'My Hero' to Be Chosen: Eight finalists will compete tonight for the title My Hero. The winner will wear the coveted gold Hero medal. These brave and courageous dogs will each appear with their nominator who will tell their story.
There's Smiley, who fought a giant bull. Bear used his giant paws to save the life of another dog. Munchkin warned a gardener of a poisonous snake about to strike. Old Dog helped find people buried under rubble after a tornado. Buster pulled a baby carriage out of the path of a careening truck. Blue, who had never been known to bark, used his voice to bring help to his wounded master. Dopey's constant barking saved the life of a baby left in a sweltering car. Little Bit brought love and companionship to a nursing home resident.
In My Dog, My Hero each story is told in the unique, sometimes humorous, but always compelling voice of the person whose life was changed by the heroic action of a very extraordinary dog. Betsy Byars and her daughters Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers have joined forces to create dog stories full of adventure and suspense. Loren Long's paintings capture the heroic dignity of each of the dogs and heighten the drama of their special stories.
About the Author
Betsy Byars is the author of many acclaimed and well-loved books for children, including the Newbery Award-winning The Summer of the Swans. Ms. Byars lives in Clemson, South Carolina.
Betsy Duffey has written over 15 books for children,. most for middle-grade readers. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Laurie Myers is the author of several well-received books for intermediate readers, including Lewis and Clark and Me and collections of stories that she collaborated on with her mother Betsy Byars and sister, Betsy. She lives in Augusta, Georgia.
Loren Long has illustrated greeting cards, book jackets and magazine. My Dog, My Hero is his first children's book. He lives near Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and their two sons.
Betsy Byars, a Newbery Medal winner for The Summer of the Swans, is the author of many revered and popular books for children. She and her husband live in South Carolina.
Laurie Myers lives in Georgia.
Betsy Duffey lives in Georgia.
Loren Long has illustrated greeting cards, book jackets and magazines. My Dog, My Hero is his first children's book. He lives near Cincinnati, Ohio with his wife and their two sons.
Read an Excerpt
My Dog, My Hero
By Betsy Byars, Betsy Duffey, Laurie Myers, Loren Long
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2000 Betsy Byars, Betsy Duffey, and Laurie Myers
All rights reserved.
When I heard Daddy yell that I knew I was in trouble.
Smiley and I were out in the north pasture. I was looking for arrowheads, and Smiley was keeping me company. I'd named the dog Smiley because that's what he did. He was the happiest-looking dog I ever saw in my life.
"Smiley," I said, "we better shut that gate."
When we'd come into the pasture the gate had been open, and since there wasn't anything to keep in or out, we'd let it be.
I started for the gate. As soon as Smiley saw where I was heading, he passed me — he always liked to be in the lead. And then both of us stopped.
The bull was coming through the open gate. He paused to decide who to go for, and then he saw me.
Now, this was a mean bull — we called him Toro because he acted like those bulls you see in bullfights, only those bulls have a reason to be tossing their heads and running at people, because men are sticking them with swords. Toro just acted that way out of meanness.
There was a tree in the middle of the pasture and I turned and ran for that. My only hope was to get to the tree before the bull got to me.
I ran like I'd never run before. I could hear the bull's hoofs pounding the dry pasture behind me. They were getting louder, closer. I wasn't going to make it.
Then I could hear yapping from Smiley, but I didn't look around.
I was running so fast that, when I got to the tree and grabbed a limb, my whole body swung around. I scrambled up on the first limb and then on up the trunk, high as I could get.
I couldn't see what was happening, but I could hear. Smiley was still yapping, and though I couldn't see him, I knew he was nipping at the bull's legs.
I yelled, "I'm all right, Smiley! Run!"
Then I heard a cry of pain — a sound Smiley had never made in his life. Then there was a thud.
I moved out on the limb to where I could peer through the leaves. I could see the bull, looking around for something else to chase. And I could see Smiley lying on his side about twelve feet away.
I thought Smiley was dead, but I kept yelling, "Smiley, Smiley," in case he wasn't.
Smiley didn't move.
I thought he might at least thump his tail to show me he was alive. He didn't.
I started crying then, crying so hard I couldn't see another thing.
My dad had to call my name three times before I heard him. "LeeAnn! LeeAnn! LeeAnn! You all right, hon?"
"I am," I called back. "But Smiley's not."
My dad didn't answer. He just said, "Hold on. We're coming."
