What impact does Black Dog's arrival have on Henry and his family in Trouble?

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The arrival of Black Dog initially seems to symbolize Franklin, but as the family begins to mourn Franklin's death, the dog takes on her own identity. Her antics and energy serve as a distraction to the Smith family during their time of mourning.

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In the novel Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt, the protagonist , Henry Smith, rescues a black dog and brings the dog home around the time Henry's brother Franklin gets injured in a car accident. The dog, who is referred to as Black Dog, initially seems to symbolize Franklin and gives...

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the family a final chance to deal with their feelings about Franklin's injury and ultimate death. Black Dog is very badly battered—much like Franklin's body is terribly wounded after the accident. So, at times when family members interact with or discuss Black Dog, they are actually thinking of Franklin.

First, Henry's mother is unable to complete her comment that Black Dog may not survive from all his injuries. Her anguish is not really for the dog but is actually based on her fear that her son, who was hospitalized at the time, may not survive his wounds. Henry's father views the dog in the same way—as a symbol of his son—and completes his wife's trailed off statement ("I don't think those scars will . . .") by saying, "No they won't." His long silence before he responds shows he also is lost in thought, thinking that his son's scars may not heal.

When Louisa, Franklin's sister, first sees Black Dog the morning after his arrival, she also has a similar reaction:

Louisa looked down at the scarred and battered dog. Then, suddenly, as if the moment had broken in two and let everything fall out of it, she ran across the kitchen into her mother's arms and began to sob.

Though, seconds earlier, Louisa simply viewed Black Dog as a pet and was patting him, after closer inspection of his bruises, he reminded her of Franklin.

As it becomes clearer to the family that Franklin will die, Black Dog becomes a replacement of sorts for Franklin. The novel says that, in all the generations that the Smith's have owned their property, a dog has never crossed the threshold. But, because of the way the dog appeared—at a time when they were beginning to mourn Franklin—the dog is allowed to stay. Henry's parents do not protest as much as they likely would have if the dog had arrived at any other time.

So, though the dog makes the family sad because she reminds them of Franklin's injuries, Black Dog also comforts the family. Her wild energy and antics serve as a bit of a distraction in a rough time, especially for Henry—who sleeps with her at night and takes her for walks and runs in the daytime.

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