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Pets and Memories

The story “Dog Heaven” by Stephanie Vaughn is about a moment in a girl’s life when her family is stationed in Fort Niagara.  What I love about this story is the fact that there are so many elements to it.  The story is called dog heaven, so obviously the dog plays a role of importance, but another part focuses on the political tension in America after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while another focuses on the life of an army brat, while another focuses on the dynamic between two friends in their attempts to fit in.

Duke, the dog, is such an interesting character in the story because he is given such personality for being, in fact, just a dog.  He shows how important animals can be to families, and how they really become part of the memories of our life. When the character is talking about her last day in town, she recalls the dog escaping and running back to meet her and her brother. “My name is Duke! My name is Duke! I am your dog! I am your dog!” I love the dialogue that she gives Duke because it represents what I think a thought process of a dog is, they know what they are and who they are, but not much else. What they are and who they belong to is all that they need to be happy.  Also, the repetition of his speech is found at the very end of the story when the narrator says, “It was a good day, it was a good day, it was a good day.” This ending was by far my favorite ending out of all of the stories that I’ve read. The memories that the narrator is thinking about are happy and simplistic. The time in her life was happy and simplistic, and the thought of that is enough to make her happy.

The scene in the classroom with Miss Bintz was able to bring up the issues of political unrest in America. This scene was a great example of how to write in a younger mindset while also pointing out things that an older mindset will be able to pay attention to.  Miss Bintz pointing out these war horrors to the children of army families seems almost harsh. They are not responsible for the decisions of their parents or the country, but it also shows the frustration that people had with the horror of these crimes.  Even though it is never overtly stated, I like how Vaughn is able to portray both of these perspectives (the  child and the frustrated adult) in this scene.

Another thing that I really like about this story is it’s display of childhood feelings. Army brats have a tougher time than normal kids with integrating into school since they are constantly moving around.  Vaughn does a great job of showing this while also showing how children want to fit in.  Sparky and Gemma both imagined interactions with some of the more popular children at their school.  I remember doing this when I was in sixth grade.  The struggle to be accepted is something that people have to deal with in many phases in their life, and showing this not only makes the reader think about their childhood, but these struggling moments in general.

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