McNally Berry's Biography
'Out of a Dog’s Mouth' is a novel, a new book about a dog’s life, by author McNally Berry (a pseudonym, for professional reasons). The dogs, mostly mutts, divulge the secrets of a New York family over four generations from the Depression to the present day. They’re not only loyal; they’re accurate reporters to boot.
Here is the background of the 12 dogs that serve as narrators. Some are pure fiction. Others hit very close to home. Forgive me if I tear up while typing…
1. Lazarus is a mongrel born in 1930s Brooklyn. He is the first and largest dog in the book, a cross between a Saint Bernard and something smaller. The dog gets the name Lazarus because—like the biblical character—he is seemingly sent to his death, only to return.
2. St. Ray is a farm dog that doesn’t like farm life. He runs away and meets transients at a railroad yard and rides in a boxcar from Pennsylvania to New York. Alone on a freight train to Long Island, he joins the Person family during the home front years of the 1940s. Poppa Person initially calls him stray, but his daughter puts a period in the middle to become St. Ray.
3. Turk comes along during the 1950s. The dog arrives from New England and earns the name Turk when she devours the Thanksgiving bird.
4. Maggie is a city dog whose running away leads to Jimmy and Patsy meeting in Central Park. They get married and move to the suburbs, and Jimmy wisely never tells Patsy that Maggie was originally named Chick Magnet.
5. Choo Choo is the family’s first purebred. The Toy Fox Terrier is named after an indifferent 1962 Mets catcher, Clarence “Choo Choo” Coleman. This pooch is based on my first dog, Josephine. I recreate Jo Jo getting run over by a car—changing the timing of the accident to minutes after the Mets win the 1969 World Series. Hey, I once helped produce the Baseball Encyclopedia and I use that book to pick almost all the character names in Out of a Dog’s Mouth.
6. Huck is the only offspring of one of the dogs in the book. Son of Choo Choo, he is unwanted by his mother and he does a lot of traveling after being taken in by an uncle who’s a well-meaning but damaged veteran of the Battle of Iwo Jima.
7. Klink is the book version of Topper, the dog I had from my earliest memories until I was a senior in high school. I had a lot of great friends growing up, but Topper truly was my best friend.
8. Kooz is named for Mets pitcher Jerry Koosman. Abandoned by his owner, Kooz joins the Person clan. Kooz and Klink fight constantly, so Robert, nearing seventy, takes Kooz. It is a fatal decision.
9. Bryant is a show dog. This Papillion hates her keepers and the life they have chosen for her.
As a kid, we found a little dog loose on a road near Bryant Avenue in White Plains, NY. The owner
showed up just when we were getting used to having her.
10. Santa/Satan is a Siberian husky brought from the desert to New York. She goes through a couple
of owners before ending up at the pound where mother and son see her when they are supposed to be
shopping for a Christmas tree. Instead, they come home with a dog, which promptly laps up the dad’s
Scotch. This actually happened—except it was Easter instead of Christmas—and instead of Satan, we
called her Dick, but changed to a more “friendly” name. She started as a pest but died a hero.
11. Bombay breaks the mold. John purchases this mutt at a pet shop in his last semester of college. He
names the dog Bombay after the gin. I did have a dog in Virginia named after a brand of gin: Gilbey.
She helped me meet my wife, was with me when I proposed, walked down the aisle as our flower dog,
and was my daughter’s first pet. She died of cancer in 2001, but like the song “Mr. Bojangles”—
“The dog up and died, up and died.
“After 20 years he still grieves.”
12. Dooze is a yellow lab, which I’ve never had, but Dooze—named after a bulldozer—is an amalgam of various dogs I’ve had and ones I’ve imagined. He’s used liberally to tie up the loose ends in the novel. In the other chapters, we follow the dogs until they pass on; this time we have to let a Person go and the dog journeys on.