisfactory conclusion. There are some clever devices in the story;the dogs can only understand bits and pieces of what humans say, and they have unusual names for human devices they do not understand, such as televisions and refrigerators. This contrivance, however, gets a little old by the end of the book. Overall this novel for the upper elementary or middle school audience is satisfying, with plenty of adventure, pathos, and conflict. VOYA CODES:4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses;Broad general YA appeal;Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2001, Simon & Schuster, 256p, $16. Ages 11 to 14. Reviewer:KevinBeach—VOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-A story with a decidedly canine point of view that will delight dog lovers. Jack's malamute, McKinley, is the top dog in Steamboat Springs, CO. His enemy is not a cat but a sad excuse for an Irish setter, Redburn. Sedate small-town life is interrupted by the appearance of Lupin, a she-wolf that urges dogs to free themselves from the tyranny of domesticated life. The noble McKinley tries to help her, and save a mistreated greyhound, but is misunderstood and relegated to the "dog house" by rather dim-witted humans. Communication between dogs and humans is awkward at best. There is a lot of dialogue among the dogs, among the humans, and between humans and dogs. The people come off as pretty stupid and McKinley is rather tolerant of the limitations of his "human pup" owner. It is confusing that sometimes McKinley seems to understand exactly what humans think and say and at other times professes ignorance. Still, fans of the film version of The Incredible Journey and Beethoven will lap this up as it has a very cinematic feel. Many scenes seem almost written directly for film. Readers will have no problem following the rapid, almost relentless action. John Erickson's "Hank the Cowdog" series (Viking) and James Howe's "Bunnicula" series (Atheneum) are similar in tone.-Marilyn Payne Phillips, University City Public Library, MO Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When the wild calls, will this good dog answer? For McKinley the malamute is a very good dog, one who takes his contract with his humans seriously: he assiduously guards his human family, especially the pup, Jack. He is also a politically astute dog: he is head dog of the Steamboat Springs dog pack. His retriever friend Aspen, had she the language of pop psychology, would call him a codependent dog: "You watch out for everybody but yourself." His comfortable life is disturbed when a lamed wolf, Lupin, comes down out of the hills to recruit dogs to join her dwindling pack. McKinley feels drawn to her wildness, while at the same time remaining mindful of his doggy responsibilities. These become immensely more complicated when his pup (inspired by The Jungle Book and Julie of the Wolves) decides to try to run away and live with the wolves even as the human community gears up for a massive wolf hunt and an upstart Irish setter begins to challenge McKinley's leadership. How can McKinley acquit his obligations to his pup, to Lupin, and to an abused greyhound whose escape sets the plot in motion, while at the same time preserving his position in the pack? Avi (The Secret School, p. 1021, etc.) by and large does a creditable job of keeping the many subplots going, although the action occasionally gets bogged down in discussions of the political doggy climate. The narrative is filtered through a dog's-eye-view with occasional whimsical touches (streets have names like "Horse Smell Way"), but for the most part the text takes itself as seriously as McKinley does. Almost wholly absent from the story is a real exploration of the mutual affection that underlies the human-dog relationship;without this, McKinley's decision to stay with his humans rather than follow Lupin is an intellectual, and ultimately unsatisfying, one. (Fiction. 8-12)

Product Details

Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.88(w) x 7.74(h) x 0.93(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"Dad! Ma! McKinley! Guess what I saw!"

McKinley had been sleeping in the front yard bushes. Hearing the familiar voice, he lifted his head and looked around with sleepy eyes. He was just in time to see Jack, his human pup, skid so fast on his mountain bike that gravel scattered everywhere. The boy leaped off the bike, raced across the place where the cars sat, and ran into the house.

Now what? McKinley wondered.

Though he would have liked to sleep more, McKinley stood, yawned, stretched his muscles until they were tight, then relaxed them until they were loose. Shaking his head, he jangled his collar tags, and then ambled toward the house.

By the time McKinley reached the door, it had already swung shut. As he had taught himself to do, he bent down, wedged a large forepaw where there was a gap beneath the door, extended his claws, and pushed. The door popped open a little.

