Mountie Dog Stories & More - Evolution of Realistic Dog Fiction
Dog Stories in Fiction and Hollywood - The Realistic Dog Story from Sir Charles G D Roberts and Jack London to today's latest publications...
"A rock could have appeared scarcely less lifeless than he; not a muscle twitched; not a hair moved; not an eyelid quivered.
"Yet every drop of the wild blood in his splendid body was racing in a ferment of excitement that Kazan had never before experienced. Every nerve and fiber of his wonderful muscles was tense as steel wire.
"Quarter-strain wolf, three-quarters 'husky,' he had lived the four years of his life in the wilderness."
"He had felt the pangs of starvation. He knew what it meant to freeze. He had listened to the wailing winds of the long Arctic night over the barrens. He had heard the thunder of the torrent and the cataract, and had cowered under the mighty crash of the storm. His throat and sides were scarred by battle, and his eyes were red with the blister of the snows.
"He was called Kazan, the Wolf Dog, because he was a giant among his kind and as fearless, even, as the men who drove him through the perils of a frozen world.
"He had never known fear--until now. He had never felt in him before the desire to run--not even on that terrible day in the forest when he had fought and killed the big gray lynx. He did not know what it was that frightened him, but he knew that he was in another world, and that many things in it startled and alarmed him.
"It was his first glimpse of civilization.
"He wished that his master would come back into the strange room where he had left him. It was a room filled with hideous things. There were great human faces on the wall, but they did not move or speak, but stared at him in a way he had never seen people look before. He remembered having looked on a master who lay very quiet and very cold in the snow, and he had sat back on his haunches and wailed forth the death song. But these people on the walls looked alive, and yet seemed dead.
"Suddenly Kazan's ears became erect. He heard steps, then low voices. One of them was his master's voice. But the other--it sent a little tremor through him! Once, so long ago that it must have been in his puppy-hood days, he seemed to have had a dream of a laugh that was like the girl's laugh--a laugh that was all at once filled with a wonderful happiness, the thrill of a wonderful love, and a sweetness that made Kazan now lift his head as the man and woman came in.
"He looked straight at them, his red eyes gleaming. At once he knew that the girl must be dear to his master, for his arm was about her. In the glow of the light he saw that her hair was very bright, and that there was the color of the crimson bakneesh vine in her face and the blue of the bakneesh flower in her shining eyes. Suddenly she saw him, and with a little cry darted toward him.
" 'Stop!' shouted the man. 'He's dangerous! Kazan-' "
KAZAN THE WOLF DOG
James Oliver Curwood
We've been telling animal stories, of course, for as long as we've told yarns. And we no doubt told stories of our own dogs around ancient camp fires.
Our early tales mixed myth, dream and fantasy with the real world. Our legends told of talking animals, including dogs. So did the tales of the Greek slave named Aesop. Well into the Nineteenth Century, animals in literature were mostly creatures of fancy, often talking and thinking like humans, on which they were really based. Joel Chandler Harris' UNCLE REMUS is a good example of the fantasy-form. So are Kipling's JUNGLE TALES, an international bestseller, Anna Sewell's BLACK BEAUTY and L Frank Baum's Oz novels.
Sir Charles G D Roberts, a Canadian author born in 1860 in Douglas, New Brunswick, changed that.
Roberts grew up watching animals, both domestic and in the wild Northwoods, and wanted to write about them as they really lived. He said that "the exciting adventure lies in the effort to 'get under the skins,' so to speak, of these shy and elusive beings." He didn't want to write about human nature in animal form, but was determined to write yarns about animals that caught their emotions and thoughts. In so doing, Charles G D Roberts created what has been called "the one native Canadian art form" -- the Realistic Animal Story.
Of the realistic animal fiction story, he wrote: "It helps us to return to Nature, without requiring that we at the same time return to barbarism. It leads us back to the old kinship of earth..." The publication of his poems and short stories in American magazines such as the popular Century Illustrated Magazine in the 1880's through the turn of the Century earned him worldwide recognition and readership.
