My Life in Dog Years
Gary Paulsen has owned dozens of unforgettable and amazing dogs. In each chapter he tells of one special dog, among them Cookie, the sled dog who saved his life; Snowball, the puppy he owned as a boy in the Philippines; Ike, his mysterious hunting companion; Dirk, the grim protector; and his true friend Josh, a brilliant border collie.
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Cookie: A Dedication
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Gary Paulsen is well known for his books on his experiences with sled dogs and racing the Iditarod. One of those books is the novel Dogsong, a novel about a fourteen year old Eskimo boy named Bawse Jank who leaves his modern village in search of the old ways. This award winning novel is a tale of self-discovery and survival set in a harsh and frozen wilderness. (This annotation contains an image)
What two things save Paulsen on the day he falls through the ice?
What an inspirational story! And it's true! This book is nonfiction, meaning it is composed of factual information and true events. Watch the video below where Gary Paulsen discusses his writing and how he got started. (This annotation contains a video)
Snowball: The First Dog
This may shock and sadden you, but it's true: some countries eat dog meat. China has long cooked dog meat in many dishes. Nigeria, a West African country, believes that dog meat is extremely healthy, and even in the Arctic and Antarctica where they use dogs for pulling sleds, if meat is scarce, they will eat dogs.
Paulsen mentions his parents and "their drinking careers." What can we infer from this unusual phrase?
Paulsen mentions earlier that it is 1946. He describes a war-ravaged Philippines with burned out tanks and Japanese fighter planes. Using these context clues, which war is Paulsen referring to?
Cockfighting is a bloody, violent sport much like dog fighting. (This annotation contains an image)
Below is a picture of a rice paddy farmer in the Philippines using a water buffalo to pull a plow. (This annotation contains an image)
Have you ever lost a pet? If you have, you can certainly connect to Paulsen's boyhood memory of losing Snowball. Making connections with the text is the mark of a strong reader. Watch the video below on the different types of text connections. Be aware as you make any of these while reading the rest of this book. (This annotation contains a video)
Ike: A Good Friend
Paulsen provides one strong argument for hunting in that it is a tradition and rite of passage for many boys. Think for a few minutes and then come up with one more reason in support of hunting and then come up with two reasons against hunting.
One of Paulsen's most famous novels is Hatchet. Hatchet is about Brian Robeson who becomes stranded alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a hatchet to survive. Hatchet was so successful that Paulsen wrote several other novels about his protagonist Brian in other survival settings. He wrote The River, Brian's Winter, and Brian's Hunt. (This annotation contains an image)
A duck blind is based on camouflage that conceals the hunter from the ducks. Look at the painting below of a father and son in a duck blind. As a reader, we feel sorry for Paulsen because he was so lonely as a young boy. Hunting is something that fathers and sons often do together. (This annotation contains an image)
The final book in Paulsen's Hatchet series is Brian's Hunt. In this novel, Brian is sixteen and he has returned to the woods for good. This is where he is most comfortable. Brian finds a domesticated dog that has been badly wounded and he nurses it back to health. He discovers that a bear not only wounded the dog, but also killed the dog's owners. Brian vows to hunt the bear even though it places his own life in grave danger. Can you see the similarities in Paulsen's own life and in his books? (This annotation contains an image)
Retievers get their name for retrieving game for hunters. Watch this video of two men duck hunting and you will see the dog retrieve the duck from the river. (This annotation contains a video)
Good writers "show" and don't just "tell."This means that they use specific events, actions, dialogue, or description from which readers can infer something. Telling means just making a statement. For example, "Jack is selfish," is telling. "Jack snatched away his toy truck and went off by himself so no one else could play with it," is showing.Which of the following sentences is an example of Paulsen just telling about his friendship with Ike?
What was Ike's other "job"?
