Saturday, December 8, 2012

the limping puppy

One fine May morning a hillside farmer had just finished putting up a sign that read 'Puppies For Sale', when who should he see pulling a wagon along the path but a small boy.  I'm sure you know signs like that do have a way of attracting children.

'How much are you going to sell the puppies for?', he asked.

The farmer replied, 'They're working dogs so I'll be asking $50.'

The little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out some change. "I have $2.37," he said. "Can I please look at them?"

The farmer smiled and said, 'Right this way', pointing to the old barn next to the house.

Sure enough there were puppies, very lively, curious puppies who came bounding toward the little boy from every direction. He hardly knew which one to pat next but after a few moments spent tickling bellies, being poked by little wet noses, and having his clothes nipped by excited puppy teeth, he noticed one pup who had lagged behind all the others. Immediately the little boy singled out the limping puppy and asked,

"What's wrong with that little dog?'

The farmer explained that the veterinarian had examined the puppy and had found it didn't have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame. This news didn't deter the little boy at all.

'That is the puppy I want to buy.'

The farmer said, 'No, you don't want to buy that little dog. If you really want him, I'll give him to you.'

The little boy got quite upset. He looked straight into the farmer's eyes and said, 'I don't want you to give him to me. That little dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs and I'll pay full price. In fact, I'll give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents a month until I have him paid for.'

The farmer protested, 'You really don't want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run and jump and play with you like the other puppies.'

To this, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a big metal brace. He looked over at the farmer and softly replied:

'Well, I don't run so well myself, and this puppy will need someone who understands.'

*** *** *** ***

I've spent a fair amount of time this year doing background work for a story I wrote last spring. A narrative is one thing but the most difficult part has been trying to determine how many illustrations to do and just how to relate them to one another. When I happened across a version of this little story at a Buddhist website I thought it might be fun to illustrate since it was short and the message very sweet. There was no mention of who had written it though, so I went in search of the story by name and found two other adaptations - one on a Christian site and the other on a Hindu chat page. It appeared it has a somewhat universal appeal and by that point I figured it was available for me to play with in my own way. The only change I made to the original was setting it in the countryside rather than a pet store. Happily the last two paintings appeared much faster than the first and I learned a few things along the way.

I'm not sure if parents read to their children anymore or if it's all about rerunning favorite sections of Pixar movies and playing video games. Ah well, I draw and paint to keep myself entertained and, hopefully, to provide my friends with a little respite from the all you can handle and more you can't news programming.

I hope you enjoyed the story. If you wrote it please let me know.


marja-leena said...

Oh, I enjoyed this very much and LOVE your drawings/watercolours. You are so very good with animals, like those adorable dogs. (I can't do animals, surprise!) I really think this is worthy of publishing, dear Susan, like so much of your work. Have you thought of self-publishing and selling? Thanks so much for sharing your lovely work with all of us readers and admirers.

Oh, we believe in reading to children, it's great sharing time for all. I'm going to read this to our granddaughters.

Vincent said...

I know you've worked on the first illustration for a very long time. I never imagined what a good story would come out at the end, the words and pictures perfectly matched, with such finely crafted details that you've imagined a little world which will inhabit the memories of children as a tale with its own life-lessons embedded.

I'm sure you too must be pleased with such an excellent outcome to your efforts.

Rob-bear said...

While I am familiar with the story, you tell and illustrate it so well. You are such a wonderfully creative person, Susan.

We read to our grandchildren, and now they read to us. (They don't have tv.) We like stories; we see lots of crows here, and we like puppies.

I hope your plan works well. Blessings and Bear hugs.

susan said...

It makes me very happy just knowing you like the story enough to share it with your lovely granddaughters, Marja-leena. Drawing animals (in my own quirky fashion) just seems to come naturally to me, something for which I'm very grateful. As for publishing, self or otherwise, I have no heart for such attempts anymore and wouldn't begin to know how to go about doing so in any case.

Thank you for always giving me such wonderful encouragement.

susan said...

I'm so glad to see you've been by to visit and that you enjoyed the story enough to let me know. I must admit I've read and enjoyed a number of your own posts without comment - perhaps mostly because I agree with your point of view and have little to add.

I hope you're right that this story illustrated might be seen by a few children (of any age) who will enjoy it. You're right that I'm pleased but there's much room for improvement in general.

susan said...

It doesn't surprise me you're familiar with the story and I'm very gratified by your response to my version. I'm sure you agree that reading to children or telling them stories is far better for them and us than watching tv.

Then too there's the fact that crows and puppies provide entertainment just by being here.

Now continue enjoying your well deserved hibernation.

gfid said...

'twould indeed be a lovely story for children.... i think there are chapters yet unwritten. beautifully illustrated, as always, and so generous of you to share it on the bloggosphere with no thought of financial gain from it. i have always read to my kids at bedtime, from little golden books when they were just big enough to sit up on their own, to Harry Potter and The Subtle Knife when they were in their early teens. as they learned to read, we'd share in the reading, each doing a page, then passing the book between us. occasionally, when we're all together for some occasion or other, we still gather in the living room for the grandgirl's bedtime story. She's 11, and keen on Terry Pratchet just now.

susan said...