Although Roberts wrote about domestic animals such as dogs, it was the animals of the wilderness that caught his attention. Powerful stories such as "The Passing of the Black Whelps" and "The Young Ravens That Call Upon Him" and "Wild Motherhood" told stories of wolves, moose, wolverines, foxes, eagles and bears. His books, which collected his published magazine stories, include EARTH'S ENIGMAS (1896), HAUNTERS OF THE SILENCES and THE KINDRED OF THE WILD. Charles G D Roberts was knighted by King George V and called "The Father of Canadian Literature."
Fellow Canadian Ernest Thompson Seton followed with WILD ANIMALS I HAVE KNOWN (1898), giving "the animal story a new credibility and power as a literary genre." Two stories from this book told of dogs: "Bingo, the Story of My Dog" and "Wully, the Story of a Yaller Dog."
In 1903, Jack London's masterpiece THE CALL OF THE WILD appeared.
"When Jack London wrote THE CALL OF THE WILD, he wrote the seminal Northwestern novel.
"Jack London had already written THE SON OF THE WOLF and A DAUGHTER OF THE SNOWS, the magazine short story 'To Build a Fire,' and would follow THE CALL OF THE WILD with his wilderness story of the wolf-dog WHITE FANG, a classic work of animal fiction.
"Although many consider the 20th Century/Darryl Zanuck movie version of THE CALL OF THE WILD, starring Clark Gable as John Thornton, to be the best version, my personal favorite is the later Ken Annakin Film production, starring Charlton Heston. Heston -- and Annakin -- captured the spirit and character of Jack London the man and author better than anyone else has.
"The theme of domesticity to savagery in THE CALL OF THE WILD and its opposite -- savagery to domesticity in WHITE FANG, is a deeply human theme that is the soul of the Northwestern, and needs more exploration..."
- Brian Alan Burhoe, author of WOLFBLOOD: A Northwestern Story...
The American Jack London wrote of dogs against the background of the Klondike Gold Rush, red-coated members of the North-West Mounted Police, prospectors, trappers, outlaws and the white wilderness of the Alaskan and Canadian Northwest. His literary masterpieces created a demand for more.
Michigan-born James Oliver Curwood followed, becoming one of the world's most popular adventure writers, as popular as Jack London and Zane Grey (whose KING OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED would establish his own foothold in the Northwestern genre). Curwood's THE WOLF HUNTERS (1908) first caught public attention. But it was the publication of STEELE OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED and KAZAN THE WOLF DOG that made him a best selling author. With Kazan, he created one of the most enduring portraits of a real dog -- a true literary masterwork. He wrote a sequel -- BAREE, SON OF KAZAN.
Curwood actually travelled to the Canadian Northwest to research his books. Drawing on the meaning of the Cree Indian word "Manitoba," Curwood coined the phrase "God's Country" for the Canadian North, using it in the titles of several of his works. He was an experienced woodsman and hunter -- and after an encounter on a hunting trip in the Rockies with the open jaws of a full-grown male grizzly bear which chose NOT to kill Curwood (Curwood had fallen and broken his gun), he wrote THE GRIZZLY KING, later made into the movie THE BEAR.
After that, Curwood favored the camera over a rifle because of his ever-increasing respect for animal life. Curwood fought to preserve the wilderness along with its inhabitants, which were being destroyed at an alarming rate at the turn of the century.
Max Brand (Frederick Faust) has been called "The Shakespeare of the Western Range." (Kirkus Reviews). He wrote four classic Northwesterns about dogs in the Jack London tradition. In the 1920's, Brand moved his family to Katonah, New York State, where he raised white bull terriers. He let them run free over his new estate, training them and intensely studying their actions. The result was one of his best ever novels, THE WHITE WOLF. This novel's central character was a white bull terrier.
Another Northwestern by Max Brand was CHINOOK. The title character is a savage wolf dog, whose master's life is saved by American Joe Harney. Reluctantly, the taciturn dog-master allows Harney and a mysterious woman, Kate Winslow, to accompany them to the Klondike gold fields.