Hearing my dad's voice made me cry all over again. It made me remember when my cat got run over by the tractor. My dad told me then that when a person dies and goes to heaven, well, all the dogs and cats she ever had will come running to meet her.
So I was comforting myself by thinking that someday I'd see Smiley running to meet me, tail wagging, face living up to his name.
My dad and Fred, a man who worked on the farm, came out in the truck. They got ropes on Toro and led him away. He had got the meanness out of his system for the moment and went along quietly. Fred drove off with the bull, and I started climbing down.
My dad met me at the bottom of the tree. I looked over to where Smiley lay. "I gotta say good-bye."
"The dog's not dead, if that's what you're thinking."
"No, he's got a hole in his shoulder and he's in shock, but I think he's going to be all right. Soon as Fred puts the bull up, we'll put Smiley in the truck and take him to the vet."
I went over to Smiley and knelt down and said what I hoped was the truth. "You're going to be all right."
And Smiley did get all right. You can still see the hole in his shoulder, where the fur didn't grow back. It's round and it reminds me of a medal.
So, if Smiley doesn't get this medal, I won't be too disappointed. He's already got the one that counts.CHAPTER 2
I remember it like it was yesterday. A car pulled up beside my daddy's truck at the stoplight. A little boy in the backseat rolled down his window and yelled, "Hey, there's a bear in the back of your truck."
I looked at our big Newfoundland, and it struck me. The boy was right. Our new dog looked exactly like a bear. I had been trying to think of a name ever since we got the dog. I've never been very good at that. Now I had my name.
Bear is the smartest dog I have ever known. He sees something once and he can do it. The day we got Bear he watched me go out the back door. Next thing I knew he was putting his big paw on that handle and pushing it down. Now he can open our back door as well as any person. Bear watched my father go out for the newspaper. Now Bear goes out for the newspaper every morning, then he rings the doorbell to get back in.
As smart as Bear is, that's how dumb Snowball is. She's the big white fluffy dog that lives next door. Her biggest problem is that she's wild. She runs everywhere. If there's not enough room to run, Snowball sort of dances or prances around. She's never still, and her running always seems to lead to no good.
Last Fourth of July we were setting off firecrackers, and Snowball grabbed one and took off. We tried to catch her, but she kept running like it was some kind of game. The firecracker blew up in her mouth, and she's still got the scar on her lip.
Once Snowball ran after the spot from Mr. Wilbanks's flashlight. When it got to the end of the room and started up the wall, Snowball didn't stop. She ran smack into the wall. She's still got a little bald spot on her head where she hit.
Anyway, on the day in question, it was Snowball's running that started it all. Bear and I were looking out the back window at the lake, watching the snow come down. I was wishing the lake was frozen through so I could go ice-skating. Bear was probably thinking the same thing. He loves the lake. In the summer he swims in it, and in the winter he chases me around and pulls me across the ice.
Suddenly Bear barked. I looked over at the Wilbankses' house and saw Snowball racing around the corner. They don't usually let Snowball out by herself. I guess it's because she runs so much. Anyway, Snowball flew down the hill and right out onto the ice.
I gasped. It was early December, way too early to think about going on the ice. Snowball's not a huge dog but certainly heavy enough to fall through.
I tried to open the window to yell, but it all happened too fast. Snowball was running at top speed. When she was about fifty yards out, she stopped. Her legs were spread in an unnatural way. She tilted her head to the side as if she was listening. She looked like those toy dogs whose heads rotate side to side. I gasped and Bear made a whining noise. We both knew what was going to happen next.
In an instant Snowball disappeared straight down into the icy water.
Bear and I stared at the spot of broken ice. It seemed like an eternity, but finally Snowball bobbed back up. She immediately started clawing her way around the edge of the hole trying to get out. It was useless. Her paws slipped off the ice with every pull.
A terrible hopelessness swept over me. Last winter Daddy and I had watched a deer drown after falling through the ice. That deer had tried to claw his way out. I wanted to run out and help the deer, but Daddy said it was too dangerous. The deer finally gave up and disappeared beneath the ice.
This was much worse than the deer. I knew Snowball. She had lived next door to us for five years.
The back door slammed shut. Bear was gone.
I didn't get my coat or anything. I just ran out after him.
"Come back," I yelled to Bear.
He ignored me. He went bounding down the hill.
I expected him to stop at the edge of the lake. Instead, he ran right out onto the ice.
