Setting

Paulsen has moved so much and so many times that it is hard to pin down exactly where he is living at any given moment. For instance, as of this writing, an interviewer says that Paulsen lives in Wyoming (which is the likeliest possibility), while a publisher's blurb says that he is somehow in New Mexico and at the Pacific Ocean simultaneously— a feat of geographical flexibility that perhaps only Paulsen could pull off. Thus, the settings for My Life in Dog Years wander; adding to the confusion is that the stories are not necessarily presented in chronological order. The novel is constructed as though Paulsen is sitting with some folks and swapping dog stories with them, so the dogs come up in a casual order.

There is a glimpse of the Philippines. There, seven-year-old Gary saves a puppy from being raised for food in an upriver village. (He has seen a dog strangled and prepared for food while he is there.) He wanders with the dog into the jungle, along streets, more or less wherever the dog's nose says something interesting is to be found. In addition to finding ordinary stuff, such as the ever-present wreckage of war, he finds a cave with Japanese swords in it. Paulsen and the dog are inseparable, and he learns to smell and look at the world the way a dog does.

He also gives us a glimpse of his street life in the United States. Because his parents are "drunks," he pretty much has to survive on his own. The streets are hostile, populated by...

(The entire section is 477 words.)