Can I Be Your Dog?

Can I Be Your Dog?
Written and Illustrated by Troy Cummings

Publisher’s Summary:
This picture book shares the tale of Arfy, a homeless mutt who lives in a box in an alley. Arfy writes to every person on Butternut Street about what a great pet he’d make. His letters to prospective owners share that he’s housebroken! He has his own squeaky bone! He can learn to live with cats! But, no one wants him. Won’t anyone open their heart–and home–to a lonesome dog?

Primary Source Pairing:
Stories told in letters, epistolary stories, are fun and engaging. As a letter writer myself, I enjoy reading letters – especically the letters Arfy writes in this book. For this primary source pairing, invite students to study the front endpapers of the book showing all the stamps. Then, invite students to analyze the primary source – an envelope originally sent between 1861 and 1865 to someone named Henry A. Moore in New York City. Use this opportunity to talk about mailing a letter: how to address an envelope, where to put the return address (not included on this envelope), where the stamp goes, and how the postmark on the envelope looks after it is processed at the post office. This is also a good time to review student addresses and the importance of memorizing your own address.

Depending on the learning environment and the group of students with whom you are working, extend this activity by mailing a letter from the school address to each student. The letter could be in connection to this book or simply include words of encouragement. Students can analyze their own envelope and the postmark that is stamped on it. This would be a great opportunity to connect with students at any time of the year. To keep the letter writing going, include a school addressed, stamped envelope in your letter, and invite students to write you back.

Discussion Questions:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • How much of the text can you read? What does it say?
  • What do you see that looks strange or unfamiliar?
  • How are the words arranged?
  • What do you notice about the page the writing appears on?
  • What do you see on the page besides writing?
  • Make a connection to what you see on the envelope and something from one of Arfy’s letters in Can I Be Your Dog?

Envelope addressed to Henry A. Moore: Library of Congress
Book Cover and Summary: Follett