Brand followed that title with MIGHTY LOBO, a novel about American Ned Windham, who has single-handedly built a homestead in the savage Northland. When a pack of wolves stalks down from the mountains to slaughter his sheep, he discovers that the wolves are led by a mixed-blood dog. A neighbour tells Windham: "He's the devil, done up in wolf's fur. You go down the line a ways and get to the ranches. They'll tell you plenty of stories about him. He comes out of the mountains like the wind, raises the devil, and goes back again. That's why they call him Chinook!"
The fourth Northwestern by Max Brand is CARCAJOU. "Carcajou" is the French-Canadian name for the wolverine -- a beast with the fierce power of a wolf, the tenacity of a bulldog and, they said, "the soul of Satan." John Banner arrives in the Yukon Territory with a $10,000 price on his head and a plan to lose himself in the Arctic wilderness. But his plans change when he acquires the great dog called Slaughter, meets Anne Kendal, a woman who's the match of any man, and joins a deadly search for lost gold -- a quest that will lead him to a baptism of blood that alters the course of his life and earns him the nickname "Carcajou."
"A yellow light gleamed through the trees, and the sound of flopping, crunching snow came to the dog.
"Now a man stood beneath him and great fear rose up in the heart of SILVER CHIEF. The stones and clubs and beatings that had been the lot of a dog that fell into the power of the man-gods he had known, was now to be his lot as he was their prisoner. But his fear shortly gave way to hatred. Man, strong as he was, might capture him, but man with all his magic would never break him. Not if he gave his life in fighting man's bending him to his will.
"Jim stood silently watching his captive. A smile of genuine happiness spread across his tanned face.
" 'You're mine, old boy. I knew I'd get you. But darn me if I know how I'm going to get you out of that tree. Those front feet and long teeth look bad... Now I'm going to lower you, old timer, and heaven help me if these ropes give way.'
"Once he touched the snow, the dog thrashed wildly. With his great strength he bounded from side to side like a coiled snake. He snarled and tried desperately to reach the ropes with his teeth. It took all of Jim's strength to keep the captive lines taut. Finally the struggle was too much for the dog, and he dropped back, exhausted but not beaten.
"Thorne eased up a little on his rope and risked one hand to wipe his damp brow.
" 'Mister, I'll say you're a powerful young feller,' he addressed the dog, who glared up at him with bloodshot eyes.
" 'What would you do to me, if you could get me, eh? Well, I'm not going to hurt you. You and I are going to be friends.' "
With these words, author Jack O'Brien described the capture of the wild wolf dog the Indians called Silver Chief by Sergeant Jim Thorne of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The book was SILVER CHIEF -- DOG OF THE NORTH.
Jack O'Brien was described by his publisher as "one of those soldiers of fortune to whom adventure and danger are the spice of life." As Chief Surveyor for Admiral Byrd's first Antarctic Expedition of 1928-1930, O'Brien was in charge of the dog teams taken along on that historic trip. He drove huskies on prospecting ventures into Northern Canada and worked so often with the big sled dogs that "he came to know them as few men do."
In his Silver Chief books, he told the stories of two generations of Mounties and three generations of dogs, from the early 1930's to 1960. The other books in this series were
SILVER CHIEF TO THE RESCUE
THE RETURN OF SILVER CHIEF
SILVER CHIEF'S REVENGE
and SILVER CHIEF'S BIG GAME TRAIL -- the last book being completed by Albert G Miller, from research notes left by O'Brien.
Another classic Northwestern is George Marsh's FLASH THE LEAD DOG. It's a wonderfully detailed adventure of two trappers and their Ungava huskies on a trip into the unmapped North country.
Other writers of Northwesterns who included dogs as characters include: Rex Beach, Samuel Alexander White, James B Hendryx, Lawrence Mott, Harold F Cruickshank, Frederick Nebel, Victor Rousseau, William Byron Mowery, Ryerson Johnson, Robert Ormond Case, H Mortimer Batten, Roderick Haig-Brown and Francis Dickie.
