POV of an old dog in MG?

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The Second Moon

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I am writing a linked short story collection from four pet POVs (2 cats, a ferret, and a dog) I'm not that far along, but I've introduced the dog and I would like him to be old. Or at least older than the other POV pets.

Would my MG readers like reading from an old dog's POV? Or should I make him the same age as the other pets?

My fear is that my readers won't be able to relate to him because of his age. Yes, the other POV pets aren't babies. They are adult animals, but the dog will be older.

The reason the dog is older is because I want him to feel like he missed out on being a police dog or something like that. He feels that because of his age, he instead got stuck with a lesser "job" as an antique store dog (he basically attracts more customers).

I just don't know if my MG readers will be able to relate to his internal struggle of "missing out on life".

What should I do? Keep him older or make another reason that he's not a a police dog. (I have a few alternatives if the older thing doesn't work).
 

Brightdreamer

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IMHO, you have a lot more leeway with anthropomorphic voices - animals "talking", even just narrating to the reader - than with live humans. A kid will probably be interested in what a dog has to say, regardless of whether it's a puppy or a gray-muzzled old-timer. Just the fact that it's an animal goes a long way to holding interest (provided you write an interesting story, of course.) I'd think a retired police dog (if I'm reading this right) would be a great POV.

ETA - The animals in John Howe's classic Bunnicula - aimed at younger kids even - are adults except for the titular bunny. More recently, The One And Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate) was narrated by an adult gorilla. And there are many MG-aimed series these days with all-animal cast, some of which are adult animals.
 
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frimble3

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But how old was he when he was rejected? Or is this sort of a dream of his, that was unlikely to happen, but that now being old is the reason he tells himself? (Because a lot of children can empathise with that - knowing why they were rejected, but making up stories to comfort themselves.)
Is he a German Shepherd, or similar breed, or is he a breed that was unlikely to be chosen?

But in general, I don't think age matters that much to kids, because they're surrounded by adults all the time. A 12 year old dog is old to us, but to a kid, he's about the same age, or, maybe a little older, they won't be thinking that he's into his later life, unless his hair gets gray and he isn't as frisky.
He's an older buddy, who's had an interesting life.
 

The Second Moon

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@Frimble3 - The dog's a rat terrier. I just did some googling and found out that the only rat terrier in any police force is in the World Records for being the smallest police dog. But smallness isn't the only the reason the dog wasn't a police dog. He was in a shelter and was only adopted when he was older.

As for your second paragraph. He's still able to go on adventures with his other animal friends and can keep up with them mostly.
 

neandermagnon

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Kids are less fussed about the age of characters than people tend to think. Roald Dahl wrote a books with central characters who are grandparents or old (I think in Esio Trot the two main characters who were old weren't anyone's grandparents, if I remember it right). Also David Walliams wrote Gangsta Granny and another story about a Grandpa (forgot the title). It's about making the characters relatable to the kids. Grandpa Joe in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a fun person who still had many characteristics that children can identify with.

A potential problem with stories about older characters is if they have problems that kids can't really relate to, like, say, trying to juggle work with childcare and paying the rent/mortgage, etc. Stories with plots around school, friendships, going on adventures - kids can relate to things like that. So IMO the thing about your old dog character would be to make sure his story problem/adventures/whatever are things that children in that age group can relate to. As mentioned upthread an animal POV is going to engage many kids simply because they love animals.

Michael Morpurgo is a good one for children's stories about animals. He wrote quite a few with animals as central characters aimed at older children.

ETA: just to add that I think a dog that used to be a police dog but it didn't work out so he now works in an antique shop drawing in customers could be very engaging for children - especially if you have the occasional anecdote from the police dog days and in the antique shop thing, focus on things kids will be interested in.
 
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frimble3

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I think it could be a fun story, the animal's view of people's lives intruding on their own.
What kid wouldn't commiserate with a dog being called 'a cute li'l fella', when, in his own head, he's guarding the store!
 

Chris P

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As an established writer of dog-POV children's stories told me at a book festival when I talked to her about my dog character, she said "dog stories will always be popular." I agree with the others: the age of the dog won't matter.
 

Roxxsmom

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I loved animal stories when I was a kid. I still love animal stories, and I'm long since dead in dog years :tongue

I think the things others said about relatability are exactly right. Give the dog character problems kids of the target age can relate to, and it should work.
 

The Second Moon

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Thanks everyone. I'll keep him old. I've tweaked it so that he was a police dog in the past instead of just wishing he was one.

Some of you said to give him a problem kids can relate to, so I made him have had a dog partner while on the police force. However, she moved a while ago (before the books start). Friends moving is something that happens in real childhoods, so it should be relatable. (And for those who who are curious, he does meet her his old friend again. :))
 

Laurel

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I'll chime in to say I agree age is less important when dealing with an animal POV. In fact, off the top of my head, I can think of more adult animal characters in children's lit than kid animal characters.

The friendship plot is definitely relatable to kids. (And adults...)
 

Ravioli

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Speaking for myself, I used to love all animal stories as a child. Many had older narrators and POV, like Daniel the Mandrill in Kimba. An old dog sounds like a perfect story teller.

You will never please everyone. I think there will be lots of kids who'll think "Ugh, an old person, next!", but there will also be kids who will feel motivated to go after their dreams and ambitions after an old person, or dog, tells them about all their regret. Then there are kids like myself who prefer an older story teller because of the life experience and credit associated with age. I never liked young story tellers as a kid. To me, they lacked credibility.
 

The Second Moon

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Thanks Laurel. I was hoping the subplot with his old friend would be relatable.

Thanks Ravioli. I still love animal stories from the animals' POVs.
 

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