In about 1983 my husband and I saw a nineteenth-century cartoon by the great German illustrator Lothar Meggendorfer in a Zurich bookshop window. It showed a dog being left to guard a baby, who falls out of its cradle. The dog calls vainly for help, but does managed to help the baby to get back into its cradle before the adult returns. This struck us as an idea with potential, and from that seed grew "Good Dog, Carl."
We liked, and thought children would like, the idea of getting away with activities of which parents had no knowledge and of which they probably wouldn’t approve. We also liked portraying the natural comradeship between children and animals, humorously celebrating dogs’ intelligence.
Of the two dogs we had at the time, our Rottweiler, Tobler, seemed perfect for the hero of the story, He was loving and gentle, and big enough for the baby to ride on his back. Because of his breed and strength, he also symbolized admirably the touching trustworthiness that we humans have come to expect of our good dogs.
Toby, as he was usually called, was the first of our “Carls.” He was the runt of his litter, but he won our hearts and grew to fulfill our intuition about his sweet nature. He was the model for the first four Carl books, and when he died we missed him so much that we rushed to get another Rottweiler to carry on the tradition. We chose a puppy of exceptional beauty and named him Arambarri. Arambarri was a fine model, starting with the puppy in "Carl’s Afternoon in the Park", and posed patiently with children for "Carl’s Masquerade" and "Carl Goes to Daycare". He, like his successors, was named after a jai alai player -this Basque ball game being a favorite sport of our family.
When Arambarri died at the young age of four, we found, through friends who were knowledgeable about the breed, a wonderful puppy whom we named Zabala. He was endowed with intelligence and good nature. He was handsome and graceful. He loved people, especially children, and his patience when surrounded by a crowd, which he was at his book signings, was wonderful. He was a perfect Carl.
We grieved for Zabala’s too early death at eight and couldn’t see how we could find another dog so Carl-like. Luckily, however, his breeder was able to raise another litter by Zabala’s father, from which came our next marvelous Carl, Zubiaga. He, like his brother, excelled in the things Carl must do- understand instructions (Zubiaga could even do math problems, which amused and astounded his audiences), pose patiently, maintain a joyous spirit and be friendly to everyone he met. After losing Zubiaga, we now have the 5th Carl, named Zulaica. He can do math as well.