In the picture book “Toby,” Hazel Mitchell captures perfectly the joys and the frustrations of rescuing a dog. It’s the story of a young boy and his father who decide to rescue a dog from a local shelter. There is no backstory about why they moved, and the humans in the story are never given names because Toby, the dog they adopt, is the center of the tale.
Toby is not an easy dog. But his mannerisms and his fears are what one might see in a dog who has been neglected. Toby didn’t want treats and he didn’t want to play. He was frightened at night and howled. He had accidents in the house. He didn’t know any basic commands. He was even scared of the cat in the yard!
When Toby chews the dad’s glasses, the dad wonders if Toby is the right dog for them. But the boy loves Toby. He’s smart enough and determined enough to know what needs to be done. He relates, “We were going to have to work hard. And we were going to have to work fast.” He works with Toby and the ending is a happy one.
The author’s note says that this story is based on a real dog named Toby who was rescued from a puppy mill in 2013. She fostered him but fell in love with him and adopted him. Many dogs from puppy mills don’t know many of the simple pleasures in life. They’ve lived their lives in small wire cages and often have never seen sunlight. They have never walked on grass or been petted. They’ve not received proper veterinary attention or been given toys to play with.
A miniature schnauzer that this writer fostered after his rescue from a puppy mill would not leave his crate. He shook and stayed in the corner and had to be lifted out. He was afraid of grass. When being carried through a doorway, he would duck his head in fright. Had he been hit against doorways when taken out of his cage at the puppy mill? He slowly came out of his shell and was adopted by a loving family who overlooked his accidents and fed him chicken for treats. Irving now lives with them in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Candlewick Press, for review purposes.