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Prather’s Pick: A dog’s view of life

Diane Prather

Stella is a medium-size, brown dog with a white nose and feet, a black stripe down her back, and a black tail with a white tip. She’s the leading character of this week’s picture book for kids.

“Stella Unleashed: Notes from the Doghouse” was inspired by author Linda Ashman’s own dog, Nicky. (Ashman lives in Denver, or did when she wrote the book in 2008.) The book was illustrated by Paul Meisel, who is a dog-owner himself.

This charming book is told, in rhyme, from Stella’s point of view.

Stella is living in a shelter when she finds her family. It’s not that there weren’t lots of candidates. Stella listened, sniffed, watched and then turned them all away until the day that a family of five came in smelling like “candy, grass and cake.”

There was a mom and dad, a boy about 7 years old, a little girl in pigtails and a baby boy. When the older boy knelt down and rubbed Stella’s head, she knew she had found a home.

Stella wasn’t the dog’s name at first. After the family adopts her, picking a name is the first job at hand. The family members think of names like Penelope, Binky, Mitzi, Fluff, BooBoo and Furby, but the little dog likes “Stella” the best, so Stella it is.

Stella gets a new red collar, and she’s home. Now Stella shares her thoughts and adventures with the reader.

Stella enjoys her time with the boy, her best buddy. They build a fort in the house (what a touching illustration), splash in puddles, play chase and sleep together. Her time with the family’s little girl isn’t quite so much fun because all they do is play dress-up. Stella becomes a pirate; a baby; a clown; a patient, complete with bandages; and a guest at a tea party (where the scones aren’t so bad, though).

Stella thinks the baby is best confined to his high chair. “It” can cry up a storm, play with Stella’s water and toys, and pull her tail.

And then there are Dad and Mom who are so busy the they often miss Stella’s cues when she wants to go outdoors or needs her dish filled or wants to play ball.

But all things considered, Stella has a pretty good life. She lies to go swimming in a river, lake, the ocean, or pool — water is great as long as she doesn’t have to get in the tub. An illustration of Stella hanging onto the door with her front feet and the shower curtain or wall with her hind feet is funny, indeed.

And there’s a lot more. Stella explains why the family shouldn’t blame her for taking the steak off the table and why she ends up in the doghouse. One day she meets Princess Kate, a prize poodle belonging to Mr. Fitz. Among other things the poodle has been trained to piddle on command. Stella lets the reader in on eating ice cream, getting groomed, and going to the dog park (my favorite illustration).

This is a “fun” book, told from a lovable dog’s point of view!

“Stella Unleashed” is published by Sterling Publishing Company (2008). It costs about $14.95 in hardcover (or perhaps can be found in softcover by now). The book can also be found at the Craig Moffat County Library.


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