Sticking his nose into the gap, McKinley shoved the door further open and squirmed inside. Once there, he sniffed. Smelling dinner, he trotted down the hallway, wagging his tail, till he heard Jack saying, "Dad, I'm not making it up, I really saw a wolf."

McKinley stopped short. His tail drooped. Was that the wolf word the boy had used?

When he was young -- Jack had also been much younger -- McKinley had spotted a wolf during a walk with his people. It was just a glimpse, but the people had seen it, too. They had become very excited, That's when McKinley learned the wolf word. He could recall the wolf's reek, a mix of deep woods, dark earth, and fresh meat. Its wildness had frightened him. And excited him. But that was a long time ago.

Wide awake now, McKinley hurried past the large room and into the small food place.

Jack was talking to the man of the family. Sometimes the man was called Dad, sometimes Gil. McKinley liked him and the way he always smelled of the outdoors.

"Now, hang on, Jack." the man said. "You sure it wasn't just a big old German shepherd? They can look a lot like a wolf."

McKinley stood still, his head cocked. There it was again, the wolf word.

"No way, Dad " the human pup answered. "You know how much I've read about wolves. I'm sure this was one. I mean, yeah, at first I thought it was McKinley. But it wasn't."

Wanting to understand more, McKinley jumped onto one of the sitting places near where the humans put their food when they ate. Mouth slightly open, tail wagging, he sat, turning from the pup to the man as each spoke.

"I'm not saying you're wrong," the man said. "Just, if you're right, it's pretty amazing. Hasn't been a wolf sighted around here for years. Remember the time we spotted one up in the Zirkel Wilderness? But not here in Steamboat Springs."

McKinley saw Jack look around. "Where's Mom?"

At the mention of Jack's female -- the boy called her Mom, the man called her Sarah -- McKinley barked once. The woman spent time on Most Cars Way in a place where there was lots of food, and often brought him treats -- like bones.

Gil said, "She has to work the dinner shift. So it'll be just you and me tonight. Sausages and carrots. And your mom made bread. Now keep talking as you set the table."

Jack A but threw down his eating sticks and tall, clear bowls as he chattered. I was a little scared," he was saying. "I mean, that wolf redly surprised me. I think I surprised him, too."

The human pup poured water for himself and the man into the tall bowls, then thumped down onto the sitting place. McKinley edged closer to the boy.

"Here's grub," "the man said as he brought food to the boy and sat across from him. "And I'm starving."

McKinley, eyeing the food, drooled and licked his own nose.

"I was marking trail up by Rabbit Ears Pass all day," the man said. "Fair amount of snow up there already. Promises a good season."

"Hear that, McKinley?" Jack cried. "Snow is coming!"

Snow, a word McKinley knew and loved. He barked in appreciation.

"But go on," the man said to the pup. "Tell me exactly what you saw."

Jack spoke between mouthfuls. "See -- the wolf had this thick, gray fur coat -- with sort of flecks of gold. His head was wide -- his muzzle was light colored -- and I think he had a limp."

"Was he bigger than McKinley?"

Jack turned toward him. McKinley, wishing the human pup would calm down and speak slower, leaned over and licked his face.

"A lot skinnier," Jack said, wiping his cheek with the back of a hand. "Longer legs, too. Gray fur. Not blackish."

"You didn't see a collar, did you?"

"No way."

"Describe his eyes."

McKinley watched closely as Jack swallowed the last of the sausage. "Not, you know, brown and round like McKinley's. Like, sort of yellowish. And, you know, egg-shaped."

The man reached for his tall bowl and drank. Then he said, "Well, that's certainly wolflike. Where'd you see him?"

"Up in Strawberry Park."

McKinley yawned with nervousness. Strawberry Park was a small valley outside of Steamboat Springs. It was hemmed in by forested hills, and beyond, by snow-peaked mountains. Looming over everything was the great mountain, where most of the humans did their snow sliding.

There were only a few houses in the area, and the dogs who lived there ran completely free. McKinley was head dog there as well as in town.

"What were you doing there?" Gil asked.

Jack shrugged. "School was out. I was exploring."

"McKinley with you?"

Jack gave his dog a quick smile. "Wish he was."

