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Because of Winn-Dixie: A Lovable (Not) Berger Picard

 

Because of Winn-Dixie

Note: this cover is not a Berger Picard. (Courtesy of Good Reads.)

By Shawn Proctor

Like a slippery dog after a bath, this book completely slipped by me for two decades.

When Because of WinnDixie, Kate DeCamillo’s Newberry Award winning debut novel, was published in 2000, I wasn’t reading books often (or at all.) And my then-childless self wouldn’t have wandered into the middle-grade fiction section of the library anyway. But like the dog for whom the book is named, Because of WinnDixie came at the right time–when I was finally ready for him.

A Berger Picard

A Berger Picard (for real!) from Public Domain (By Leanam (talk) (Uploads) – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=85490418)

Ten-year-old Opal moves into a Florida town with her emotionally cloistered father, who she calls “The Preacher.” Her mom left seven years before, and Opal is very much alone. Then she meets a “big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor” in the back of a Winn-Dixie grocery store. Opal opens her heart to this dirty, friendly dog, and, in turn, Winn-Dixie opens the world to Opal, and she meets new friends, mends her relationship with The Preacher, and helps people along the way. It’s brief, funny, sad, and (like Winn-Dixie) very easy to love.

Now, Winn-Dixie is not a specific breed of dog in the story. Likely, he’s just a mixture of different stray dogs and grew up on the street, as evidenced by his strong fear of thunder.

In the movie, however, Winn-Dixie was cast as a group of Berger Picards (pronounced bare-ZHAY pee-CARR, according to the Bloomberg Businessweek article “Puppy Love.” There is zero chance one of these dogs ended up in a Florida store, as they are a rare breed of French herding dog that nearly became extinct after the two World Wars. Few print Library resources mention the Picardy Shepard (as they are also known), but online access to The Dog Encyclopedia indicates simply: “This breed can be stubborn.”

“Puppy Love” traces the growth in popularity of dog breeds from rarity to fad, using the Berger Picard as one example, as it was recognized by the American Kennel Club only in 2014. This arrival on the dog show scene is often met by interest in sourcing puppies and, sometimes, unscrupulous behavior from profiteering breeders. The owners in the article explained they sought out the Berger Picard especially because it is energetic and affectionate.

Energetic. Affectionate. Stubborn. That sure sounds like Winn-Dixie to me.

Resources:

  • Battan, Carrie. “PUPPY LOVE.” Bloomberg Businessweek, 4451, 2015, p. 62.
  • Merriam Garcia. The Dog Encyclopedia. Abdo Reference, 2021.

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Shawn Proctor is Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Library.

 


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Big Dog, Big Heart: Everyone’s Favorite Vizsla

Concept art for a new version of Clifford the Big Red Dog. Credit: Scholastic.

Well known for being a book lover and writer, we had to celebrate Snoopy‘s birthday on Aug. 10! This week on the blog, we’re celebrating some of our favorite literary dogs. Are you a fan of Joe Cool? Or, is there another canine companion that has your heart?

Vizsla dog breed. Credit: Dog’s Best Life.

Kallie Stahl, Communication and Marketing Specialist, chose everyone’s favorite red dog: “While Scooby-Doo is one of my all-time favorites, I have to choose Clifford because he was one of the characters that inspired my love of reading when I was young.”

Written and illustrated by Norman Bridwell, Clifford the Big Red Dog was first published in 1963. The books follow the adventures of two-year-old Clifford and his owner eight-year-old Emily Elizabeth. Originally the runt of his litter, Clifford grew to be an impossibly large, red dog after being cared for by Emily Elizabeth. Clifford’s size was ambiguous in the books. Jordan Kerner, Director of Clifford the Big Red Dog (2021 film) stated, “The dog ranged from eight feet tall to 35 feet, depending upon the book you were reading.” Clifford’s breed was never attributed, though many people state he has the characteristics of a giant Vizsla. Originating in Hungary, the Vizsla is a hunting dog. “Because they were bred to be both a pointer and a retriever, they were also bred to attach and stick very close to their master, making them excellent family dogs. Just like Clifford would do anything for Emily Elizabeth, Vizslas are very loyal,” according to Dr. Jennifer Shepherd.

Since 1963, Scholastic reports “Clifford has appeared in more than 80 books (with more than 133 million copies in print in 16 languages), an Emmy Award–winning television series, and a feature film.” Describing the lasting legacy of Clifford, Scholastic chairman, CEO, and president Dick Robinson reflected on Bridwell’s loveable creation: “The magic of the character and stories Norman created with Clifford is that children can see themselves in this big dog who tries very hard to be good, but is somewhat clumsy and always bumping into things and making mistakes. What comforts the reader is that Clifford is always forgiven by Emily Elizabeth, who loves him unconditionally.”

“Young kids could relate to the stories because they focused on real-life situations,” said Stahl. “Clifford routinely made mistakes, but he learned from them and always treated everyone with kindness.”


References:

Ask Dr. Jenn: What Kind of Breed is Clifford the Big Red Dog? (n.d.). Retrieved August 4, 2022, from https://www.petassure.com/maxscorner/ask-dr-jenn-clifford-the-big-red-dog-breed/

Judy Newman at Scholastic. (n.d.). Judy Newman at Scholastic. Retrieved August 4, 2022, from http://www.judynewmanatscholastic.com/content/judyblog/en/blog/2020/01/legacy-story-clifford.html

Nast, C. (2021, June 29). Clifford the Big Red Dog Is Simply Too Big for New York City. Vanity Fair. https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/06/clifford-is-simply-too-big-for-new-york-city

 


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Last Modified: August 8, 2022