Five Things We Didn’t Know About Toto from Toto’s Tale by K.D. Hays and Meg Weidman
Everybody knows Toto from the Wizard of Oz, right? We thought we knew him pretty well, too, until we started writing his version of the famous story. Here are just a few examples of the things we didn’t know:
1) Just how many hours in the day Toto spends thinking about pork chops. We have two dogs and they definitely show more interest in the kitchen when there is cooking going on, but until we started putting ourselves in the mind of a dog, we had no idea just how much focus there is on food. Everything is a reminder of food – sounds, smells, shapes, even language. When the cowardly lion says he needs courage, Toto thinks he’s going to the wizard to ask for “porridge.”
2) That he could get tired of trees. Toto has spent all of his life on the Kansas prairie where trees are a rare treat. There aren’t many sticks for chewing or tree trunks for marking. So when he arrives in Oz and finds lots of trees, at first he thinks he’s in heaven. He wants to mark every tree and the only thing that holds him back is the fear of getting left behind. But after a while of traveling down the brick road through dangerous forest, he starts to get tired of seeing so many trees. And then he even starts to hate trees and wishes he could go back to Kansas. It just proves the old adage, be careful what you wish for…
3) Why he hates baths so much. We know our dogs hate baths. Our older dog in particular. If she even suspects that a bath might be on the agenda, she runs and hides. And when we were writing this story, Toto constantly reminded us how much he hates the idea of a bath. At the very end of the story, he revealed that he’s really afraid, not only of drowning but also that the awful sensation of being wet will never go away. Since he hates being washed, he assumes the others do, too. So when they’re on a raft surrounded by an evil bath on all sides, he needs to bark constantly to keep the water from washing them against their will. Of course, Dorothy and the others don’t understand. And this leads to the fourth thing we didn’t know…
4) That he can understand humans better than they can understand him. Experts now say that the average dog understands human language about as well as the average human two-year-old. And how much dog language do I understand? About as much as the average human two-day-old. When my dogs are barking, I can’t tell if they’re trying to scare the UPS guy on the front porch or warning a passing dog that she’s too close to their turf. They howl when a fire truck goes by but I don’t know if that’s because the noise hurts their ears or because they like the music and want to join in. So as we were learning to appreciate Toto’s view of the events in Oz, we realized just how frustrated he was that Dorothy and the others so often misinterpreted what he was trying to tell them. And kids who read the story should understand that sensation, since their parents and other adults so often don’t seem to understand them, either.
5) That he’s sensitive about his size. If you’re shorter than 90% of the creatures in your life, you develop a certain sensitivity about your size. When chickens call him a “little rodent,” he pretends it doesn’t bother him, but really it does. And that fact that he can’t ever reach the table (where the pork chops are) is a constant source of aggravation. He has to resort of devious means to get to food. (See what we mean about the pork chop fixation? He’s even got us thinking about it now!)
About K.D. Hays and Meg Weidman
K.D. Hays and Meg Weidman are a mother-daughter team who aspire to be professional roller coaster riders and who can tell you exactly what not to put in your pockets when you ride El Toro at Six Flags. Meg is studying art in a middle school magnet program. For fun, she jumps on a precision jump rope team and reads anything not associated with school work.
K.D. Hays, who writes historical fiction under the name Kate Dolan, has been writing professionally since 1992. She holds a law degree from the University of Richmond and consequently hopes that her children will pursue studies in more prestigious fields such as plumbing or waste management. They live in a suburb of Baltimore where the weather is ideally suited for the four major seasons: riding roller coasters in the spring and fall, waterslides in the summer and snow tubes in the winter. Although Meg resents the fact that her mother has dragged her to every historical site within a 200-mile radius, she will consent to dress in colonial garb and participate in living history demonstrations if she is allowed to be a laundry thief.
Their latest collaboration is a wonderful book titled Toto’s Tale.
You can visit their website at www.totostale.com.