In 1919, Albert Payson Terhune's LAD: A DOG appeared. The book gained Terhune worldwide success. He followed with many other books, including:
LAD OF SUNNYBANK
BUFF: A COLLIE
THE HEART OF A DOG
A DOG NAMED CHIPS
THE CRITTER AND OTHER DOGS
THE BEST-LOVED DOG STORIES OF ALBERT PAYSON TERHUNE
A descendant of Dutch emmigrants, Terhune lived on a homestead at Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, that he called Sunnybank Farm. He raised rough collies and wrote about them. An avid boxer, he fought exhibition matches with well known boxers of the time, including Gentleman Jim Corbet and Robert James Fitzsimmons. Today, there is a Terhune Memorial Park on the original farm site. Visitors are able visit the graves of many of the dogs Terhune wrote about.
American military man and writer Colonel S P Meek first established his reputation in the science fantasy field in the 1930's (at that time, he was a Captain) with THE MONKEYS HAVE NO TAILS IN ZAMBOANGA and THE DRUMS OF TAPAJOS. But it was his heartfelt and detailed dog novels that drew out his literary genius. His dog books, published between 1932 and 1956, include:
PAT: THE STORY OF A SEEING EYE DOG
BOOTS: THE STORY OF A WORKING SHEEP DOG
DIGNITY, A SPRINGER SPANIEL
FRANZ, A DOG OF THE POLICE
GUSTAV, A SON OF FRANZ
GYPSY LAD, THE STORY OF A CHAMPION SETTER
JERRY, THE ADVENTURES OF AN ARMY DOG
PIERRE OF THE BIG TOP
RANGER, A DOG OF THE FOREST SERVICE
RUSTY, A COCKER SPANIEL.
Jim Kjelgaard was one of the first successful authors of realistic animal fiction aimed specifically at young and teenage readers. Although born in New York City in 1910, Kjelgaard was raised in the Northeastern countryside. Jim worked briefly as a Forest Ranger with his brother Henry in the Allegheny mountains of northern Pennsylvania. His experiences were the basis of his first novel, FOREST PATROL, published in 1941 by Holiday House, with illustrations by Tony Palazzo. The publisher described the author as an "ardent hunter, fisherman and conservationist, and the brother of a state forest ranger."
The 1945 release of his third novel, BIG RED, made him famous. Set in the rough Wintapi wilderness area, BIG RED told the story of Danny Pickett and his beautiful Irish Setter. Jim's fifth published novel, SNOW DOG, solidified his reputation as a great writer of animal fiction. SNOW DOG told the story of a wild steel-gray husky named Chiri and the northern trapper Link Stevens. A popular sequel, WILD TREK, continued their story.
Once he became a full time author, Kjelgaard traveled throughout the wilderness areas of the U.S., northern Canada and even Mexico. His popular animal fiction included KALAK OF THE ICE (about a Canadian polar bear), CHIP THE DAM BUILDER (beavers -- and the assorted wild animals who gather around beaver ponds), HAUNT FOX, COYOTE SONG and FAWN IN THE FOREST & OTHER WILD ANIMAL STORIES.
Other dog stories by Jim Kjelgaard include:
IRISH RED, SON OF BIG RED
A NOSE FOR TROUBLE
RESCUE DOG OF THE HIGH PASS
THE DUCK-FOOTED HOUND
DAVE AND HIS DOG, MULLIGAN
Another writer who gained success with animal fiction aimed at the Children's and Young Adult market was Walt Morey. Born in Hoquiam, Washington State, in 1907, he earned his living as a hard working man in the forests, and on the ranches and fishing boats of the region. He also was a boxer and a diver. Inspired by the life of Western artist Charles M Russell and the writings of Jack London, he set out to be a pulp writer.
Although he sold a number of short stories to the pulp fiction magazines, Morey didn't publish his first full-length animal novel until 1965, with GENTLE BEN. Like most of his novels to come, GENTLE BEN was set in the Jack London region of Alaska and the Canadian Yukon. A later TV series would take the story of the gentle bear and a boy named Mark and set it in the Florida Everglades. Other popular bear stories by Walt were GLOOMY GUS and THE BEAR OF FRIDAY CREEK. Morey passed in 1992.
