Dog Tales by Fred Cartan
Dog with Puppies Boris and the Duck

Ivan and the Taxes

Magda and the Magic Dress

Miska and the Dragon

The Hero and the Herder

Yuri and the Whale

The Affair of the Ghastly Horror

Fancy's Story

Fred Cartan was a voracious reader all his life, but never attempted to write any stories of his own until his final decade. When he did finally take up the pen, the project he attempted was one no one could have predicted: a gothic novel in which all the characters were dogs.

He labored on this project for years, producing a twelve-chapter draft full of whimsical characters with names like Brownfoot, Goodbone, Sharpmuzzle, and Frowly Snarf. At the time of his death, his novel, "Fancy's Story", was far from complete. But he did manage to finish a number of short stories.

One of the minor characters in his novel is a young Russian wolfhound named Natasha who has married into the family and serves as a governess to the children. When he became stuck on his novel, my father began writing the kind of Russian folk tales (populated by dogs of course) that he imagined Natasha might tell her charges as she tucked them into bed. "She misses her home and family and is sometimes lonely. She likes young pups and so she gathers them in groups to tell them these stories. She and the pups both enjoy them."

These stories had morals and he set out to write one for each of the seven deadly sins: anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, pride, sloth and lust. He finished the first six, but was completely stumped by lust. He wanted it to be "a cautionary story about the danger of unreasoning desire" but found it hard to even discuss the subject without blushing and finally gave up.

He was also a Sherlock Holmes fan and at one point was inspired to write a detective story. Inevitably, the characters were dogs:

"The listener will be surprised to learn that all characters, or, well, most of them are dogs. This is an eccentricity of the author, likely due to insufficient cerebral blood circulation or some such cause. However, we're stuck with them. We hope the listener understands."

Preserved here are the tales my father left behind: the six folk tales, the detective story, and the draft of his novel. He was often asked "why dogs?" I don't recall hearing any clear explanation from him, but my own hunch is that after nearly seventy years of reading and observing the human condition he concluded that, on balance, he simply liked dogs better than he liked people.