Ivan!A Pound Dog’s View on Life, Love and Leashes


By Tim McHugh. Turner Publishing. $21.95. This title will be released Oct. 11.

Are you ready for some dog speak?

Well, that’s exactly what you get from Ivan, a one-eyed, three-legged pound dog who someone once described as a Nick Nolte lookalike.

“Living in Ivan’s mind for awhile did help me see the world in a more optimistic light,” says McHugh, an alternative high-school English teacher in Deming (Whatcom County).

“Ivan” is packed with laughs, vivid priceless snapshots of family life and colorful anecdotes that place you square in the middle of the living room of the family cabin, begging for more.

While Ivan’s family tree is missing a few branches, he has been called everything from part Malamute, Australian shepherd and Bernese mountain dog to things like alligator, grizzly bear, gargoyle and tyrannosaurus rex as he approached full growth.

And, oh, yes, his name comes from his family’s absorption of Russian arts and culture, hence the constant reference to Tolstoy quotes throughout.

Love, optimism and faith are guiding principles of this glass-half-full free spirit who waxes philosophically throughout, including a chapter entitled “Ivan’s Political Platform.”

“I believe that dogs were put on Earth to guide humans on the path from darkness to light. Even Tolstoy said that we were all at various places on this path, and our purpose is to help each follow the law of Love as we disentangle ourselves from the world of strife, suffering, poodles and cats,” says McHugh, Ivan’s two-legged mouthpiece.

Like his owners, Tim and Kristina, Ivan loves the outdoors and the adventure it brings, from a pack of coyotes to a large buck eating from the family’s apple tree.

“When I am outside, I’m one with my inner wolf, a thousand years old, trotting through places that have called tome in my deepest of dreams. The wilderness gets me more in touch with God, and I will do just about anything to preserve it. The wild is a gift – a place for prophets and pound dogs to find sanity and inner peace.”

In dog speak, the family children, Casey, Morgan and Avery are “pups” and best friends. His longtime housemate, Brutus, the cat, tolerate and tease each other throughout this rich tapestry of adventure that leaves the upbeat and determined Ivan challenged at the end when struck with cancer.

“Ivan” is written with a mixed-breed verve and enthusiasm accented with a piercing realism, cultivating the best of the dog’s character in the process.