Paulsen, Gary. 1998. MY LIFE IN DOG YEARS. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN:
MY LIFE IN DOG YEARS is a memoir of award winning author Gary Paulsen’s
relationships with some of the dogs he grew up with. The book begins with a touching
dedication to his loving dog, Cookie, which saved his life during a sledding accident.
In the book, we learn that Paulsen’s parents were drunks and that he was a shy and lonely boy that depended upon
dogs for companionship. Each chapter begins with a pen and ink illustration of
the subject dog and then describes the eight different dogs via touching stories involving each one. For example, Paulsen describes the story of his first dog, Snowball, a dog he owned in the Philippines that saved him from
being bitten by a poisonous snake, and then the book follows chronologically with stories about other dog companions that
he had in his life. Through the use of humor we learn about his dog, Fred. Fred, who Paulsen states, “was the closest to being actually nuclear in his
capacity for destruction,” was involved in the “Great Wire War.” In
this “war” Fred battled an electric fence, and won. As we read his dogs' stories, we also learn a great deal about the author. Paulsen, in effect, describes a lot about himself and his life through the use of stories involving his
dogs. Booklist refers to MY LIFE IN DOG YEARS as, “Poignant but never saccharine, honest, and open, these engaging canine
character studies are guaranteed to charm animal lovers and Paulsen’s fans.” School Library Journal states that, “This well-written, readable reminiscence
serves as a tribute to the dogs in one person's life, written by someone who considers them his best friends.” MY LIFE IN DOG YEARS is an excellent book that will capture the interest of Paulsen fans
as well as animal lovers. It is poignantly written and gives readers a real sense
of Paulsen and how he feels about these wonderful creatures.