My dog doesn't like me. It's a fact.
Eric is very disappointed in the dog he got for his eighth birthday. He thought the dog, named Ugly (because he is just that), was going to be his -best friend'. But Ugly doesn't even consider Eric his first- or second-best friend. Ugly loves Eric's mum, granddad, dad, and his horrible sister Gretchen, even more than him.
In fact, Eric is convinced that Ugly is out to get him, why else would he have eaten Eric's homework? To add to the matter, Eric keeps being blamed for all the bad stuff Ugly does.
Desperate to make Ugly love him the most, Eric puts some crazy plans into action to win over his pooch.
Will Eric uncover the secret to Ugly's heart, or will he forever have to watch his dog dote on every other family member except him?
For Elizabeth, the inspiration for My Dog Doesn't Like Me came when a young boy told her just that – his dog didn't like him. Having grown up with dogs of all shapes, sizes and denominations – and considering them family members – she was aware that many people who bring dogs into their lives are at a loss to know how to look after them.
-They are often unwilling to exercise them and spend time with them. In such cases where dogs are neglected and even abused, they react as people do under the same circumstances. Because they are unhappy and lonely, they can become unpleasant or difficult to have around,' she says.
-When I was a teenager, I had my first experience training a puppy that had been given to us. I found it an absorbing and rewarding exercise. Nevertheless, when I set about writing My Dog Doesn't Like Me, I sought the expert knowledge of a marvellous dog handler and trainer called Meg. I was given an eye-opening introduction to new methods of dog handling and training. Reward and encouragement rather than punishment is first and foremost the modern approach.'
A life lesson wrapped up in a beautifully told story, My Dog Doesn't Like Me will resonate with children, parents, and most especially pet lovers.
Elizabeth Fensham has been writing in earnest for the last twenty years. Her first novel, The Helicopter Man, won the 2006 CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers. Previous young adult novels include Miss McAllister's Ghost, winner of the 2009 Age Book of the Year, and Goodbye Jamie Boyd, which was shortlisted for the 2009 Bologna Book Fair's White Ravens Award. Fensham's first younger reader, Matty Forever, was shortlisted for the 2009 CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers. The companion, Bill Rules, was shortlisted for the 2011 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards. Her most recent book, The Invisible Hero, won the 2012 Speech Pathology Book of the Year Award and is listed as an IBBY Book. Elizabeth lives in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges.
My Dog Doesn't Like Me
Author: Elizabeth Fensham
Question: What inspired the story of My Dog Doesn't Like Me?
Elizabeth Fensham: The inspiration for the story came from hearing a boy announce exactly that: "my dog doesn't like me". I'd also had a childhood experience where my parents brought a fully grown dog home (a flighty Irish setter) because its original owners couldn't handle it - beware of that! It was highly strung and neurotic. He didn't like me and I didn't like him. However, before and after that, my family have owned a string of wonderful, loyal, intelligent dogs and they have been beloved members of the family - thus my dedication is to all those dogs.
Question: What was the best thing about creating the character of Eric?
Elizabeth Fensham: Eric is an intelligent and original boy. He has quirky ideas and adventurous instincts. He's a kind person, and he is loyal to his family and friends (that is, apart from his bossy, snooty big sister, Gretchen). I also have huge respect for the role that elderly people play in children's lives, so Eric's relationship with his Grandad is important to me.
Question: What's the best thing about owning a dog?
Elizabeth Fensham: Dogs have spent so many thousands of years in the company of humans that, when they are included in a family, they become a precious part of that family.
Question: How does your job, as a teacher, aid in writing books for younger readers?
Elizabeth Fensham: The best thing about being a teacher is that you can enjoy the company of young people. This means you never completely lose contact with the young person inside yourself so, when you write a story, you're right in there with the action and the feelings.
Question: What do you enjoy most about writing books for younger readers?
Elizabeth Fensham: Children and young adult literature is a special and delicate world where bad things might happen, but there is personal growth and some sort of acceptable resolution. For this very reason, I love reading other people's children and young adult's novels - and, as an adult, I'm not alone in this attitude. Our media and some writers for adults can tend to present us with every variant of disaster, tragedy, cynical betrayal, hopelessness and horror - but it's so overloaded that this is not the truth, either.
Question: What do you hope readers take away from My Dog Doesn't Like Me?
Elizabeth Fensham: I hope readers of 'My Dog..' will actually learn what it takes to train a dog - for the self-discipline and routine is, itself, is a lesson about accomplishing anything in life. However, as with many of my books, I hope the reader will also see the value of family and friends.
Interview by Brooke Hunter