All of the characters in my novels are fictional. Sad is the only character I’ve known in real life. He lived next door to me for many years.
Or I should say, she lived next door to me because while Sad, the Dog is closely based on a true story, there have been many tweaks and twists along the way. Sad’s real name was Cassie and he was a girl.
The first two lines are the only part of the story I fabricated. Cassie wasn’t an unwanted Christmas gift. Her owners had family troubles. While Cassie was well looked after, no-one had any time to love her; exactly what can happen when a pet is given as an unexpected present.
My back deck looks into the yard next door, and I’d see Cassie lying there. She was a spaniel-type dog with blotchy black-grey fur, long dangly ears and deep, dark eyes. The sort of eyes that are full of expression and I thought they looked sad.
I never saw her owners take part in any doggy play and none of her talents were appreciated. She always seemed to be in trouble.
When my neighbours sold their house and moved away, I was amazed to hear Cassie had been offered to the incoming owners, as if she was a household fixture. I’ve had many pets in my life but I could never have left one behind. Each was part of my family, not my house.
Like Sad, Cassie found a happy ending. The new family were thrilled to welcome her into their lives. They had a young daughter called Zoe, whereas Sad’s friend is called Jack. I would see Zoe and Cassie together all the time - in the backyard, in the street and at the nearby park. I was sure Cassie felt lucky and I knew she definitely wasn’t sad any more.
Cassie lived a long, happy life and is buried under a tree in the yard next door. She died eight years ago.
Her story was a long time forming, partly because it was always going to be a picture book idea and I’ve never thought of myself as even a one-time picture book author. I’ve often said that I could never write a picture book, because I don’t look at the world with picture book eyes.
I believe that a picture book author is a particular type of writer who interprets the world in a unique way – an adult who truly sees and feels through the eyes and heart of a child. And I have to admit, now that I’ve been lucky enough to look that way once, I want to look again.
A touching look into the life of an unloved pet and the heart-warming journey towards finding your true home.
Sad, The Dog
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