The first thing we associate with a dog is loyalty. Stories abound about dogs who don't eat their food till they see their master or dogs who travel hundreds of miles to be with a family that has moved away without them. Dogs that bravely rescue children from drowning or fires. Stories about dogs that fought the war or climbed mountains with their owners. How strange it was for me then, to come across Mister Dog by Margret Wise Brown and illustrated by Garth Williams. Mister Dog belonged to himself and no one else.
Crispian's Crispin wakes up on his own, made his own breakfast, went for a walk by himself. He chose to chase butterflies or take a rest under the shade of a tree. Crispin played with fellow dogs when he met them and ran after cats and rabbits when he came across them.
On one such glorious independent day where Crispin belonged to himself, he came across a little boy who too belonged to himself. Crispin invites the little boy to live with him, an invitation the boy accepts. The two new mates get themselves something to eat from the butcher shop- Crispin gets a bone and the boy a lamb chop. They both go back to Crispin's duplex and rustle up a meal, with each garnishing it as per their own taste.
After a good meal, they both snuggled to sleep each dreaming their own dreams. Boy and dog get along very well, but they each do what they choose to do. They do it together sometimes and sometimes on their own giving each other the space to belong to themselves. Their love of being independent brings them together.Describing Crispin the author says:
Crispin's Cripian was a conservative-He liked everything at the right time-dinner at dinner time, lunch at lunchtime, breakfast in time for breakfast, and sunrise at sunrise,and sunset at sunset and at bedtime-At bedtime, he liked everything in it's own place-the cup in the saucer, the chair under the table, the stars in the heavens, the moon in the sky, and himself in his own little bed.
Independence has become a fast disappearing dream for so many where economic compulsions push people further away from their dreams and into the daily grind. Children too are sucked into this since they sometimes see so little of their parents or family. To be the master of one's own time, to work and play as per one's mood is perhaps the real luxury of children.
Crispin treasures his independence and way of life above all things. Crispin's love of belonging to himself is reflected in these lines from the book:
Then he took himself for a walk. And he went wherever he wanted to go."Just walk and sooner or later you'll get somewhere", he told himself.Soon he came to a country where there where lots of dogs. They barked at him and he barked back. Then they all played together.
Mister Dog is a book that celebrates independence and the free-spirit. To choose to be free means to undertake the attending responsibilities that go with it. This picturebook has appeal for children and their parents, because it can open the doors for discussion about the different ways that people choose to live.