Walt Morey's most popular dog novels are:
KAVIC THE WOLF DOG
SCRUB DOG OF ALASKA
HOME IS THE NORTH
LEMON MERINGUE DOG
Across the Atlantic, in England and Continental Europe, animal fiction remained largely in the fantasy realm. Kenneth Grahame's THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS was a popular example. A A Milne's Winnie the Pooh and Mary Tourtel's Rupert Bear were becoming famous BEARS IN LITERATURE.
And soon there would be George Orwell's ANIMAL FARM. Talking animals with their own jarring reality.
But realistic animal fiction in the gritty tradition of Sir Charles G D was finding a readership. Englishman Henry Williamson was publishing brilliant yarns about Nature, such as his best selling TARKA THE OTTER: HIS JOYFUL WATER-LIFE AND DEATH IN THE COUNTRY OF THE TWO RIVERS and short stories about badgers, ravens, peregrine falcons, salmon, pheasants, red deer, two monkeys and a stalwart old stag.
In 1932, Austrian author Felix Salten published BAMBI, Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde. Published in English as BAMBI, A LIFE IN THE WOODS, this life story of a male roe deer wasn't quite the children's cartoon that Walt Disney later made of it, but a fairly realistic telling of natural life in the Northern Germanic Forests. Many reviewers thought it was "too dark" to be read to children. Sportswriter Steve Chapple wrote that Salter's novel had a "lot of dark adult undertones" and that the German forest was a "pretty scary place." Felix Salten wrote a sequel, BAMBIS KINDER, eine Familie im Walde, published as BAMBI'S CHILDREN, THE STORY OF A FOREST FAMILY. Other popular animal stories by Salten include DJIBI THE LITTLE CAT and PERRI, a novel about a Eurasian red squirrel. His popular dog story was THE HOUND OF FLORENCE, which was filmed by Disney as THE SHAGGY DOG.
As late as 2009, the animal fantasy continued to grow. James Lever's rollicking comic masterpiece ME CHEETAH: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY was nominated for a Booker Award. In the fantasy bio, Cheeta the Chimp wrote his own Hollywood memoirs -- dealing especially with his Tarzan movie years.
And in 1940, Eric Knight's LASSIE COME-HOME appeared. The novel was an expanded version of his 1938 short story of the same title, originally published in the Saturday Evening Post. It was a realistic animal story in the Roberts/London tradition. Set in pre-war Yorkshire, England, the novel told of the collie Lassie. When a mining family, the Carracloughs, must sell their beloved pet collie, she's purchased by the Duke of Rudling, who takes her to his estate in Scotland. "But Lassie won't be kept from the family she loves." She sets out on a long 400-mile journey south, to find the home where she belongs.
Eric Mowbray Knight was born in Yorkshire but, at age 15, moved to the U. S. with his mother and American stepfather. As an adult, he became a newspaper man and raised a number of dogs, including a collie he named Toots, an intelligent dog who eagerly learned a number of tricks that amazed even expert dog handlers.
In October 1943, LASSIE COME-HOME was released as a movie, starring Lassie, Elizabeth Tayor and Roddy McDowell. Lassie was played by a rough-haired male collie named Pal, whose owner/trainer Rudd Weatherwax renamed Lassie. More movies would come, such as THE COURAGE OF LASSIE, then radio and television. Lassie traveled across the Atlantic to find a home in America. The latest Hollywood production is a remake of the original novel, starring Peter O'Toole as the Duke.
Lassie wasn't the first Hollywood dog.
Strongheart, a German Shepherd, had appeared in 1921 and, in silent movies such as THE SILENT CALL, NORTH STAR and WHITE FANG, became immensely popular in the U. S. and Canada. Audiences rose to their feet cheering the scene in THE LOVE MASTER when Strongheart tows his mistress, who is on skis, in a desperate "race for life" from hungering wolves across the snowy "Canadian wilds!"
Strongheart's owner and movie director, Lawrence Trimble, wrote the biography STRONGHEART: THE STORY OF A WONDER DOG, published in 1926 by Whitman. Trimble wrote, "His human counterparts on screen were pleased with Strongheart, for even though he tore their clothes to shreds, he never left a mark of fang or nail on any actor." Strongheart's handler, John Allen Boone, produced LETTERS TO STRONGHEART, a sentimental remembrance published by Prentice-Hall in 1939.
