One of the biggest things that happened to us this summer is that we got a new kitten. We already have a 12 year old cat, Gus. He is the elder statesman (and had been the token male) of our little house. In Gus' opinion, at 12, he had earned the right to be grouchy whenever he pleased, and to expect a certain level of attention and service. Gus is a tuxedo cat (black with white paws and stomach). One day, I was walking down the hall at work and noticed that a co-worker was advertising for adoption who would become known at our house as Figaro.
He matches Gus almost exactly in markings, which made me decide he was meant to be ours. It was a fairly spur of the moment decision. Figaro (or Figgy as the girls call him) came from the rescue group RezQ Dogs. They are a great group, as most rescue groups are. Within a couple of days, Figaro was home with us, and that was when the wild rumpus began! He has his quirks, some of which are due to his humble beginnings (there is never enough food for him, EVER) and some are just because he is still young (our Christmas tree is tightly to the wall this year and has no ornaments on it because he's already scaled it multiple times!). But one thing still holds true about him - when I first looked at his poster, my co-worker told me "Figaro has never met a person he didn't like." And we are lucky that that continues - he is friendly, purrs like crazy, and puts up with the girls constantly carrying him around.
So when I read the summary of Waggers, it struck a chord in me. Waggers is a puppy who tries so hard to be good. He wants nothing more than to be loved. But there's a problem almost immediately - "...when they picked Waggers up, his tail twirled so hard it sent the other puppies flying." The sign mentions that the puppies are razortail whippets, but Waggers' tail is truly incredible. The children looking at him fall in love with Waggers, and beg to take him home. Their parents agree, believing "It's only a tail. How much harm could it do?" Famous last words.
Waggers is a really sweet dog. He is helpful. When Michael sees a monster, Waggers leaps into action. He creeps over to the sofa, stalking the "monster" (really Michael's father). He jumps onto the monster's shoes to protect Michael. But that tail keeps getting Waggers into trouble. And when Waggers gets the inevitable scolding, there is the regular refrain: "He tried to be good. He tried really hard. But his tail got in the way."
As the weeks go on, Waggers does a really good job of protecting his people from all sorts of things (like an "alien invasion' - really, squirrels), exploring his new home, and learning new tricks. Or at least, he really intends to do all those things. The reality is that he rips down curtains, lets water spill out of the washer, and generally resembles a tornado.
Sadly, Moni and Michael's parents decide to find a new home for Waggers. They believe he needs a place where his tail won't cause so much havoc. On his last night at their house, Moni and Michael decide to have a campout with Waggers. Once the children fall asleep, Waggers gets an itch. He wags and wags and wags until the itch goes away and he finally falls into a deep sleep. In the morning, when Waggers and his family wake up, there is a surprise for all of them. Waggers and his unruly tail have tidied up the yard! And now Waggers' tail is in high demand instead of being a huge problem.
The resolution is one of the things I love most about this book. Waggers' family isn't really prepared for the demands of a puppy, and I can definitely relate to that! Waggers' tail is enormous and it has a mind of its own. It is only when the family thinks outside the box that what they have seen as a negative actually becomes a positive. Waggers loves helping others with their yards and other home improvement tasks (he's especially good at painting!). And when he returns home each night, he's calm, has burned off all his excess energy, and is ready to be loved by his family again.
The illustrations are a great match for the text. They are super expressive and full of energy. And that tail is the naughtiest, funniest part! It rips and whips apart shoes, tables, the kitchen and everything in its path. It slithers, curls and waves while the humans crouch and cower. Ultimately, though, it's Waggers' personality that wins over the day.
At our house, Figaro has developed an insatiable love for paper. He loves to reach over and tease up a corner of a stray piece. Once the corner is standing up, he starts shredding. You can tell how much he loves the way it feels, so we've learned to not leave out much paper. Maybe we can turn that negative into a positive too, like Waggers' family...maybe we can get him to shred confidential information? In the meantime, we love him as much as Waggers' family loves Waggers!
Thanks again to Stacy Nyikos for appearing. For other stops on the Waggers blog tour please check http://www.stacyanyikos.com/blog.html.
Waggers. Written by Stacy Nyikos; illustrated by Tamara Anegon. Sky Pony Press, 2014.