Monday, November 28, 2016

Some Favorite Dogs in Books

Watching the National Dog Show on Sunday brought to mind the huge role dogs have had in literature.
From the earliest Greek tales down to the present, dogs have accompanied some of the most beloved and hated fictional characters, earning a big place in our memory. We all have our favorites. Here are a few of mine (in no particular order):
White Fang, a mixed wolf/dog in Jack London's stellar adventure novel. After a brutal early life, White Fang bonds with Weedon Scott in a manner sure to tug at the heartstrings of the most hardened of readers.
Lassie, a Rough Collie, is memorable from a book, films and TV serials. The creation of Eric Knight, Lassie is an over-the-top sentimental story of a dog bonding with humans.
Fred Gipson's story, Old Yeller, a Labrador Retriever/Mastiff mix, is a tragic character. If you haven't read the book, I'm sure you've seen or heard about the film. After heroically saving the lives of his owners, Yeller tangles with a rabid wolf and has to be put down.
Snowy (Milou), a Wire Fox Terrier, is the companion/rescuer of TinTin, the rather naive boy adventurer created by Herge. Unlike most dogs, Snowy is capable of speech (only with TinTin and other animals). I loved these comics as a boy.
Big Red, an Irish Setter, in Jim Kjelgaard's most famous novel, is owned by a man who wants to make him a show dog. Red gives his affection to a boy who happily accepts him, simply, as a dog.
Bull's Eye, breed not specified, Bill Sikes' dog, in Charles Dicken's Oliver Twist, is not a nice dog. Though considering his owner it's easy to see why. Bull's Eye has "faults of temper in common with his owner," but you can't deny his loyalty to his master.
Gnasher and Wolf, possibly Mastiffs, though breed is not specified, are among a number of memorable dogs in Emily Bronte's wonderful Wuthering Heights. Like Bull's Eye, they are not noted for their affectionate nature. Described as "hairy monsters," Lockwood first encounters them on a visit to his landlord, Heathcliff.
Then we have Lad, another Collie, almost as famous as Lassie, who began as a short story character created by Albert Payson Terhune, a dog lover if there ever was one. Terhune, a sportsman/adventurer who also bred Collies at his Sunnybank Kennels, penned more than 30 dog-focused novels. Harlan Ellison paid tribute to Terhune in his novella A Boy and a Dog.
Though not a fictional character or my favorite breed, there's Charley, a Poodle, who accompanied John Steinbeck on his 1960 road trip across the United States. Charley actually belonged to Steinbeck's wife, Elaine, but makes a good sounding board for the writer. The title was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels With a Donkey, an equally fascinating travel journal.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Ketch, a German Shepherd, in my tale, The Limping Dog, and Change, Officer Flora Vastine's faithful Border Collie.
So, who are some of your favorite dogs in books?