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Off the shelf @ your local library - Literary dogs


By Kathy Pillatzki
Assistant Director
Henry County Library System

  It’s the holiday season, and I must have been really good this year, because Santa came early and brought me a beautiful white puppy with one black ear and a black patch on his right eye. This, of course, created a mild dilemma: what to name him? We have considered – and rejected – at least a hundred suggestions in just a few days. Clearly, dog-naming is serious business at my house.

  Given my profession, a good, solid literary name seems appropriate, so I’ve been canvassing friends and colleagues for their most memorable literary dogs. Among the most frequently cited:

  Old Dan and Little Ann from Where the Red Fern Grows. This coming-of-age story of a boy and his devoted hunting dogs is a terrific read-aloud for elementary-age kids, and just a good read for any age.

  White Fang and Buck (Call of the Wild). Jack London’s tales of adventure and survival in the brutal conditions of the Yukon Territory are told from the point of view of the dogs. White Fang journeys from wild wolf-hybrid to domesticated pet, while Buck goes from pampered pet to relying on his instincts to survive in the wild.

  Toto from The Wizard of Oz. If your only experience with this tale is the movie version, I highly recommend the original series. Between 1900 and 1920, L. Frank Baum wrote a total of 14 Oz books. In the movie, the Cairn Terrier was mainly a prop that occasionally propelled the action along, but his character is far more developed in the books, aided by the ability to talk.

  Fang and Fluffy from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Hagrid’s devoted but cowardly dog Fang is described as a Boarhound in the books, but was played by a Neapolitan Mastiff in the movies. Fluffy is the giant, three-headed dog that guards the sorcerer’s stone in book one, inspired by the three-headed guard dog Cerberus from Greek and Roman mythology.

  Jip deserves a double mention, as one of Dr. Dolittle’s companions in the book by Hugh Lofting, and as Dora’s pet in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. Dickens’ Jip was a spoiled, nasty little character, but he proved his devotion to his mistress in the end. I won’t say how in case you haven’t read it, but it makes the book worth reading.

  More recently, one of my favorite canine characters is Stella, the sheepdog in Kensuke’s Kingdom. Michael Morpurgo (author of War Horse) created a riveting survival story of castaways, desert islands and pirates reminiscent of the great works by Robert Louis Stevenson, but set in modern times.

  A few that almost go without saying are Lassie from the series by Eric Knight, Lad from Lad, A Dog by Albert Terhune, and Tock the “watchdog” from Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. Others mentioned Luath and Bodger from Sheila Burnford’s The Incredible Journey, and Shiloh from the trilogy by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. No mention of literary dogs would be complete without Old Yeller, the heroic mongrel from the book of the same name by Fred Gipson.

  The jury is still out on a name for my new pal, but if there’s a dog-lover on your gift list this season, consider a book with a canine star, or check out one from the library for yourself!



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