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?
About the Author
Avi is the author of more than seventy 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 Avi-Writer.com.
Date of Birth:December 23, 1937
Place of Birth:New York, New York
Education:University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
Read an Excerpt
"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?"
"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
Reading Group Guide
A Reading Group Guide to
The Good Dog
About the Book
McKinley is one lucky dog! He spends his days roaming freely around Steamboat Springs, Colorado, but at night he can return to his warm and loving home with Jack and his parents. And McKinley is lead dog in Steamboat Springs, respected for his strength, wisdom, and charisma. But McKinley’s world is turned upside down when a she-wolf comes to town and tries to convince the dogs to join her pack. Suddenly McKinley’s leadership is challenged by another dog, and his friends are in danger. And something deep within him responds to the she-wolf and the wild life of freedom she offers. Publishers Weekly notes, “Themes reminiscent of Jack London’s Call of the Wild ring throughout this vividly imagined animal story.”
1. In The Good Dog, Avi creates an alternate world for dogs, with rules, traditions, and phrases all its own. What are some of the differences between dog life and human life? Do these canine details add to or detract from the story?
2. McKinley feels a sense of ownership for Jack and his family, yet humans traditionally feel that they own dogs. Who do you think is right? Can it be a partnership? What does each party bring to the relationship? What is Lupin’s view of “ownership”?
3. Describe McKinley’s first meeting with Lupin. Why is McKinley so quick to show submission to the wolf? How do you think their meeting would have been different if other dogs had been present?
4. McKinley goes to great lengths to protect and save Lupin. Why does he do this? Does he expect anything in return for his actions? Do you think Lupin is grateful for what he does? Why or why not?
5. Lupin feels very strongly that a life of freedom in the wild is far superior to the life of a domesticated dog. What are some of the pros and cons of each lifestyle? In what ways does Lupin’s outsider status endanger her life? Is survival worth the compromises that must be made?
6. Aspen is McKinley’s best friend. Why do they get along so well? Who is the “lead dog” in their relationship, and why do you think this?
7. Discuss the social structure within McKinley’s pack. What benefits do dogs in the lower levels of the hierarchy—like Tubbs—receive from being part of the group? In what ways is this similar to human society and in which ways is it different?
8. Which of McKinley’s characteristics qualify him for the position of lead dog? Does Redburn have the right to challenge his status? Should McKinley continue to hold the position?
Activities and Research
1. The name “Lupin” comes from a Latin word. Research these origins and find other words that come from this same root. Try to determine if the other names in the story have deeper meanings too.
2. In the story the dogs navigate their neighborhood by using common sights, smells, and characteristics (Horse Smell Way, Most Cars Way, Howl Hill). Draw a map of your neighborhood using these sorts of descriptive labels.
3. Write a report on wolves. Include their habitats, their habits, how their population has changed over the years, and any other interesting information you find.
4. Choose an animal, or perhaps even an inanimate object, and create an imagined world for them as Avi does for the dogs in his story. Keep in mind what sort of environment your animal would be in, and interpret the world and the actions of humans through their perspective.
5. Read other books or stories that contain wolves. Some good ones to try are The Call of the Wild, Julie of the Wolves, or The Jungle Book.
6. Research the evolution of dogs. How did they become domesticated?
7. In the story Duchess is abused by her owner and runs away. We have organizations that try to protect and help dogs that are in similar situations. Tour a humane society or animal shelter in your community. Consider helping the animals by doing some volunteer work.
About the Author
Avi lives with his family in Denver, Colorado, and knows Steamboat Springs well. The Good Dog is alive with the weather and the sights and smells of the mountains. The author’s other novels include two Newbery Honor Books, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing but the Truth; S. O. R. Losers; Bright Shadow; Blue Heron; The Christmas Rat, which was called “thrilling, mysterious, and suspenseful” by School Library Journal in a starred review; and the Tales from Dimwood Forest series, the first book of which, Poppy, won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
This is an excellent book! It has a great storyline and wonderful characters! I would recommend this book to anyone who loves dogs!
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.
I loved The Good Dog because I love books about dogs,especially books about wolves.It is my second favorite book!
Once again, here I go with my animal stories, lol. I love this book.
I was in sixth grade when I first read this book for pleasure reading. I am now a junior in college and this book is still one of my very favorites. My original copy is so well-read it is quite literally falling apart and has water stains galore, but I will never part with it. I will be ordering a new one but will always cherish that first copy as it has brought so much joy over the many readings of it's life. I highly recommend this books to all ages. Even after all of the books I have read, and all of the journeys that I have been on, I will always enjoy coming back to the story of one brave dog and the wolf that changed his world.
I have read it three or five times.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.