Dogs play a large role in the story, both in Washington State and after the LeTour family moves down to Georgia. The fictional Chub in the book was modeled after our own dog when we lived in Shelton.
“I don’t remember a time when Chub wasn’t part of our household. Dad told us he got him as a puppy from a local farmer, not long after he and Mom were married and before any of us kids were born. He described Chub as a tiny, snub-nosed puppy, just barely weaned, who needed a home because there were just too many other puppies for the mom to manage. By the time I paid much attention to him, Chub had grown into a huge, black, slow-moving bear-like creature. He was supposed to be an outdoor dog, but whenever he came in out of the rain (and it rained a lot where we lived in Washington State) he carried around him a smell like a damp mattress, and no matter how hard we rubbed him down with Mom’s old towels he never seemed to really dry out. He and Mom eventually came to a truce; she gave up trying to keep him out of the house, and he spent most of his time under the piano in our front room. This worked for Mom because that way she wasn’t always tripping over him, and it worked for Chub because under the piano it was warm and dry and he could engage in one of his favorite activities: sleeping.
Chub’s other favorite activity was eating. He’d finish off his bowl on the back porch and then pad slowly through the house, going from one kid to the next, a look of hunger in his huge brown eyes. Of course he was irresistible, and when Mom wasn’t looking we would sneak him treats from the kitchen or more kibble from his bag. He’d sprawl on the floor with his great head on his paws and we’d feed him by hand. In return he’d let us use him as a pillow while we were reading.
Chub refused to come or fetch, he had bad breath, he was fat, and he shed. No one took him for walks because he was too big to drag, and when he did go outside it was usually to make a deposit in Mom’s favorite flower bed. In short, he was completely worthless as a dog. On the plus side, though, he was gentle and patient and a great babysitter. Every one of us kids learned to walk by holding onto his long hair as he wandered slowly from room to room.”