"Bear. Nooooooooo," I screamed. "The ice is too thin."
Bear kept running. He has always been surefooted on the ice. I felt a spark of hope. Maybe Bear could somehow pull Snowball out without falling in himself. If anyone could do it, Bear could. Bear can do just about anything.
Snowball saw Bear coming and clawed even harder.
Bear was almost to the hole, but he was running way too fast. If he didn't slow down, he'd end up ...
I watched with horror as Bear leaped into that icy water with Snowball.
I opened my mouth to yell, but nothing came out.
I started to cry. Bear was not going to save Snowball. He was going to die with her. They were both going to slip away into that death hole like the deer.
I couldn't believe Bear would make such a mistake! Bear never makes mistakes.
Bear turned and lifted a giant paw into the air. I felt sick. Bear was going to try to claw his way out like Snowball. I didn't want to watch but I couldn't take my eyes off him.
With the force of a wrecking ball Bear's right paw smashed down on the edge of the hole and broke away a large chunk of ice. Then his left paw lifted from the water and smashed away another chunk. His right paw smashed down again. Then his left. Right. Left. Right. Bear's paws began rotating around like a giant ice-crushing machine. A pathway was forming from the hole to the shore.
A small jolt of hope ran through me. Bear's plan might work if he had time. A person can only survive a short time in icy water. But this was a dog, a big Newfoundland, with a thick double coat.
"Go, Bear, go," I screamed.
I've often heard that encouragement can make the difference between life and death.
"Go, Bear, go," I yelled over and over.
Bear continued smashing away at the ice, lengthening the pathway to shore. Snowball swam behind him, her eyes big and round.
By the time they reached the shore Mrs. Wilbanks had arrived with blankets. We bundled up both dogs and got them inside. We rubbed them with warm towels. When we finished, Mrs. Wilbanks took the towel off Snowball. I expected Snowball to run wild around the sofa like I'd seen her do so many times before. She didn't.
Snowball walked, and I mean walked, not danced or pranced, right over to Bear and licked him in the face. Then Bear got excited and he ran around the sofa. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen. Snowball sat still while big old Bear ran around the sofa.
It's been six months since then. Snowball doesn't have a single scar to show for the accident. She's still wild, though. I guess some things never change, including Bear. He's still the smartest dog I have ever known. That's why Bear is my hero.CHAPTER 3
Don't like dogs. Never have. Pesky things.
Some of the big ones do some good, I suppose — herd sheep and rescue mountain climbers — but, I ask you, what's the good of those little dogs who just take up room on the sofa? Sofa pillows, that's what they are, but sofa pillows that won't stay put.
Dog next door was one of those four-legged sofa pillows. No good whatsoever. Pesky dog, name was Punchkin or Munchkin. I never could get it straight.
Dog would come in my garden like she owned it, like I planted the flowers for her to roll in.
"She loves your flowers," the woman next door would say — woman was pesky too. "We always know when Munchkin's been in your yard — she smells so sweet."
"Madam," I would reply, "I also know when Punchkin's been in my yard, because the flower beds have holes in them."
And the woman would laugh. Laugh! As if flower beds with holes in them like donuts were amusing!
Now, this year I was given a great honor. My garden was chosen to be in what they call the Parade of Roses. Judges go from home to home, judge the roses, and award prizes.
I was determined to win a blue ribbon. I deserved to win one; my roses, particularly my Lady Diana and my Lord George, were things of perfection.
Leading up to my rose garden were my flower beds, which, though they wouldn't be judged, must be perfection too. That was why it was so, so pesky to come out and see a round Punchkin-sized hole in the begonias.
The other morning I came out to work on my roses and there was Dunchkin sitting in the middle of the path. Pesky look on her face.
I said, "What is it now?" And I looked over and there were two weeds sticking up in my petunia patch. I bent down to pull out the weeds, and Munchkin rushed forward and grabbed my shirtsleeve.
"Now you've gone too far," I said to the dog.
I tried to shake my arm free, but the dog wouldn't let go.
Then I looked over at my petunias and saw I had something in there besides weeds. A copperhead snake was curled up watching me, flicking out its tongue.
Well, I got out of there quick, and took Punchkin with me. I had to — she still had her teeth in my shirt.
I got a hoe, but when I got back to the petunias, the snake had had the good sense to take itself out of there. Never saw the thing again.
So that's what Punchkin did. I did win a blue ribbon for my Lord George rose, and when I got it, I took it right next door and gave it to the lady.
