Study Guide

Dog Days

by Judy Budnitz

Dog Days Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Dog Days” uses a third-person narrative from the perspective of Lisa, a young woman, to relate the story of a family caught up in an undefined national crisis. Over a single year, the family’s standard of living declines drastically; they lack electricity, experience drastic food shortages, and have their neighbors disappear mysteriously. Soon they appear to be the only people remaining in town.

The unifying thread in this chaotic situation is a creature, presumably a human dressed as a dog, that ingratiates himself with members of the family, becoming their constant companion. Lisa’s mother scavenges in the trash seeking food for this man/dog who sits up and begs, rolls over, and licks the hands that feed it. Even when the mother cannot find food, the dog, Prince, remains with the family.

Initially, the mother defends the dog; the father eschews it. Lisa’s brothers, Pat and Eliott, sell their clothing to buy drugs and retreat into their basement bedroom, from which they exclude Lisa. They do drugs and leaf through old issues of Playboy by moonlight because their electricity has failed. They do not go to school because, in April, the schools close. They boys rejoice in the freedom this closure gives them, but soon they become bored and seek jobs. The town, however, is clearing out. No one is hiring. They are left to their pot smoking and prurient reading.

Lisa’s father, Howard, goes hunting with his shotgun but finds little to hunt. Lisa never reports that he brings anything home from his hunting expeditions. The family is short of food, but Howard is powerless to do anything to relieve his family’s...

(The entire section is 680 words.)