Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Gabe: A Story of Me, My Dog, and the 1970s

Gabe: A Story of Me, My Dog, and the 1970s

Shelley Gill
Illustrator:  Marc Scheff 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 8 to 10
Charlesbridge, 2016   ISBN: 978-1570913549

When she was just seventeen years old Shelley left her home in Florida and set out to find a “more authentic life.” In 1972 she was working in a first aid tent at the First Rainbow Gathering in Colorado when a man left a large dog with yellow eyes at the tent and disappeared. After the gathering ended everyone left except the dog, whom Shelley adopted and named Gabe.

It soon became clear that Gabe was a dog who would staunchly defend Shelley and her possessions. If he did not trust someone he would growl at them, and when a thief broke into Shelley’s apartment in New Orleans when she was at work, Gabe attacked the intruder, tearing off a piece of the person’s clothing. No one in the neighborhood dared mess with Shelley’s home after that.

From New Orleans Shelley traveled around the country. For a while she was in New York, where she worked in an office. City life did not work for either her or Gabe so they moved on. For a while they were in Steamboat in Colorado where Gabe got into a monumental dog fight, and then they went back to New Orleans. Gabe was restless living in the city and one day Shelley’s roommate accidentally let the big dog out and he ran away. For days Shelley looked for her beloved pet, roaming the streets and calling his name. People talked about wolf dog sightings and Shelley guessed that they were talking about Gabe, but she just could not find him. In the end Gabe found her, and not long after, when Shelley was nineteen, the two friends headed for Alaska. Perhaps there they would find the life that they were seeking.

This book offers readers a biography of not just a person, and a dog, but it also presents us with a picture of a time. The strongest thread that runs through this story is the remarkable bond that Shelley and Gabe had, a bond that lasted for seventeen years that were filled with adventures of all kinds.