"For Punchkin," I said.
"Munchkin," she said.
I give the dog credit. Dog saved me from getting snakebit. Even a pesky dog can turn out to be a hero, and Punchkin's mine.
Thank you.CHAPTER 4
We called him Old Dog because even when we first got him, when he came wandering into the trailer park, he was old. He had a bad hip and couldn't see anymore. Sometimes he would bump into furniture if we left a chair out from the kitchen table.
Old Dog might not get around well, but can Old Dog sing! Whenever I practice my flute, he howls along with the music until everyone at Mr. Frankie's trailer park, where we live, complains. Ms. Robinson, my teacher, let me bring him to school one day and let him come to band to sing. His favorite song is "Stars and Stripes Forever," and when I play that high part at the end, he howls along.
His best game is hide-and-seek. He can't see but he can sure smell. My brother, Tommy, holds him, and I hide. I run through the trailer and jump behind my bedroom door or under the blankets of my bed.
Hiding under the covers, I hear him come, nails scraping on the linoleum, occasional barks of happy excitement. I hear him stop at the door to sniff around for me. Then he's by the bed and that big black nose is sniffing, sniffing, and — pounce — he's on me, digging in the covers like crazy, and I'm laughing.
Tricks are fun but that's not why I'm nominating him for the My Hero award. I'm nominating Old Dog because he saved my life. Not only did he save my life, he saved the lives of twenty-six people all in one night.
Old Dog is not only smart, he's the bravest dog in the world. There is only one thing that Old Dog is afraid of and that is thunder.
When he hears thunder there's only one place that he wants to be and that is under my bed. He lies there trembling while the storm passes over us, and sometimes I crawl under with him, put my arms around him, and listen to the thunder rumble.
Tornadoes come fast in Georgia. We have a radio to warn us and a siren that's supposed to go off in time to let us know. I don't know where we'd go though. Trailers don't have basements.
Anyway, the night the tornado hit us the radio wasn't even on and the siren never sounded. It came suddenly, surprising Mom and Tommy and me in our sleep. They say you hear a roaring train when a tornado comes. To me it was more like a huge airplane roaring over, like a sonic boom.
The trailer tipped up in slow motion and rolled over and over like a giant had picked it up and thrown it. Then it smacked down hard on the ground and split into a million pieces.
I remember how quiet it was. How still. How dark. I didn't know where I was. All I knew was that I was covered with stuff and that my leg hurt more than it had ever hurt before. I didn't know where Tommy was, or Mom. I heard thunder, and I started crying, because I knew that Old Dog was somewhere and that he was scared and there was no bed for him to get under.
Then I heard him. I heard the scratch of his nails. I would have yelled, but I didn't have the breath in me, so I gave a soft whistle and I heard Old Dog bark. The scraping got louder and I heard him bark again.
He kept digging and scratching and barking like crazy, and pretty soon Mr. Frankie was pulling boards off me. Soon I heard sniffing and that big black nose was poking me and I put my arms around Old Dog.
Old Dog left and I could hear him through the night, finding everyone one by one. First Mom, then Tommy, then the people in the other trailers. He'd find them and Mr. Frankie would uncover them. He didn't stop until twenty-six people were saved.
Our town had a parade for Old Dog. He rode on the back of Mr. Frankie's pickup and the band marched ahead. I rode with Old Dog, and when they played "Stars and Stripes Forever" I played the high part on my flute and Old Dog sang and sang. This time no one complained at all.CHAPTER 5
I love Buster. He is the bravest and most remarkable dog in the world. If you'd asked me a year ago, I would have told you I didn't like Buster. It's not that Buster's not cute. He's plenty cute. He's a big yellow Lab that lives next door. His eyes look up in a sad sort of way. So you're wondering why I didn't like such a cute dog? He ate my toe.
I was cutting the grass in my front yard. I'm supposed to wear tennis shoes, but I had on my sandals. My foot slipped under the edge of the mower, and the blade cut off the tip of my toe. I couldn't move. I always freeze like that when something terrible happens.
I was standing there staring at my toe when out of nowhere came a yellow streak. Buster! He flew across the yard, grabbed my toe, and ran. That is why I did not like Buster.
Excerpted from My Dog, My Hero by Betsy Byars, Betsy Duffey, Laurie Myers, Loren Long. Copyright © 2000 Betsy Byars, Betsy Duffey, and Laurie Myers. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Award