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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
What kind of name is Dog for a horse? Actually his official name is Dogs of War, but everyone just calls him Dog. Why? Well, perhaps his early years cavorting with the puppies has influenced his behaviour because this horse behaves like a dog. That’s right. He wags his tail, bows, smiles, lolls his tongue and gives big, slobbery, mushy cheek kisses. And he’s Sam’s responsibility at a time when Sam is recovering from his mother’s riding accident, one in which Dog’s father almost killed her. It’s almost too much to expect the boy to connect with Dog, but he does. You see, Dog is very persistent, and Dog has chosen Sam as his buddy.
Theresa Oliver’s young people’s novel, A Horse Named Dog, is a compassionate story about connections: between boy and horse, boy and parents, boy and the world around him. It also addresses concerns about dealing with problems and overcoming fears, no matter how justifiable these fears might be. Sam connects with the horse named Dog. Sam has a positive connection with both of his parents, although he does challenge his dad’s insistence that Sam helps with the horse training after his mother’s accident that leaves her laid up for some time. Sam is also capable of expressing his opinions, both to his parents and to mean horse trainers who try to take Dog away from him. But the most compassionate connection is between the boy and the horse.
This is a touching story. It opens the heart to human-animal bonding and parent-child bonding. There might be a little too much of the “I love you” and the “I’m so proud of you,” but the story as a whole is very endearing.