Dirk: The Protector
Although Paulsen's style is straightforward, he often uses figurative language. Watch the video below to review the most common types of figurative language and see how many you already know. (This annotation contains a video)
One of the benefits of reading narrative nonfiction is that it enables us to look at life from a different perspective. We know this is a true story which means that Paulsen as a young boy not only had to work for his food and clothes and sleep in a basement, but also he had to try to survive on his own in the streets at night. Reading about the hardships of others makes our lives richer because we can learn from their experiences. Without a doubt, Paulsen had a rough childhood, but today he is a successful writer and outdoors man and lives his life doing what he loves. Do you think we can learn something from him? (This annotation contains an image)
Paulsen uses the sentence, "He was Airedale crossed with hound crossed with alligator," to suggest that the dog is _________________.
What do Dirk and Paulsen have in common at this point in their lives?
Rex: The Farm Dog
Paulsen used his experience of working on farms in writing his novel, The Winter Room about a boy who grows up on a farm in Northern Minnesota. (This annotation contains an image)
Here's a fun fact: a Border Collie's herding instinct runs so deep that it will often try to round up a group of children at play. (This annotation contains an image)
What title best describes Rex?
Make a list of reasons why a collie like Rex is the perfect dog for a farm.
Quiz on "Cookie," "Snowball," "Ike," and "Rex."
Caesar: The Giant
Which of the following is the main idea of this paragraph?
The Hound of the Baskervilles is the title of a Sherlock Holmes mystery novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In it a murderous hound has supposedly cursed a family in the moors of England. (This annotation contains an image)
A Great Dane often looks like a small horse. (This annotation contains an image)
You can see here how big this breed of dog can be, especially when it jumps up on your shoulders. (This annotation contains an image)
Before reading on, can you make a prediction about what might happen--especially since Paulsen has made a point to tell us how strong the collar and leash are?
Paulsen uses figurative language often in his descriptions to emphasize his points as well as to create humor. Which of the following lines is not an example of figurative language?
Give three examples of the "havoc" Caesar wrought upon Paulsen and his family when Caesar first entered their lives.
Which previous sentence informs readers that this is a frightful situation?
Fred and Pig
Norwegian elkhounds are usually short, but stout. (This annotation contains an image)
Give two examples from this chapter that prove Paulsen's true love of animals. Be sure to give specific examples from the text.
What word best describes Fred?
Quiz on "Caesar" and "Fred and Pig"
Quincy: Wild Dog of the Alaskan North
White Fang is a famous novel by Jack London. Set in the Yukon during the Klondike Gold Rush, the story is about the gradual domestication of a wolf. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Paulsen include the details in parentheses?
Alaskan winters from mid-November to the end of January have only an hour or so of daylight. However, in the summer, there are weeks where the sun is out for nearly 21 hours. (This annotation contains an image)
Read the following article on the steps you should take when approached by a bear. http://www.wikihow.com/Escape-from-a-BearWhy should you raise your hands and stand tall if a bear is approaching?
To describe Quincy's protective nature, Paulsen uses which type of figurative language?
Paulsen begins his chapter describing Quincy's appearance and that he would never have a name like White Fang. Explain Paulsen's last sentence and why it's both a true and effective way to end this chapter. Use details from the chapter to support your answer
Josh: The Smartest Dog in the World
What kind of "circles" is Paulsen referring to in this sentence?
A famous collie from fiction, film, and television is Lassie, a dog from Eric Knight's story "Lassie Come Home." Knight probably based his Lassie on the dog from an 1859 short story titled "The Half-brothers," by Elizabeth Gaskill. In the story, Lassie is described as a female collie with "intelligent, apprehensive eyes" who rescues two half-brothers who are lost and dying in the snow. The older brother, Lassie's master, sends the dog home with a bandanna tied to her neck. The dog quickly leads a search party and they find the boys. A film version of Lassie Come-Home was made in 1943 and six other Lassie movies followed. Later a television series titled Lassie ran successfully for nearly two decades. (This annotation contains an image)
What device is Paulsen using here to make his point?
List at least three specific examples from this chapter that prove Josh is indeed very smart.
Below is a picture of the Bighorn Mountains. (This annotation contains an image)
We can infer from this paragraph that Paulsen quit racing sled dogs for what reason?
Quiz on "Quincy" and "Josh"