It's far too short for a book and far too saccharine to continue but I love the fact you like it for what it is. There'll be other stuff more to my somewhat quirky taste as time goes by. It's good to know (and no surprise) you read to your kids when they were young and continue the tradition with Brooklyn.

Dickens was a favorite of our son when he was little and he insisted on hearing Don Quixote too.

Sean Jeating said...


Sean Jeating said...

And hooray! After many many months your comment-box would accept me.
Thus, before it changes its mind: Some good posts I read in the past, and some very good. Thanks for that, Susan.
May lots of health, happiness and inspiration be upon you.

susan said...

It makes me very happy to know you've been by to visit often enough that you've enjoyed many posts. I'm really sorry you haven't been able to leave comments since I never heard from anyone else there were problems. Hopefully that's all fixed now.

All good wishes to you too.

susan said...

Sweet :-)

Gina Duarte said...

Lovely! Both the illustrations and the little story. Thank you again and again for sharing your sweet magic with us.

Whenever a conversation turns to how to raise interested learners, I always say it's quite simple: have books around; lots of them and all kinds and read, read, read. It's a surefire recipe with a magic ingredient - the adults have to share their passion for books and stories or else it's just another hallow expectation. At my school there is a 20 minute per night reading requirement for students. There is so little joy in such a requirement. In our home, we had to cut off the bedtime read-alouds and later, insist on lights out when the girls would beg to continue reading their books.

Meredith was a kid who could read in the backseat as I drove, even on the highway. When day when she was about nine years old, as we were motoring along, she burst out in the hottest tears. I thought something awful had happened and it had - a very sad part in the book she was reading.

Anonymous said...

Oh Susan, You have outdone yourself. I love it! Darn, now I want a puppy.


susan said...

Thanks so much for your kind words, Gina.

Your ideas for how to develop joyous readers is exactly right - it's certainly true your daughters are proof of the success of your endeavors. The only thing I'd add that you likely did but didn't mention, is it helps to turn the tv off.

Poor Meredith. I well remember a couple of books that had the same effect on me. Did you ever read 'Black Beauty'?

susan said...

I'm glad you liked it. Maybe I did it because I can't have a puppy.

Lisa Golden said...

I read to my children. If I have grandchildren, I'll read to them. I've kept a large box of children's books - their favorites - so that one day they can be shared.

I love how you illustrated this very sweet, tender story. This, too, is something I'll keep to share.

Life As I Know It Now said...

Now you done it! You done made me cry! You happy? :)

susan said...

The best thing about reading to kids is, like so many things, enjoying the stories almost like it's the first time for us as well. It's good you've kept the favorite ones.

Thanks so much for your nice words about the pictures.

susan said...

Aw, Lib, I'm sorry.. but I guess it worked as planned.

Steve Emery said...

So much I love here...
I think the first illustration works well, particularly the unexpected composition, the way the buildings are right up against the road, and the connection between the farmer and the boy. I want to know what's in the boy's wagon.

I like the second and third illustrations even better. The second conveys the scale and quiet of a big barn in a way that reminded me strongly of the much loved huge four floored barn of my childhood. The big doors, the irregular boards and mended look, the piles of hay, the wonderful shape of the cleared floor, neatly swept. We hated sweeping anything around the house, but we all loved to sweep our favorite play space in the ancient barn.

The third shows another tendency of old farm structures - to be built of many materials over time, and to have an organic unplanned look to the transitions between lawn, soil, stone, brick, and wood. My favorite thing in this last illustration, though, is the way you brought the green grass through the doorway and into the barn. That was inspired.

I've never heard this story - and I'm glad I could have it with your illustrations.

Steve Emery said...

And I will lay a message here, Susan, for Linda, whom I am having trouble reaching. I feel certain she is bound to come along soon to read this story and to comment on the two additional illustrations. And puppies - how could she resist! Linda - your blog is by invitation only, it seems, and I can't get in...

susan said...

Yes, in the long run I decided on the larger barn and a tree that had a solid but not overwhelming presence. The boy has been collecting papers in his wagon. Originally, I'd planned a third painting with the boy pulling the wagon up a tree-lined, leafy path with the pup sitting among the papers but my experience of the green fiasco changed my mind for the present.

It's the second and third pictures that are my favorites too. My main intention was to keep the interiors light and open looking which I think succeeded quite well in both. You're right that old barns are very interesting structures so I felt pretty relaxed about growing one that seemed real enough. The neat thing about the grass coming inside was that it all just happened without me thinking about it much. I was just trying to suggest sunlight.

I'm glad you enjoyed the story and pleased you read it here first.

susan said...

I hope you get in touch with one another again.

Steve Emery said...

We did! Thank you for passing me the missing link.

jams o donnell said...

What a lovely story Susan

susan said...

I'm happy you enjoyed it, Jams.