I usually avoid reading books about dogs. It’s not that I don’t like dogs — I love them. I could look at a blog full of cute puppy pictures while petting 15 puppies and be in complete bliss. The problem isn’t dogs themselves, it’s media revolving around dogs.
See, for some reason, the minute an author decides to write about a dog, he or she gets possessed by an evil thought. And that thought is: “I’m going to make the dog die at the end.”
Be honest with yourself: when is the last time you watched an animal-centric movie, or read a book about a dog, and there wasn’t a tragically emotional scene where the dog either died or got hurt? Pets are so precious and innocent that I can’t help tearing up (and by tearing up I mean ugly crying) even when fictional dogs reach the end of their way too short lifespans.
Of course, plenty of literary dogs still touch our hearts, even when things go wrong. And maybe experiencing that love and pain builds character. Still, not all dogs in books are created equal. There are some that I wish would jump off the page and into my home and heart, and there are others that are the reason why I’ll stick to petting puppies for real instead of allowing fictional ones to scratch out my heart with their adorably described paws. Here's the list, ranked from worst to best.
12. Cujo From Cujo by Stephen King
Cujo starts out as a good-natured dog, but then he gets rabies and turns into a murderous monster. He deserved better, as all dogs do, but I also wouldn't really want to take him for a stroll around the neighborhood.
11. The Hound From The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
The hound wasn't really evil; he just had an evil owner. Still, he had a vicious streak — maybe all this dog needed was a welcoming home?
10. Old Yeller From Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
What an emotional roller coaster it would be to own this dog. First of all, he ran away from his owners. Then he finds his way into the Coates family. He's an extremely loyal dog and saves everyone, until in a moment of protection he's bit by a sick wolf and has to be killed. Um, why is this a children's story? Props to Old Yeller for being so loyal and amazing, but I couldn't handle the devastation.
9. Old Dan and Little Ann From Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Once again, these two dogs are extremely loyal and talented: Billy Colman desperately wants coonhounds and works hard to get money to buy them. They bond, and Billy teaches them to hunt. Everything goes downhill from there, as anyone who was scarred by reading this book as a child will know. As much as I loved Old Dan and Little Ann, I couldn't deal with the heartbreak from owning them. Don't pretend this story didn't scar you emotionally as a child.
8. Wellington From The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Poor Wellington dies at the very beginning of this book, so we'll never know what kind of pet he would have been. Probably sweet?
7. Marley From Marley & Me by John Grogan
On one hand, this dog isn't super well behaved. In fact, he's a little out of control. On the other hand, he has a heart of gold — he just needed owners who wouldn't give up on him. Marley will change your life for the better, and teach you all sorts of life lessons that only a dog could teach, but you'll still end up in tears by the end if you own a pet like him.
6. Nana From Peter And Wendy by J.M. Barrie
This dog also has a job as a governess, which is pretty awesome. She takes care of kids like a champ, and she doesn't die during the course of the book, which is a major plus. I would love to own a dog like sweet Nana, except when she reprimanded me for staying up too late.
5. Buck From Call Of The Wild by Jack London
Buck is the ultimate loyal dog. He's scrappy and he's not afraid of a fight, and he loves his owner to the very end — and then some. He also displays some pretty lofty morals, and almost always takes the high road. My only issue with Buck is that he's excessively mature. He lived a hard life, so he might not be into dressing up in dog sweaters and fetching stuffed animals (this is my actual dog's main pastime).
4. Shiloh From Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Marty Preston finds Shiloh, a beagle, and tries to rescue him from abusive owner Judd Travers. His quest to adopt the dog is the subject of this children's story, which warms my heart the way a story about a dog SHOULD. Despite the ups and downs and questioning whether Marty will get to adopt Shiloh or not, who wouldn't go through it for a dog like this?
3. Ginger Pye From Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
Ginger is a sweet member of the Pye family, and though he disappears for a hot second (why do the dogs always have to do this to us?), everything ends up happy. Ginger is the ideal pet.
2. Fang From the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Hagrid's loyal hound Fang may look tough, but he actually has a heart of gold. Unfortunately, this means he's also a bit of a scaredy cat in a crisis (see what I did there? Dogs... cats...), but goodness knows he's loyal. Though Fang couldn't really belong to anyone besides Hagrid, I would be honored to own a pet like him. The only downside would be the excessive slobber.
1. Winn-Dixie From Because Of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Here's an example of how a little love can make all the difference in the life of a dog (and its owner): Opal adopts Winn-Dixie, and though Winn-Dixie also disappears for a bit (seriously, dogs, stay by my side ALWAYS), it's ultimately a happy ending for this awesome dog.
Images: 20th Century Fox (3), Intercontinental Releasing Corp (1), Walt Disney (1), Doty-Dayton Releasing (1), Buena Vista Pictures (1), Warner Bros (1)