Liking the attention, McKinley barked.

"Hey, how about feeding him his dinner?"

"McKinley, I'm sorry!"

The pup leaped up.

McKinley watched as jack snatched his food bowl from the floor, then reached into a food box. The boy put some bits into the bowl, added water, and set it back on the ground. As a final touch, he placed two dog biscuits on top.

McKinley wagged his tail, jumped off the sitting place, and went for the wet food, gulping down the biscuits first.

"Jack," Gil said, "if that was a wolf -- and I'm not saying it wasn't -- there are going to be lots of people in town stirred up. Generally speaking, folks don't like wolves."

McKinley stopped eating to look around. There it was again, the wolf word.

"I know, Dad," Jack said. "People say wolves are mean and vicious. They aren't. Look at McKinley."

"McKinley is a malamute," Gil said. "Not a wolf."

"Part wolf," Jack insisted.

"Well, maybe so, way back. Not now. Look Jack, the point is, this is still ranching country. If people learn there's a wolf nearby, some of them will be wanting to hunt it down. Kill it. I'm serious, Jack. Since you like wolves, be smart. Don't let anybody know what you saw"

The words hunt and kill unsettled McKinley. Hunting was not something that Jack's family did. But there were many humans in town -- and their dogs -- who hunted. For McKinley it meant danger. just the sense of it made him bark.

Jack and Gil turned to look at him.

Gil asked, "What do you think he's saying?"

"Wish I knew," Jack said.

First Aladdin Paperbacks edition April 2003
Text copyright © 2001 by Avi

Meet the Author

Avi is the author of more than fifty books for children and young adults, including the 2003 Newbery medal winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead. He has won two Newbery Honors and many other awards for his fiction. He lives with his family in Denver, Colorado. Visit him at

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
December 23, 1937
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964

