Miss Lottie’s home was for second chances.
When she adopted Gus, Roo, Tank, and Moon Pie, Miss Lottie rescued each member of the pack—including herself, her helper, Quinn, and her reclusive cat, Ghost—and turned them into a family. But when a new dog, Decker, arrives and tries to hoard Miss Lottie’s heart and home for himself, the pack’s future is threatened.
At first, Gus, the insecure pack leader, only notices little things, like tiny Moon Pie being kicked out of the bed and Ghost acting spooked (then again…Ghost is a cat). But things soon go from bad to worse as Decker’s presence causes disharmony in the group.
When Decker convinces Moon Pie to embark on an impossible journey, it’s up to Gus to gather his courage, rally his splintered pack, and bring the little dog home. And with coyotes and cars on the loose, the pack must push through obstacles and dangers to reunite with Moon Pie before he can get hurt—or, nearly as bad, get his heart broken.
As impressive as the character development is, younger readers will enjoy the plot, which is solid and fast moving. Decker's deviousness causes Moon Pie's departure, which has a ripple effect throughout the household. Encounters with rats and coyotes add to the excitement, and there's a little comic relief when Moon Pie is taken in by a woman who smell of "warm pudding and muffins", calls him "bunny-boo", and feeds him roast beef and mashed potatoes! The resolution is worked out well, with all of the animals and humans getting what they need to be happy and healthy.
Like Standish's Bad Bella, Cameron's A Dog's Purpose novels, and Ibbotson's One Boy and His Dog, Secondhand Dogs offers a look at the complex, codependent relationship that dogs and humans have. Readers who have had a dogs in their lives will connect to Gus' love of his pack, Miss Lottie's care of them, and Quinn's investment in an alternate family that ultimately helps him love his own.
I have to say that Moon Pie's love of popcorn and yearning for Gertie had me tearing up frequently; the first time I made popcorn, my new secondhand dog, Pongo, got very excited. His former owners, Bob and Peaches, passed away, and we decided that perhaps he had snuggled with them while enjoying a snack. Now, I make popcorn on the 24th of each month to celebrate my new little guy who, like Moon Pie, just wants to be near me at every moment, and will bark only if I don't give him enough attention the moment I get home from work.