During this time of year, it’s so hot where I live that if I’m not working in my home office, chances are good that I’m tucked into a nook somewhere with a fan blowing in my face and a book glued to my hands. My summer reading list has revealed some memorable protagonists, and not all of them are of the two-legged variety. In fact, some of my favorite characters, not surprisingly, happen to be four-legged.
That’s right, in some books dogs play an essential role in the plot progression. Sometimes the entire story centers on the canine, while in other stories he is merely doing what he does best, being a faithful companion and loyal sidekick to his human. Here are a few of my favorite dogs found in literature.
With a list like this, you almost have to start with Buck from Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. This canine was a principal character in this classic 1903 book. Buck was living a leisurely life as a domesticated dog during the Klondike Gold Rush period when, being a St. Bernard-Scotch Collie mix, he was stolen and forced to work as a sled dog. This heroic one-time-pet begins to transform into a more primal, animalistic creature in order to survive at the hands of cruel humans and conditions.
Finally, Buck is rescued by John Thornton and the two forge an incredibly close relationship. Buck gets the chance to repay the debt by rescuing Thornton from a frozen river. But in the end, Buck’s beloved human is killed and he returns to his primal nature by answering the call of the wild. I fell in love with Buck the first time I read his name, and have loved him ever since. As you can probably tell, this book had a profound effect on me as a child.
Dr. Patrica McConnell and Dr. Stanley Coren are distinguished dog experts and award winning writers who share their lifelong love of and knowledge about canines in their many published works. I first ran across Dr. McConnell in the late 1990s while channel surfing; a program on Animal Planet called “PetLine” grabbed my attention. McConnell was co-hosting the show, which dealt with animal behavior. Some of you may be familiar with her from a radio show she co-hosted for fourteen years called “Calling All Pets.” Dr. Coren is someone I came across online several years ago while researching aggressive dog behavior.
Dr. Patricia McConnell is an expert on human/animal relationships. She earned a PhD in zoology in 1988 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has been teaching a popular course since 1991 called “The Biology and Philosophy of Human/Animal Relationships” at her alma mater as an adjunct professor. McConnell is a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB). She gives lectures and conducts seminars throughout the world, has been a dog trainer since 1988 working with canines that have serious behavioral issues, is an expert on canine and feline behavior, and author of fourteen books about animal behavior (ethology).
Her first published book in 2002, “The Other End of the Leash,” is read worldwide and published in 14 different languages. She also finds time to appear regularly on several radio shows and an occasional TV appearance. She writes articles for major magazines and participates in fundraisers to benefit animal shelters – most recently in the Midwest and Texas.
There are many children’s books that include or feature dogs as key elements of the stories. These five endearing books are successful stories for children that also appeal to adults.
The Poky Little Puppy
A Little Golden Book classic, The Poky Little Puppy written by Janette Sebring Lowrey and illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, was originally published in 1942. The endearing story is about five puppies who sneak under the garden fence and go exploring. One curious little pup has a mind of his own. He pokes along exploring at his own pace discovering all kinds of interesting things out in the world beyond the fence.
Written for young children, the simple classic tale has sold almost 15 million copies, which makes it one of the most popular children’s stories ever published.
Golden books began their series of stories back in the 1940s with 12 books, one of which was The Poky Little Puppy.
Written by Eric Hill, Where’s Spot is another dog book written for very young children. The text is good for beginning readers and easy for little ones to respond to when someone is reading to them. The interactive pictures with opening doors and entrances to hiding places encourage children to get involved in the fun story about searching for little Spot who is hiding. It is a book young children enjoy looking at by themselves as well.
When you think about the term “working dog,” this usually brings to mind one or more of the various jobs that dogs do, such as herding, search & rescue, police work, assisting the disabled, sniffing out explosives, or offering a therapeutic paw to hospital patients and others who need one. Those are just some of the ways dogs help humans. Bella the Boxer is a different breed of working dog, but her help is just as invaluable!
Bella is a self-described “dogpreneur,” and she’s written a very insightful book called Secrets of a Working Dog: Unleash Your Potential and Create Success. I’ve just finished reading it, and I highly recommend it. This great book is for anyone who wants to be successful in business as well as in life – and doesn’t that pretty much describe all of us?
It’s a fun read for dog lovers too, because Bella presents ideas that show how we can incorporate desirable traits canines have to make our own lives better. Such as, “Dogs follow their own instincts. We don’t worry about being judged or criticized by others…be your own dog and don’t let what other people think keep you from taking risks and pursuing your dreams.”
I hesitate to call Secrets of a Working Dog a self-help book, because that genre tends to have negative connotations. It was very helpful, though. It’s filled with pearls of doggie wisdom, bite-sized juicy tidbits and chunks of food-for-thought on how to create success and live a meaningful life – no matter who you are, where you’re at now on your life journey, or where you want to be in the future!
Those of us who love animals and dogs in particular often enjoy reading about them as well. When you think of great books about dogs you may picture children’s books such as Clifford the Big Red Dog or The Incredible Journey, but there are many books about dogs that are wonderful reads for adults.
Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog/101Stories about Life, Love and Lessons is an amazingly heartwarming book with essays that will make you laugh and cry, and make you realize just how many things we can learn from our canine family members.
Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog is a heartwarming story about the author and his dog Merle, and how they came together despite Merle’s freethinking ways. This book is a great look into the relationships between humans and dogs.
The Art of Racing in the Rain explores all the things that humans do from a dog’s point of view. It’s much more than a story about a dog though. The Art of Racing in the Rain tells of a race car driver and his dog, but goes on to detail the family that follows and the companionship that a dog named Enzo offers to them all.
Our pets inspire and enlighten us in so many ways. They teach us important life lessons, and their very presence can help us overcome our struggles and bring about positive changes. Thus it should come as no surprise that countless pet owners with a story to tell have written books about their four legged friends. Moreover, the public is lapping up these heartfelt tales, and pet memoirs are dominating the publishing world like never before.
“The entire book industry has gone to the dogs,” said Diane Herbst in Newsweek. Books supposedly penned by the pets themselves are also barking and meowing their way onto bestseller lists in unprecedented numbers! These first person pet memoirs have effectively created brand new genres – they’re called “dogoirs” and “catoirs.”
How did the pet memoir trend start?
In the past, “dog books didn’t get on national bestseller lists,” said Publishers Weekly senior editor Dick Donahue. “That’s something we can credit Marley with.” He’s referring of course to the dogoir Marley & Me, John Grogan’s account of his family’s relationship with a mischievous yellow lab.
First published in 2005, the book went on to sell more than 6 million copies and was made into a movie starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. After the popularity of Marley, “People came out of the woodwork with their own dog stories,” said Susan Canavan, executive editor of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
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