Have you ever wondered what your dog was thinking?
The elderly residents of Donegal Golf and Country Club are very attached to their dogs. Dogs aren’t just pets at Donegal, but cherished companions and members of the family.
Bill’s a big, affectionate Labrador retriever mutt who is rescued after escaping a puppy mill. He’s a bit of an oddity at Donegal, where most dogs are small and professionally bred. Even so, Bill is friends with all the other dogs and owners.
When Ruby, the granddaughter of Bill’s master comes to visit, trouble starts. Ruby is afraid her father will stop loving her because he has a new wife and baby. When this fear leads Ruby to tell a lie, Bill’s master is forced to surrender his dog to an animal shelter.
But Bill's love is unconditional—he'll do anything to be reunited with his master. By story's end, this love will lead others to see a simple truth: when you help someone—a child, or even a dog—the one you help most is yourself.
The Governing Principle in Just Bill
Animals that sound like good old boys from Georgia, or streetwise hipsters from Brooklyn are a staple of books and movies. Just Bill takes a different approach. With some exaggeration, the dogs in the novel reflect actual canine behavior. A comparison might be made with G.B. Stern’s The Ugly Dachshund, and the Richard Gere-Joan Allen movie, Hachi: a dog’s tale.
The Book's Method
Any story that treats animals as thinking characters must allow for communication. Just Bill assumes a form of canine signaling, called Dog. In one case, the poodle Emma has mastered the meanings of quite a few actual words. Research supports this possibility. But many events are communicated over the heads of the pets. This makes for effective dramatic irony.