Scuppers the Sailor Dog – A Golden Book Guide for How to Live a Happy Life

The other night I was reading a bedtime story to The Littlest Princess and she asked, “Dad, what’s your favourite bedtime story?”  I gave it some thought and the next night I read it to her; The Sailor Dog. 

It’s a 1950’s Golden Book classic, and it was awarded to me as a prize in school in 1972.   My bright, 6 year old eyes gazed at the cover which showed Scuppers leaning over the bow of his small boat staring into his telescope, and returning to my desk I read the words on the first page, “Born at sea in the teeth of a gale…” at that moment I was hooked. 

That little book had everything you needed to know to live a good life.  For example, Life Goals:  Scuppers did not want to be a farmer he was a sailor.  He did not want to travel by train, car, plane or submarine, he was a sailor dog so he needed a boat. 

Persistence:  He continued searching until he found a boat which was ‘just right’.  The sails are patched, the ropes knotted, and the paintwork a little faded, but you can tell by the way he’s lovingly cleaned every inch of it, that he has learned the very important lesson of ‘Do the best you can at all times with what is available to you’. 

After a day of happy sailing he goes to sleep that night content that everything is stored in its’ proper place.  Scuppers is not only neat and tidy, but careful to look after his equipment.  He does not have any excessive gear on board either, and is obviously not a fan of clutter. 

Unfortunately for our hero he wakes up on a foreign beach, alone, and discovers he has been shipwrecked.  No long angry rants at Fate for our Scuppers.  Neither does he panic.  Instead, he weighs up his options, then sets about salvaging what he can, builds himself a small hut, finds some food, and settles in for the night on a bed made of pine leaves.  He is not only a master of versatility, adapting, and overcoming, but has obviously studied Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  He has also learned, like the Apostle Paul, to be content in any and all circumstances.   

That night he dreams, and in his dreams he see’s that if he can build a hut, then he can repair his boat.    Scuppers does not procrastinate.  He is a ‘Doer’.  It’s one thing to dream and plan, but dreams only come to fruition with Action.  And the next day that’s exactly what he does, and before too long he is back on the ocean waves.

He sails onward until he finds a safe haven in a foreign port, and here he teaches us about  knowing your limitations.  His old boat is entrusted to trained craftsmen, who remove his emergency patch and repaired the hole properly.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Onshore he is shown waving to a burka clad woman, Scuppers is tolerant, polite and friendly to everyone he meets.  A good policy indeed.    

Once his boat is ready, he kits himself out in some new clothes, and buys some fruit and other provisions for his journey.  Here he teaches us not only the importance of good grooming and diet, but prioritising and budgeting.  His boat is repaired first, then he buys his provisions. 

Soon he is back at sea, ready for more adventures, and prepared to face any other challenges that await him.  He has persisted, overcome, and continuing on.    Now this is quite important.  Note that he has not turned back home, he has pushed on.  Scuppers has not rushed back to his safe harbour, sold his boat and spent the rest of his life avoiding the beach and telling anyone who will listen his tale of woe.  Instead he has learned that bad things happen, and that this is a normal part of the whole life experience.  He teaches us the importance of learning from these events, and pushing on.  The last picture is of him leaning over his bow, and peering ahead.  He does not dwell on the past, keeps his eye fixed on the future, and revels in the here and now joy of doing what he loves most.  Sailing.  Scuppers, is a a Sailor Dog.              

I finished reading the story to my daughter and even sang her the little song that Scuppers had written about himself (in which he teaches us the value of being creative as well!), and I tell her that this is my all time favourite bedtime story. 

She has reserved her opinion for the time being.

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13 Comments

Filed under Life & Thoughts

13 responses to “Scuppers the Sailor Dog – A Golden Book Guide for How to Live a Happy Life

  1. You must be a great parent, keep it up!

  2. Aimee

    This is MY favorite book, too! Never realized there was so much to analyze, but…you’re right. Your daughter will come around to loving the book, just give her time.

    • gladbloke

      Hiya Aimee,

      Yep, it’s funny how many life lessons those little treasures have to teach us. I’ve learned that if a story really appeals to me then it is because it is aligned with my values… hopefully, it will ‘call’ to my childrens’ values as well 🙂

      Cheers,

      Gb

  3. Judy

    This is my favorite book from childhood, too. It was ripped up and thrown out by my younger siblings. I found a set of little golden books that had the Sailor Dog in it. It is new but one of my treasures. I still love to read it and look at the pictures. I too sing the song and have always remembered it. My grandkids are coming this weekend and I will read it to them. Thanks.

  4. gladbloke

    Hiya Judy,

    That’s the trouble with siblings… no respect! Like you I found it in the large collection of Golden Book Classics, and it was the original version, with all the pictures, and the song. I don’t sing the song anymore… aloud that is 🙂 But I think I might start, so I’m ready if, and when, I become a Grandfather.

    Cheers,

    Gb

  5. Fay

    It’s taken me decades to realise what an influence this fabulous little book has had on my life – thanks for spelling it all out – I was just thinking about it the other day as I carefully figured out where my (much reduced) possessions are going to fit in my little studio when Scuppers came to mind. Thank you.

  6. I have a copy of THE SAILOR DOG (A Little Golden Book), 1953 edition, published by Simon and Schuster that contains 28 pages. In comparing it to a more recent 1992 edition (50th Anniversary, Western Publishing Company) that has only 24 pages, it is evident where the missing pages go. In my opinion, the 24-page editions have destroyed the integrity of the story, probably in the name of “economy.” Bah! And the even-newer covers are different (too cartoonish). Enough said.

  7. It’s wonderful to see so many people loving Scuppers the way I do! I have the 1953 copy I had as a child, with ALL the pictures – the ones deleted later were my favorites. I now buy as many original versions as I can to pass on to my children/grandchildren. At a recent charity “garage” sale, I spotted Scuppers peeking out from other books. It is a larger book, published as Golden Books – not LITTLE Golden Books. It has string binding, instead of the “regular” binding. It is a 1953 version, but also says the copyright was renewed in 1981. I’m a bit confused by that. First of all, it is not a LITTLE Golden Book. The binding and size are different. And it contains ALL the pages. The only thing that “matters” to me is that all the pages are there; other details are merely puzzling. I thought I’d read that Golden Books came before LITTLE Golden Books…so how could it be reprinted in 1981 as a Golden Book? I’m probably wording this poorly, but I hope you get the gist. I, too, was amazed at the nuances you picked up on in the story! Thanks for sharing!

    • Greg Bray

      Hi Rob, the missing 28 pages eh? I’m thinking a Youtube clip may be the order of the day here?!

      Janice, the horror of copyright law is a major mystery to me… the only thing I know is that the Author gets reamed while the publishers make out like bandits. I’d say the name chance to ‘Little’ meant that royalties no longer had to be paid.

      But whether you’re a sailor or an author, you’ve got to keep doing what you love. Otherwise you are living a lie.

      Cheers,

      Gb

      • Hi~! And thanks for your comments. The mystery deepens! I had bought a 1983 version that had all the photos/pages, so I thought I would be safe in buying another 1983 version. Not so. The second 1983 version was missing the (for me) key pages. Sigh. Acccckkkk. Better check more thoroughly before I buy! (NOTE: I think it’s 1983; I’m nice and comfy in my recliner and too lazy to check the book!)

  8. Correction: I see the date in my earlier post: 1981.

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