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The Good Dog 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book!! I read it over and over again The plot is fantastic, and It's a great book for anybody who would want to see through a dog's perspective. I really liked how McKinley referred to the TV as a 'glow box' and the books as 'staring papers'! I'll never look at my dogs the same after I read this! You'll love it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book! It has a great storyline and wonderful characters! I would recommend this book to anyone who loves dogs!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book. I garentee If you read this book you well love it just when you read the first page. Avi the Aouther writes amazing books. If your a dog or aniaml lover this is the book for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read it three or five times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
 They are trying to find a dog name Duchess. They are having trouble finding her in the forest. It’s about a dog that ran away from her owner and Mckinley finds her and she tells him that she don’t want to go back to her owner. Mckinley is making sure that none finds her. The Good Dog is a good book to read because its wondering where Duchess went and they can’t find her and she ends up living with the wolf her entire life. She didn’t like her owner so she ran away and hide for her life so she won’t go back to her bad owner. Duchess ran away from her owner and Mckinley found her and talked to her. But she is going to stay with the wolf. The wolf need a bigger pack cause her pack was losing wolf’s so the lead wolf went out to see if she can find some dogs who want to be in her pack.
dsubsits More than 1 year ago
The Good Dog by Avi  I thought it would be appropriate to post my son's book report for this book.  He was nine years old when he wrote it.  Ya, okay I helped edit it... First I have a funny story about this book.  The main character in the book is a black and white malamute named McKinley.  We have a black and white husky named McKinley. While my son, Justin, was reading this book, our "Bad Dog" McKinley decided to eat the book "The Good Dog."  How is that for irony? Justin gave the book 4 1/2 stars out of 5.  Here is his review: I finished reading an awesome book called The Good Dog by Avi.  The book is about a black-and-white  malamute named McKinley.  It is set in modern day. He has an owner named Jack.  They live in Steamboat Springs.  In the story, McKinley makes friends with a wolf, named Lupin. McKinley is the head dog, and the other dogs support him, except for his rival, Redburn.  Redburn thinks he should be the head dog.      One morning McKinley woke up and opened the door with his paw.  Someone left a piece of paper at the door with a picture of his greyhound friend Duchess on it.  It said “Lost” and “Reward $200” on it.  McKinley knew why she ran off, Duchess’ owner, Pycraft, was mean.  Afterward, Pycraft planned a hunting party to hunt the wolf because he thought Duchess ran off with her.  He wants to kill both of them.  McKinley knew he must protect his friends.  McKinley found Lupin and told her humans were hunting them.  When the hunters were nearby, McKinley saw Redburn leading them.  McKinley was not surprised.  Redburn did everything his humans told him.  Redburn tries to attach Lupin.  McKinley launched on top on Redburn to protect her.  Redburn yelps because McKinley scratched him.  Pycraft aims his gun to shoot McKinley thinking he is the wolf.  Fortunately, McKinley’s owner, Jack, pushed Pycraft on the ground.  Jacked saved McKinley.  The hunters gave up.  Everything was fine.  McKinley was still head dog.  He didn’t get shot.  Duchess joined Lupin’s pack.  They lived happily ever after.    I enjoyed the action in this book.  Plus, most of the dogs were really cool.  I enjoyed that my dog is also named McKinley and looks like the main character.  
Maxeyn More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was in elementary and looking back, it still is my most memorable book that I'd ever had the chance of reading.
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mabellMM More than 1 year ago
It was grate because there was a lot of action like when McKinley jumped through the window at the loge on the hill! It was emotional because Sullivan shot Lupin. There was lots of action like when at the end of the book McKinley is running towards the bolders,he sees Pycraft and Pycraft almosts shoots him.
nbela More than 1 year ago
sad, The Good Dog is sad because a wolf is the last of her pack and might get killed. action packed,The Good Dog is action packed because there are guns and hunters. funny,The Good Dog is funny because lot's of stuff happens.
neng More than 1 year ago
The good dog is a outstanding book because there lots of exciting parts.Like when Dutchess was in trouble. The good dog is dramatic because it was dramatic when Lupin got shot.Plus when McKinley saw the hunters and tried to save Lupin. The good dog is a emotional because it was so emotional seeing McKinley being so stressed.Plus when I said it was dramatic Lupin got shot and when and when McKinley saw the hunters and tried to save Lupin.
mesit More than 1 year ago
The book was exciting because there were great cliff hangers that got your attention.The book was sad because Lupin got shot twice.Good action because Lupin getting shot and Mikenly took lots of risks
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Hawesky More than 1 year ago
The Good Dog is a book, who's main character is a dog. What I thought was interesting and Unique about this book was that it was written from the dogs point of view. The dog (Mckinley) doesn't understand everything that goes on around him, including humans speach. Mckinley ends up getting into a huge mess, that puts him and his owner into danger; and along with the mess and danger Mckinley is strongly disliked by other dogs in the community, and he has to put up with all the extra mishap. I have reread this book a billion times and it never gets old, I could probably say every word in the book in order as if it were my name!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
otulissa More than 1 year ago
who doesn't wonder what their dogs do when they run off or if they have enemies and wages. This book takes you into that world of dogs. The human boy is just like an animal loving kid who longs to be like his best friend Mckennzie the dog. I love wolves and dogs so I enjoyed this book.
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Witchcraft10210 More than 1 year ago
this book is great and that's coming from me an average 11 year old girls who loves to read. Anyone who loves dogs will love this book. It'll impress anyone who loves adventure, loyalty, and dogs. Once you read this book you wont get enough of it.
book_lover_4evr More than 1 year ago
I would recommed this book to a friend because it's loving, caring and has a lot of adventures. My friends wuold love this touching story. Also any animal lover would love this heart warming story about a true hero. It's such a great book you may want The Good Dog 2!!! I like this book because McKinley (the dog) and Aspen (his girlfriend) help Lupen (the wolf and Duchess (the greyhound) to thier freedom. They help Lupen by hiding her from the people who wanted to kill her and help Duchess escape from her owner. Also McKinley sends a message to the dogs and told them that Lupen needs some dogs in her pack because some of her members were dead. So some dogs excepted the message and joined Lupen's pack. So what McKinley and Aspen did was amazing. I might read more books from Avi. When I was in 6th grade I read a book called Crispen. It was about a boy who everybody hated him so much. Until a man named Bear changed his life. So I might read more books from Avi and I hope there are new.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago