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10 Beloved Dogs in Literature


Everyone loves a dog, right? Okay, most people. I suppose exceptions can be made for those with allergies or intense fears – though I was chomped in the face by a collie as a child, and I rallied to still love Lassie.

Dogs are fun and loyal, and unconditional in their devotion to their human companions. They have long been the subject of many excellent stories, as a result. Flavorwire has a list of beloved dogs in literature. Their list consists of:

Argos from The Odyssey
One of the first dogs ever to be named in Western literature, Argos is the most faithful of them all — having waited for his master to return for twenty years, he is the only one to recognize Odysseus for his true self when he does appear. Then finally, having seen his master safely home, the old dog can die in peace, an enduring symbol of fidelity and love.

Snowy from The Adventures of Tintin
Where would Tintin be without Snowy? Dead several times over, we expect (and vice versa, of course). Snowy is a goldmine of cynical commentary and fond eye-rolling to Tintin’s happy-go-lucky optimism (especially in the earlier books), and though, true, he sometimes gets distracted by bones, he is excellent at chewing through restraints. Just keep him away from Haddock’s whiskey.

Toto from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
How could you not love “a little black dog with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose”? Dorothy’s stolid companion in L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, Toto seems to be just a normal dog at the beginning, just an adorable foil for the heroine to talk to. But in later books, as other animals are revealed to have the ability to speak, Toto finally admits that he can speak too — he just chooses not to. Oh snap, Dorothy.

Buck from The Call of the Wild
Poor Buck. Stolen from a cushy life on a California ranch, he is sold into sled dog slavery in the harsh climes of Canada, where he becomes more beastlike than he had ever imagined possible. But when he meets John Thornton, he is reminded just how powerful love can be, even in the face of tragedy.

Tock from The Phantom Tollbooth
Obviously, we love Norton Juster’s Tock, the ”watchdog” who rescues Milo from the Doldrums and accompanies him on his adventures. After all, we all need somebody to (im)patiently explain things to us like “since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking.” Good advice for any dire scenario.

Lassie from Lassie Come-Home
Though most people probably know Lassie from her on-screen franchise (twelve movies and several seasons of television), she originated in a 1938 Saturday Evening Post story by Eric Knight, later expanded into his 1940 novel Lassie Come-Home, which chronicles the dog’s trek to get back to the boy she loves so dearly. Capturing the hearts of millions, the franchise exploded, spawning many more books, and even a couple of radio programs, in addition to all that screen time.

Old Yeller from Old Yeller
We admit it: the name Old Yeller still kind of gives us pangs of deep upset left over from childhood, when we cried for hours over this book. Old Yeller saves the family so many times! And then they have to shoot him! It’s the ultimate sacrifice for everyone! This book was probably the very first tragedy of our young lives, and so will always have a special place in our hearts.

Ghost from A Song of Ice and Fire
We know, we know: Ghost is technically a direwolf. But hey, direwolves are canines too, and Ghost is doglike enough — loyal to a fault, Jon’s constant companion — that we decided to count him. Plus, he’s one of the best literary canines around: slippery, silent and pure white, he was the only one of his litter to be born with his eyes open, as much of an outcast — and as strong — as his keeper. Plus, there’s that whole warg thing. You know, no big deal.

Fang from Harry PotterWe’ve always had a soft spot for Hagrid’s lumbering boarhound. Sure, he’s a big, slobbering coward — until it comes to Hagrid, and then he’s as gallant as can be, ready to leap in front of any stunning spells that might be sent his way.

and Jip from David Copperfield
Dora Spenlow’s lapdog is spoiled absolutely rotten, to be sure — but then again, he’s only a mirror of Dora herself: pretty, irritable and always the center of attention. Indeed, Jip lasts only as long as Dora does, dying by her side at the exact moment his mistress closes her eyes for the last time.

To those I would be inclined to add:

Bodger from The Incredible Journey
Luath and Tao may be smarter and younger, but of the three pets in Sheila Burnford’s classic, Bodger the bull terrier is the kindest, bravest and most loyal animal you can help for, as well as the oldest of the three. He protects his friends, loves everyone including children, and perfectly embodies that good doggyness that breaks our hearts in our canine friends.

Snoopy from the Peanuts cartoons
Where would Charlie Brown be without his weird and highly sociable beagle, Snoopy? Snoopy may lament the round-headed kid’s uncouthness from time to time, but he loves him unconditionally. He also has an enviably rich inner life, from throwing socialite parties with imaginary celebrities to shooting at the imaginary Red Baron, to arguing with his pal Woodstock.

And while this might be a strange choice, I’d also add Cujo from the Stephen King novel of the same name. Everyone seems to forget that before he became the snarling, foam-dripping menace terrorizing the fine people of Castle Rock, Cujo was a lovely and happy-go-lucky Saint Bernard, romping happily through fields chasing rabbits, until he had the misfortune to be bitten by a rabies-infected bat. Poor Cujo.

For more loyal canine companions in literature, read our feature on The Dog and the Novel.

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Beth Carswell

About Beth Carswell

I've been reading, selling, researching, loving and writing about books with AbeBooks since 2000.

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