BOOKS: A New Name for Worthless

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2011:

A New Name for Worthless: A Hero is Born
by Rocky Shepheard, illustrated by Tamara Ci Thayne
c/o Dogs Deserve Better (P.O. Box 23, Tipton, PA 16684), 2011.
Hardcover, 16 pages. $17.97.

A chained dog named Worthless craves human companionship. In
the winter a shabby doghouse barely protects the old dog from the
brutal winters. There is not much shade from the sizzling summer sun.
A New Name for Worthless means well. Author Rocky Shepheard
presents it as a tribute to Tamira Ci Thayne, founder of Dogs
Deserve Better, and her devotion to freeing dogs from the misery of
chains, a most laudable goal. But the book conveys mixed and
confusing messages to its intended audience of young readers.

Fiction is of course made up, but it has to be believable.
A New Name for Worthless stretches it even for me, a fan of talking
animals. Otto the sea otter lives outside of water. Children will
pick up on that. The other character, Sly Fox, is Otto’s friend,
but how the sea otter and fox become friends is a mystery.
The fox and the otter help the chained dog escape during a
“perfect” night of whipping wind and driving rain. I’m confused when
Otto the sea otter jumps on Sly Fox’s back. It seems improbable that
the heavier animal, the otter, would ride the other.
Eventually the trio find an abandoned cabin. A man sits
outside a nearby cabin cooking his dinner, with a hungry coyote
ready to steal the food. Worthless fights the coyote. The message
that a dog gains value by fighting coyotes is inappropriate message
for humane education. Coyote attacks on humans are rare. A dog who
attacks a coyote may not “lose,” but is likely to be injured.
The man adopts the dog, the fox, and the otter.
I wanted to endorse this book with my highest
recommendations, but was disappointed.
The real Worthless was among the dogs who inspired Dogs
Deserve Better. Tamira Ci Thayne rescued him, after he spent most of
his life on a chain, and renamed him Bo. Bo enjoyed six months of
indoor living with her and then passed away.
–Debra J. White

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