Canis lupus familiaris (part one)

The Odyssey (Fagles translation) by Homer: Book Cover

  • After struggling for 20 years to get home to Ithaca, Odysseus finally arrives on his homeland. Among other disturbing sights, he finds his faithful dog Argos lying neglected on a pile of cow manure, infested with lice, old, and very tired. This scene in Homer’s Odyssey may not be the first canine character in literature, but it is close to the most enduring.  Since then, there have been hundreds of dogs featured in books, fiction and nonfiction. Here are a few of them.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle: Book Cover

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles may be as well-known as Homer’s Argos is ancient. “Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish be conceived than that dark form and savage face.” The coroner may have ruled death by natural causes. but Sherlock Holmes knows there’s something more sinister behind Sir Charles Baskerville’s demise. The question is, could he really have fallen victim to the legendary phantom hound, the curse said to have haunted his ancestors for generations? Or is this the work of a very real and calculating murderer?

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck: Book Cover

  • With his dog Charley, John Steinbeck set out in his truck to explore and experience America in the 1960s. As he talked with all kinds of people, he sadly noted the passing of regional speech, fell in love with Montana, and was appalled by racism in New Orleans. No writer is more quintessentially American than John Steinbeck, and Travels with Charley in Search of America is a classic example of his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception.

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson: Book Cover

  • When a novel like Huckleberry Finn, or The Yearling, comes along it defies customary adjectives because of the intensity of the response it evokes in the reader. Such a book is Old Yeller, an eloquently simple story of a boy and his dog in the Texas hill country that is an unforgettable and deeply moving experience.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon: Book Cover

  • Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at 15, Christopher’s carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing. Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon is one of the freshest debuts in years: a comedy, a heartbreaker, a mystery story, a novel of exceptional literary merit that is great fun to read.

Timbuktu by Paul Auster: Book Cover

  • Mr. Bones, the canine hero of Paul Auster’s astonishing book, Timbuktu, is the sidekick and confidant of Willy G. Christmas, a brilliant and troubled homeless man from Brooklyn. As Willy’s body slowly expires, he sets off with Mr. Bones for Baltimore in search of his high-school English teacher and a new home for his companion. Mr. Bones is our witness during their journey, and out of his thoughts Paul Auster has spun one of the richest, most compelling tales in recent American fiction.

Cujo by Stephen King: Book Cover

  • Left in Stephen King’s Cujo to fend for herself by her workaholic husband, Donna Trenton takes her ailing Pinto to Joe Cambers’s garage for repairs-only to be trapped with her son, Tad, in the sweltering car by the Cambers’s once-friendly Saint Bernard, Cujo, now a monstrous and rabid killer.

  • Stay! Keeper’s Story by Lois Lowry is about a dog who tells his own tale. As a pup he is separated from his mother and siblings. This unusual dog learns about living on the dangerous streets and even makes up poetry. He finds human friends, has the chance to win fame and fortune, and is given the name Keeper. Through it all, Keeper can’t forget his long lost little sister. If only they could be together again, life would be perfect. But an old enemy is watching and waiting to make his move.

Pan by Knut Hamsun: Book Cover

  • One of Knut Hamsun’s most famous works, Pan is the story of Lt. Thomas Glahn, an ex-military man who lives alone in the woods with his faithful dog Aesop. Glahn’s life changes when he meets Edvarda, a merchant’s daughter, whom he quickly falls in love with. She, however, is not entirely faithful to him, which affects him profoundly. This novel is a fascinating study in the psychological impact of unrequited love and helped to win the Nobel Prize in Literature for Hamsun.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo: Book Cover

  • When 10-year-old India Opal Buloni moves to Naomi, Florida, with her preacher father, she doesn’t know what to expect. She is lonely at first—that is until she meets Winn-Dixie, a stray dog who helps her make some unusual friends. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal begins to let go of some of her sadness and finds she has a whole lot to be thankful for. “I wrote Because of Winn-Dixie at the tail end of one of the worst winters on record in Minnesota, when I was homesick for the warmth of Florida. I was living in an apartment where no dogs were allowed,” says the author of this classic for young readers, Kate DiCamillo. “As a result, I was suffering from a serious case of ‘dog withdrawal.’ One night, before I went to sleep, I heard this little girl’s voice (with a Southern accent) say, ‘I have a dog named Winn-Dixie.’ When I woke up the next morning, the voice was still talking, and I started writing down what India Opal Buloni was telling me.”

Julius Winsome by Gerard Donovan: Book Cover

  • Living alone with his dog in the remote cabin in the woods, Julius Winsome is not unlike the barren winter lands that he inhabits: remote, vacant, inscrutable. But when his dog Hobbes is killed by hunters, their carelessness—or is it cruelty?—sets Julius’s precarious mindset on end. He is at once more alone than he has ever been; he was at first with his father, until he died; then with Claire, until she disappeared with another man into a more normal life in town. Now Hobbes is gone, and more and more, simply and furtively, it is revenge that is creeping into his mind in this novel by Gerard Donovan, titled, appropriately, Julius Winsome.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls: Book Cover

  • First published in 1961, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is a modern-day classic for children that follows the friendship between a boy and his two dogs as they search out adventure along the dark hills and river bottoms of Cherokee country. Old Dan had the brawn, Little Ann had the brains—and Billy had the will to train them to be the finest hunting team in the valley. Glory and victory were coming to them, but sadness waited too. This is an exciting tale of love and adventure the young reader will never forget.

Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight: Book Cover

  • Twelve-year-old Joe Carraclough is heartbroken. Lassie, the family’s beloved collie, must be sold to the Duke of Rudling, a bad-tempered, wealthy old man. The Carracloughs are struggling through hard times and can’t afford to keep Lassie, who is without a doubt the finest collie in Yorkshire. The Duke sends Lassie to his estate in Scotland, 400 miles to the north, but Lassie will not be kept away from the family she loves. By instinct she starts the long journey south to find the home where she belongs. Filled with danger and adventure, Lassie Come-Home, first published in 1940, is Eric Knight’s story of the love and loyalty shared by a boy and his dog

Call of the Wild by Jack London: Book Cover

  • Buck is a dog born to luxury, but he is betrayed and sold as a sled dog in the harsh and frozen Yukon. But Buck is stronger than any man knew, and he escapes captivity and rises above his enemies to become the leader of a wolf pack. The Call of the Wild by Jack London tells the remarkable story of one of the most feared and admired dogs in the north. White Fang was conceived by London as a “complete antithesis and companion piece to The Call of the Wild. It’s the tale of an abused wolf-dog tamed by exposure to civilization.

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