When the bus dropped Charlie and Amy off at the side of the road after school, Amy ran to the clinic and left Charlie behind at the stop.
As always, Charlie stood still for a moment to enjoy how good it felt to be home. A narrow gravel driveway led from the road to a white ranch house where he lived with his mom and dad and baby sister. Amy and her mom lived in the smaller white guesthouse beside it. Behind the house were three red barns, and behind that was a long view to faraway hills on the horizon.
Charlie helped his dad with the cattle, and he helped his mom in her veterinary business. One of his weekly tasks was to change the letters on the bottom half of her clinic’s sign beside the road. The top half always stayed the same:
DEMBINSKI VETERINARY CLINIC
DR. SELENA DEMBINSKY, DVM
DVM stood for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Charlie was proud of his mom. It took a lot of work and dedication to become a veterinarian.
Charlie was less proud of the bottom half of the sign. What do you call it when a cat wins first place at a dog show? A cat-has-trophy!
Charlie didn’t like puns. It was a torture to put up a new one each week. Why did Mozart end up getting rid of his chickens? Because they kept saying. “Bach, bach!” But, letter by letter, he always did his job.
He walked down the gravel road and into the waiting room of his mom’s clinic. Nobody was there except for Amy. On days when the receptionist had to leave early. He and Amy would sit behind the counter to answer the phone and book appointments on the computer.
Readers first met Charlie and Amy in Sigmund Brouwer’s Pasture Bedtime, a delightful introduction to the life of a veterinarian’s family. Charlie is a quiet, very intelligent boy who likes to live by the rules. Charlie is organized, but he has a best friend who is just the opposite. Amy is spontaneous, talkative and full of exuberant energy. She does not follow Charlie’s rules very well. In Ruff Day, Charlie, Amy and their friend Jenna are in a group that is to prepare and present a science report. However, Jenna is having trouble focusing on the project because her young bulldog, Dees, attacks her mom. Jenna is afraid that Dees will have to be euthanized if he hurts anyone. Charlie and Amy go to his mom, a veterinarian, for help. The kids also research the problem on the Internet. One day, as they visit Jenna to try to get more information for Charlie’s mom, Dees does attack Jenna’s mom. The kids start putting all their information together to try to find a cause. They come up with some amazing facts that just might help, and, in the end, they find out that Dees is not trying to hurt Jenna’s mom but is actually trying to save her from a deadly disease.
Ruff Day is a delightful story full of interesting facts. I did not know how astronauts on early flights used the washroom. The “how” is remarkably interesting, but I will let you read the story to find out on your own. The children find many interesting facts about both their report subject and about dogs in general. It’s a happy day in the veterinary clinic when simple solutions are found to difficult situations.
There was another aspect to Sigmund Brouwer’s story that I really liked, one which might be an “aha moment” to young students. As Charlie, Amy and Jenna work through their project, Amy wants to go a different route than was originally planned, something that goes against Charlie’s need to be organized. However, by agreeing, he learns how to gain the attention of his audience to make a presentation more interesting. When all three of them do this, they get an excellent mark on their project. I think Sigmund Brouwer included quite a few teachable moments in his novel.
As always, Sigmund Brouwer has written an excellent novel that can be enjoyed by children, teachers and parents.
Elaine Fuhr, a retired elementary and middle school teacher, lives in Stony Plain, Alberta.