I believe that certain types of children’s book work better with illustrations. This is especially true of books about animals as children love to paw the pictures.
I drew a set of illustrations for this story that are on the original manuscript. You’ll have to make do with these computer ones ( of one of our dogs ) and your imagination.
This is a story about a dog named Arthur, who thought he was a cat.
Arthur was born on a farm. He was one of a litter of six puppies. For the first three months of his life he stayed with his parents and his brothers and sisters. Then one day a family of people arrived at the farm to choose a puppy. After watching the puppies run and play for about half an hour they decided to choose Arthur. At first, Arthur was frightened at being separated from his family. But he soon realised that these people were to be his new family. They seemed kind and gentle, so he settled down inside the warm coat someone had put him in and fell asleep.
When he awoke he found he had arrived at his new home. He was allowed to wander around and get used to his surroundings. His family, the Wilkins, followed behind as he scampered all over the house and all around the garden, sniffing this and sniffing that. After a while he had sniffed just about everywhere and decided that this new home was the place for him. It all smelled nice.
While Arthur was a puppy he lived indoors. He had his own chair with a big woollen blanket to sleep on. Arthur was a good puppy. He never chewed slippers or made a mess on the floor. Well, almost never. When he started to grow, his family realised that the time would come when Arthur would need a kennel. He couldn’t possibly sleep in his chair for ever. It would soon be too small for him. Well Arthur grew alright. In fact…
and he grew,
and he GREW!
After six months Arthur was so big that he had to sleep outdoors. The kennel that was made for him was too small, so Mr. Wilkins had to build a much larger one. His new kennel was almost as big as the garden shed. This became Arthur’s new home. He would lie inside his kennel with his head poking out of the entrance.
If you saw Arthur you would think he was fierce because he was so big. But if you thought that, you would be wrong. For even though he was so big and he looked so fierce he was really very gentle. So gentle in fact that he would not even hurt a fly. Arthur never barked at anyone either. In fact Arthur never barked at all! Now this was unusual for a dog and his family became very concerned. They would stand in front of him and ask him, “What’s the matter boy? Why don’t you ever bark?”
But Arthur could not answer because he did not know why. So his family took him to the vet for a check-up. Arthur sat patiently while the vet shone a light down his throat, into his eyes and even in his ears. This was just in case he was deaf. But of course he wasn’t.
“There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with Arthur,” said the vet. But he prescribed a tonic to try and perk him up a little. Arthur took the tonic three times a day for a week. His family had to give it to him on a large wooden spoon. But Arthur still did not bark.
It wasn’t long after his visit to the vet that his family started to say Arthur was a cat. Well, that was what Arthur thought.
It all began one morning when a new postman came to deliver letters. Now every postman knows that dogs bark at them. Some even try to bite them. So when this new postman saw Arthur looking at him over the garden gate do you think he would dare open the gate and come inside? No way! Not on your life. But Mrs. Wilkins said to the postman,
“Oh, don’t mind Arthur, he may be a big dog but he is just a pussycat really.”
“A pussycat? I thought I was a dog? ” Arthur said to himself.
At first he assumed Mrs. Wilkins was making a joke and that would be the end of it. But it didn’t stop there. Soon everyone was calling him a pussycat. He heard things like “He won’t bite. He’s just a pussycat,” or, “Of course you can pat him. He won’t do anything. Arthur’s just a big soft pussycat.”
Now this was much worse. Not only was he being called a pussycat, but a big soft one too. So he went down to the bottom of the garden and looked at his reflection in the fish pond.
“Well I look like a dog,” he thought. “Yes of course I am a dog. Anyone can see that. What is the matter with my family?”
All his animal friends that lived in the street agreed that he was a dog alright. A very BIG dog.
“You must learn to bark, Arthur,” his friend Rufus the Terrier advised him. “Then they will know you are a dog for sure.”
“But I have never barked. I don’t think I could, even if I tried. Besides, barking is so noisy. It would probably give me a headache,” Arthur replied.
“Now don’t be silly, Arthur. ALL dogs bark,” Rufus told him. “Do you want to spend the rest of your life with your family thinking you are a cat?”
“Yes, I suppose you’re right, Rufus. I must learn to bark. Will you teach me?”
“Arthur, I cannot teach you how to bark. It is something you must learn to do by yourself,” Rufus explained.
So Arthur went home and tried to teach himself to bark. But no matter how hard he tried no sound came out of his mouth. Arthur became very miserable. He would stay inside his kennel all day and mope. He went off his food and his family became very worried. Even pussycats were not this moody.
The time arrived for the Wilkins to go on their holiday. But they did not take Arthur because they thought he was not well. The next door neighbours offered to look after him while the family was away and they promised to take him to the vet if he got worse. The next day Arthur’s family climbed into their car and drove away to the seaside. As they left, Arthur looked at them with his big pussycat eyes and a tear rolled down his cheek.
But that night something happened to change Arthur’s life forever. When all the people who lived on the street had gone to bed and everywhere was quiet Arthur heard someone or something quietly open the back gate and creep up the garden path. Arthur’s big floppy ears pricked up at the noise and he sniffed the air. Someone was trying to get into the house. Was it his family back from holiday so soon? No, they were not due until next week. So who was this person trying to get into the house? It certainly was not one of the neighbours. He knew it wasn’t because the smell was different. He suddenly realised that this must be someone called the ‘Burglar’. He had heard his family and friends talk about this person, and they only said bad things about him.
Arthur decided right there and then that this ‘Burglar’ person was not going to get into his house. Especially as he had not been invited. So Arthur got out of his kennel and quietly padded up the garden path. There was the burglar, standing at the back door. Arthur heard the sound of breaking glass.
“He’s smashed the window!” Arthur realised. ”The cheek of the man.” Well he was definitely going to have a word with him now. Arthur cleared his throat and let out a low, deep growl. It sounded very menacing. Slowly, the burglar turned around and their before him was the biggest, hugest, fiercest, most ginormous dog he’d ever seen in his whole life.
Then, right out of the blue, Arthur said, “Woof.”
He was startled by the sound, especially as it came out of his own mouth. But he liked the sound all the same. So he tried it again. Only this time a bit louder. “WOOF, WOOF!”
“Much better,” thought Arthur and before he knew it he was barking like crazy.
The burglar screamed and bolted back down the garden path. He leapt right over the garden gate and went running up the street as fast as he could.
Lights began to go on in all the houses in the street. People were soon looking out there windows wondering what the row was all about. When they realised it was Arthur making all the noise, they rushed out of their houses.
“Arthur is that you?” they asked.
“Woof,” Arthur replied. Then all the people cheered. “Hurray for Arthur! He is a dog after all and not a big, soft pussycat.”
The police were called and they caught the burglar before he had gotten very far. That’s because he was easy to spot. Arthur had bitten a big hole in his trousers and you could easily see his white underpants in the dark.
The next door neighbours telephoned Arthur’s family and they rushed back from holiday. When they heard what Arthur had done they were so proud of him. From that day on Arthur was the hero of the street and after word had got around how fierce he was there were never any more burglaries.
But we all know Arthur wasn’t really fierce. He just sounded that way because he had learned to bark. In fact he was still a big, soft pussycat. But no-one ever dared call him one!
Copyright ©2002 Douglas Pearce