Toby with John Steinbeck

Toby served as a faithful sidekick for dog-lover and author John Steinbeck. While this much beloved setter may not have been a good boy, he spurred his human to complete the short novel Of Mice and Men.

Toby Forces Rewrite

John Steinbeck spent two months writing his first draft of this depression migrant worker tale and “minor tragedy stalked” when his setter tore the first manuscript into confetti.

At least Steinbeck was philosophical about losing this work, soon writing editor Elizabeth Otis about his woes.

“Two months work to do over again. It sets me back. There was no other draft. I was pretty mad but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically. I didn’t want to ruin a good dog for a manuscript I’m not sure is good at all.” – John Steinbeck, A Life In Letters

While an often-quoted, dog ate my homework example, Steinbeck reveled in dog companionship all his days. He responded by promoting Toby to lieutenant-colonel in charge of literature and re-writing the manuscript.

Of Mice and Men

What a story of Great Depression migrant workers! Inspired by time Steinbeck spent working the fields, it’s a sad, truthful tale of people who care for one another — and it’s often on U.S. high schooler reading lists.

In this novel, dogs are depicted as symbols. There’s one old dog killed after outliving its usefulness, along with a pup who’s loved by and accidentally killed by a mentally-challenged man.

You may thank Toby Steinbeck for the book, which also spawned two movies: the first in 1939 and the next in 1992. Please watch the original “Of Mice and Men” movie here.

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