Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Trouble With Tuck (1981)

The Trouble With Tuck
Theodore Taylor
1981, Doubleday

And if there was anything better to hold than a pup, I don't know what it was. I put him up to my shoulder, against my neck, and his warm tongue swabbed the lobe of my ear. His new fur was like velvet. A love affair began that hour.

It's early 1950's Los Angeles, and 10-year-old Helen Ogden is a shy girl lacking self-confidence. One day, her parents present her with a fat gold Labrador Retriever puppy. Officially christened Friar Tuck Golden Boy, he's just Tuck to Helen. The pair become inseperable, and within a short time Tuck has saved her life twice, once from a pervert in the park and once from drowning in a pool.

But 1956 is different. Tuck, now over three, runs through a screen door and the family begins to wonder if his eyesight is okay. When the vet says Tuck is going blind, there are few alternatives. Helen, miserable at how her beloved dog is suffering from having his freedom curtailed, comes up with an idea nobody thinks will work - get her blind dog a guide dog of his own.

At first, the guide dog organization gently tells Helen that their dogs are far too valuable to be used with another dog. But then a unique situation occurs, and Helen has her chance to use the German Shepherd guide dog Lady Daisy. The only question left is how to train the obdurate, jealous Tuck to put up with a canine housemate and follow a guide.

The free-running Tuck's easy off-leash social life is an anachronism that somewhat confuses the big problem of the book. Today, a family dog in suburbia wouldn't be allowed to run loose, and the only problem involved with having a blind dog would be making sure nobody touched him unexpectedly. The scene where Tuck saves Helen from a pervert in a fog-bound park is scary as hell because of the realism of the scene. Where today a narrator would vague out into "And then everything seemed to slow down and I was thinking of bluebirds." Helen faithfully recounts every last detail of the attack.

Clearly written, with a consistent character voice and appealing heroine and dogs.

Friar Tuck Golden Boy - golden Lab with Dudley nose
Lady Daisy - German Shepherd

About the author
The North Carolina native wrote over 50 books. A high school dropout (math issue, my sympathies) he went on to become a press agent and screenwriter in Hollywood. His most famous book was the 1969 YA novel The Cay.

Other Books by the author
There are far too many to list; most relevant is the 1992 sequel, Tuck Triumphant.

Author website
LA Times obituary


Avon Camelot, 1981 Yearling

Also, an unknown edition cover

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