Walkin' the Dog

Walkin' the Dog
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Release Date
March 12, 2024
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In a family of strong personalities with very strong points of view, Louis is what his mother lovingly calls “the inactivist,” someone who’d rather kick back than stand out. He only hopes he can stay under the radar when he starts high school in the fall, his first experience with public school after years of homeschooling.
But when a favor for a neighbor and his stinky canine companion unexpectedly turns into a bustling dog-walking business, Louis finds himself meeting an unprecedented number of new friends—both human and canine. Agatha, a quippy and cagey girl his age always seems to be telling two truths and a lie. Cyrus, a few years his senior, promises he’s going to show Louis how to be a better person, whether Louis wants him to or not. And then there are the dogs: misbehaving border terriers, the four (possible stolen) sausage dogs, the rest of Louis’s charges, and a mysterious white beast who appears at a certain spot at the edge of the woods.

Dogs and human alike all seem to have something they want to teach Louis, including his menacing older brother who keeps turning up everywhere. But is Louis ready to learn the lesson he needs most: how to stop being a lone wolf and be part of a pack?

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The Dog Days of Summer
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During the summer before high school, things are not going exactly the way Louis would like. His father is a fisherman, and needs Louis to walk Old Man Dan's dog so that Dan can go out and work on the boat. Both Dan and his dog, Amos, are both rather odiferous, for various reasons, but the dog is commonly called "Anus" because of his smell. While Louis isn't thrilled with getting up early and walking the dog, it's a pleasant enough way to spend time, and it might get him out of visiting his mother. His mother worked at a women's shelter, and after an injury sustained at work, became addicted to pain killers. She's been recuperating at the Knoll, but isn't ready to come home yet. Louis' slightly older sister, Faye, is determined that they will visit their mother, especially since another brother, Ike (who is training to be a policeman), doesn't get along with her quite as well. While out walking Amos, he meets Agatha, who forcibly becomes his friend. She even tags along to a new dog walking client that Dan has arranged for Louis, in exchange for a discount, of course! The friendship with Agatha is amusing, and a good thing for Louis, because he has been homeschooled and struggles a bit with making friends. Faye especially is amused by Agatha, and encourages the two to spend time together. There are plenty of dogs to walk, and Louis even finds a couple of unusual dogs at the edge of town. One of these seemingly belongs to Agatha, but she's not always telling the entire truth, especially about where she lives. Louis misses his mother, and desperately wants her to come home. He meets up with Cy, who is a few years older, and who had been tutored by his mother for some tests a few years back. Cy lives in the same apartment building as Agatha, although Agatha has claimed to live in a mansion. It's not always easy to deal with the dogs, his mother, his older brother, or the thought of going to public school for high school. Will Louis find the support he needs to continue to make progress in his life?

Good Points

Lynch, who has written a wide variety of young adult novels, including the I Pledge Allegiance series and the fantastic 1995 Slot Machine, gives us an interesting look at a very mundane yet impactful summer in one young man's life. It's good to see Louis put his freedome to good use, walking dogs, visiting his mother, and hanging out with Agatha and Cy. The problems he has to face are interspersed with amusing activities and dogs, and his relationship with Agatha is peppered with witty repartee and an eventual light romance.

Louis is such a great character, and shows a lot of reluctant resilience. He doesn't want to get up early and walk the dog, but his mother has inculcated in him that he should help others, so he does it with good grace. He doesn't like Ike or the way his brother treats him, and copes with this by avoiding his brother, which is sometimes the only thing to be done. He and Faye get along well, and seeing the juxtaposition of the sibling relationships adds another layer of interest to the book.

There are some sad things; not one but two dogs die, Louis' mother struggles all summer with dealing with her addiction, and Ike is not at all pleasant to his brother for most of the book. The publisher lists this as being for readers ages 8-12, in grades 3-7, but I think that the book will resonate most with slightly older readers who will appreciate the introspection and the descriptive quality of Lynch's fantastic writing. There is one f-word, and lots of description of dog effluvia, so is perhaps not the best choice for tender readers.

Older readers who enjoy combining human social drama with dog shenanigan's will love this one; I need to let one of my readers who would ONLY read dog books know about this one, now that he has moved on to the high school. He read everything I could find, like Cameron's Zeus: Water Rescue (Dogs With A Purpose #1), Northrop's Rotten, and Jennifer Li Shotz's various dog books like Scout. I liked that Walkin' the Dog focused a little more on Louis' journey with the dogs as sidekicks, instead of focusing on what the dogs were thinking and feeling!
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