Today, we’re celebrating National Dog Day with an upcoming new middle grade book about one special dog, a chance for you to win that book, and my own personal pet story. So keep reading to learn more about Maxi’s Secrets by Lynn Plourde and enter for your chance to win. But first, let me introduce you to Hoover.
Hoover Regina Eureka, a yellow lab, was named — as you might have guessed — after vacuum cleaners. And oh, how she lived up to that name! Hoover — we called her Hoovie for short — loved people food, and despite the advice given by most veterinarians, we indulged her often. Her tubby tummy was evidence enough of that, but mostly she was just a solid, stocky dog. She had her favorite foods — she was particularly fond of baked goods and pancakes with all the fixings. (She’d just glare at you if you gave her pancakes without butter and syrup.) My dad even trained her to eat off a fork like a lady, and taught her to eat corn on the cob and ribs off the bone without biting you. (She’d feel with her lips before taking a bite to make sure your fingers weren’t in the way!)
But for a dog that loved people food, she was picky about the foods she didn’t like — most notably peas. You could give her a plate of food, with peas mixed in, and she would spit out every single one of them!
Hoover also loved the water. When she was a puppy, we still lived in California and we had a swimming pool in the backyard, which she used almost every day — even in the winter. She’d just take herself for a little swim. She was also notorious for getting really dirty and muddy — one, because she obviously thought it was great fun, and two, because it meant she’d get a bath. Yep, bath time was another favorite. She would entertain herself for hours in a warm bathtub!
When we moved to Oregon, she fell in love with the river and loved going out on my parents’ little speedboat. It got so she knew the smell of our sunscreen, and that was her big clue that we were about to go boating.
Sometimes, Hoover was like a bull in a china shop — big and loud and boisterous and unaware of her full size and strength. But she could also be incredibly gentle. When I was 19, I ended up having emergency abdominal surgery right before Christmas, and when I came home, it was clear that Hoover understood something was wrong with me. She kept me constant company while I recovered, and she knew — somehow, she knew — to be extra gentle with me. She would bring me her favorite toys and place them around me like offerings, and then she would lie next to me — as close as she could get without putting any weight directly on me — and just stay there.
Hoover was too smart for her own good. She loved belly rubs, and would forcibly place your hand on her belly if you tried stopping before she was finished. She loved playing and had her favorite toys (the Kong and this plush green spider that made farty squeaky noises; my mom bought them in bulk because Hoovie destroyed them so often), and while she loved when someone played with her, she could also entertain herself. She drooled insanely when her favorite foods were being served. She stole all our hearts, but especially my dad’s, who’d never had a dog growing up and whom I once caught snuggling Hoover and saying to her, “You’re never gonna die. No, you’re not. You’re never gonna die!”
And in a way, she never will. Hoover went to the great doggy beyond several years ago — her last hours were spent being given ridiculous amounts of cuddles and being fed fast food hamburgers and chocolate truffles and Oreo cookies — but my family and I certainly still feel her spirit around us all the time. There are often times when one of us will comment, “Ah, Hoover would have loved this!” or “Can you imagine if Hoover were here right now?” Yes, I think Hoover is definitely still with us. The very best dogs are like that though, aren’t they? Their influence and the impact they have on your life lasts forever.
Secret #1: You can learn a lot from a dog you love. Timminy knows that moving to a new town just in time to start middle school when you are perfect bully bait is less than ideal. But he gets a great consolation prize in Maxi—a gentle giant of a dog who the family quickly discovers is deaf. Timminy is determined to do all he can to help Maxi—after all, his parents didn’t return him because he was small. But when the going gets rough for Timminy, Maxi ends up being the one to help him—along with their neighbor, Abby, who doesn’t let her blindness define her. It turns out there’s more to everyone than what’s on the surface, whether it comes to Abby, Maxi, or even Timminy himself.
The author of more than 30 picture books, MAXI’S SECRETS is Lynn Plourde’s debut middle-grade novel. She writes of her switch: “At sixty years of age, why write my first middle grade novel? To bring my dog Maggie back to life, of course. When my beloved Maggie died three years ago, I got greedy. I wanted more time with her… Maggie gave me permission to sprinkle make-believe on her truth. To add, take away, change whatever I needed to in order to make the best story I could. And so I did. I turned my medium-sized, black, Irish-setter-mix Maggie into a giant, white, Great Pyrenees Maxi.”
A former speech-language therapist, LYNN PLOURDE worked in public schools for twenty-one years, and since then has done hundreds of visits to schools where she shares her books interactively, acts some out as plays, and teaches writing mini-lessons to students. Lynn is a native Mainer who frequently uses her home state for inspiration when writing. She loves spending time outdoors snowshoing, walking, kayaking, and gardening, and currently lives in Winthrop, Maine with her husband.
Thanks to our friends at Penguin Young Readers Group, we’re giving away one copy of Maxi’s Secrets and an art print of the cover by Maira Kalman.
Contest is open to the U.S. only, and runs through midnight (PT) on Friday, September 2nd.
To enter, tell us in the comments below about a pet (real or imagined) that impacted your life, and the fill out the Rafflecopter form to complete your entry & earn more chances to win!
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I had a beautiful long hair black cat for 21 years. I got him when he was 1. My uncle had him in his basement with 7 female cats. He was SO small, they beat him up and wouldn’t let him eat. I took him back to OH with me and gave him the life of a king. He was soon 12 pounds of solid muscle.
I don’t think I’ve ever loved an animal as much as I loved him and he loved me too. When he crossed the rainbow bridge I was a mess. My husband built and stone memorial to him. He’s buried beneath it. I love to look out in the early morning when sunlight shines upon it :).
I grew up loving my aunt’s dog who was fun, kind and patient with me and my special needs twin.