Flawed Dogs: The Shocking Raid on Westminster
by Berkeley Breathed is a novel adaptation of a picture book of the same name, which tells the story of main character Sam, an abandoned dachsund with a checkered past who manages to infiltrate the prestigious Westminster dog show and make a happy life for himself with owner Heidy. The book is meant for children and young adults, and toes the line between reality and fantasy – though set in the real world, it features many talking animals and a number of imaginative plot points.
The story begins with a dog show, which main character Sam does not watch but rather curls up and sleeps through, smiling as he falls asleep because he imagines he can hear his owner Heidy's voice. The story then goes back in time three years, to an airport, where Heidy sees Sam out an airplane window. Sam was bred to be a show dog, and he is being unloaded onto the tarmac. A horrible woman named Mrs. Nutbush is supposed to adopt Sam, but Heidy finds him first and sets him free, though she claims she isn't a big fan of dogs. Sam escapes, and manages to sneak into Heidy's bag at the last minute, following her to her uncle's estate.
Heidy has spent the years before the novel living at a nunnery as an orphaned child. She has to adapt herself to life at her rich uncle's estate, and Sam finds himself struggling as well because of alpha-dog Cassius, a poodle with strong opinions who dreams of competing at the Westminster Dog Show. Cassius is threatened by Sam when he wins a local dog show because of a rare tuft of fur he possesses, and so he sets Sam up to make it look like he violently tore the blankets of the baby living on the estate. Sam is forgiven for this misdemeanor, but Cassius then makes it look like Sam had kidnapped the baby and run away with him. Heidy's uncle thinks that Sam is rabid, and he calls the police to have Sam removed from their home.
Sam ends up at a home for unwanted dogs, though he tries over and over again to escape. When he finally manages to set himself free, Cassius sets him up again by placing a beaver trap in the woods around the estate, which Sam trips over, severing his leg. Sam is then taken to a research lab, where he stays for many years. When Sam finally manages to escape, he is hit by a car, but fortunately the kind driver adopts Sam, takes him home, and makes him a false leg out of a ladle. The driver is poor, however, and to settle his debts he enters Sam into a dog show. Because of his injuries, it seems unlikely that Sam would win, but he regains his drive when he sees a poster for the Westminster Dog Show with Cassius on it.
From the dog show, Sam returns to the unwanted dogs home with a new friend, Peaches. All the dogs come up with a plan to break into the Westminster Dog Show, by posing as Mrs. Nutbush. They steal her clothes, and then pose as her to enter the contest. After they've made it through the gates, they set about making the other dogs look ugly through various, comical means. When Cassius discovers that Sam has broken into the show, he starts a fight with him on a catwalk above the stage. Heidy hears the fight and tries to break it up, by Cassius becomes violent and turns to attack her. To save Heidy, Sam and the other dogs set out a bucket of muddy water, which the two dogs then fall into and onto the stage. Despite the long fall, Sam is not injured because he is saved by his best friend and guardian angel, Peaches.
The books ends where it began, with life back on the estate with Heidy. Heidy and her Uncle Hamish have adopted all of the unwanted dogs from the home, and they play together in harmony.
Berkeley Breathed is a children's author and illustrator, cartoonist, and screenwriter. He is most famous for his work drawing Bloom Country,
a comic strip from the 1980s. He has written about a dozen children's books, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1987 and the Golden Duck Award for Excellence in Children's Science Fiction in 2008 for his book Mars Needs Moms!
. The picture book version of this story is more positively reviewed because it features Breathed's whimsical drawings and has a less violent plot.