Elsa lives with her dad on the top floor of a high-rise block of flats. She likes watching the people in the park far below her window walking their dogs. She decides if she had her own dog she would call it Rod. It becomes clear at this point in the book that Rod is a fantasy creature unlike the normal pet! She describes all the fun things she would do with Rod – they would play the piano, paint, ride bikes and make scrapbooks together. Rod could even flush the toilet, eat up his broccoli and clean his teeth! Elsa’s dad tries to discourage her from wanting a dog. He explains the downsides of pet ownership: the mess, the barking and the vet’s bills. But he finally relents and tells her she can have a dog providing she looks after a friend’s dog (Barker) for a week. Elsa then discovers that real dogs aren’t much like Rod. Barker woofs while she is trying to read, puts pawprints all over her painting, eats stinky dog food and needs lots of walking. Elsa is glad when Barker goes home, and after a discussion with Rod decides she might like to get a pet mouse instead.