Rin-Tin-Tin, a genuinely gifted and intelligent German Shepherd, captivated audiences from his first film appearance in 1922, becoming the first world-wide canine superstar. Rinty was found in a bombed-out building at a WWI German airfield by American soldier Lee Duncan. Duncan took Rinty home to California and began to train him for a Hollywood career. Rinty's first film appearance was in the iconic dog role of the times: a Mountie dog -- in the Northwestern MAN FROM HELL'S RIVER, Rin-Tin-Tin played a sled dog of a Mounted Policeman. From early movies like WHERE THE NORTH BEGINS, THE LAND OF THE SILVER FOX and CLASH OF THE WOLVES to the fascinating THE NIGHT CRY, Rinty drew audiences to the movies with more star-power than most human actors of the time. In 1954, Rin Tin Tin IV was the star of the TV series THE ADVENTURES OF RIN TIN TIN.
A literary account of Rinty's life is THE RIN TIN TIN STORY by James W English, published in 1949 by Dodd, Mead & Company. Lee Duncan's own THE RIN-TIN-TIN BOOK OF DOG CARE was published by Prentice-Hall in 1958.
A recent 2011 release, RIN TIN TIN: THE LIFE AND THE LEGEND by Susan Orlean is must reading. The author of THE ORCHID THIEF drew on ten years of research, including the papers and memoirs of trainer Lee Duncan, to write a superlative biography of Rinty. And in doing so, she also talks about the role that dogs have played in war, peace and entertainment. Orlean tells us about Rin Tin Tin the real dog, as well as Rin Tin Tin the fictional character -- and the Myth. She also looks at the fascination that both men and women have had with Rinty and the almost fanatical drive that some have developed to keep Rin Tin Tin's story alive. (She touches on the human-animal bond that we form -- if you want to explore the canine-human bond further, read Steven Kotler's A SMALL FURRY PRAYER: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life -- a Masterpiece!)
Other dog stars of the Silver Screen and TV were Jean (The Vitagraph Dog), Cyclone, Champion, Ranger, Ace the Wonder Dog, Peter the Great (WILD JUSTICE, 1925), Napoleon Bonaparte, Sandow (CODE OF THE NORTHWEST, 1926), Wolfheart, Braveheart, Kazan the Wonder Dog (JAWS OF JUSTICE, 1933), Grey Shadow, Thunder, Lightnin', Dynamite and Chinook (NORTHERN PATROL, 1953 -- last of Monogram/Allied Artists' Northwest Mountie series). Lassie, of course, would become one of the Hollywood giants, along with others, from Terry (Toto) and Benji (a small mixed-breed, "perhaps a bit of spaniel") to Spike (Old Yeller), Beasly (Hooch -- a Dogue de Bordeaux or French Mastif), London the Littlest Hobo, Koton (Jerry Lee of the K-9 movies), Rudolph Von Holstein III (a descendent of Rin-Tin-Tin, aka Rudy), Lincoln (Diefenbaker the wolf dog -- a modern day Mountie dog), Buddy (Air Bud), Chris (Beethoven), Enzo the Dog (Skip), Uggy (the Jack Russell in THE ARTIST) and more.
One of the latest Hollywood releases is EIGHT BELOW. Based on a true story, EIGHT BELOW follows the adventures of eight husky sled dogs left behind in Antarctica after a major winter storm -- and the struggles of researcher Jerry Shepard to rescue his dogs.
"Your dog wants to be your great companion -- who does what you want, when you want him to do it. The more you train your dog, the better behaved he will be ALL THE TIME. That’s also why teaching tricks keeps your dog thinking and working for you. It increases his focus and his bond with you." Dove Cresswell -- HOLLYWOOD ANIMAL TRAINER
Richard Adams, author of the wonderful children's fantasy WATERSHIP DOWN (1972), gave us THE PLAGUE DOGS in 1977. This novel tells of the escape of two dogs from a research facility in the Lake District of England. The dogs -- a black Labrador Retriever named Rowf and a Fox Terrier named Snitter -- must survive on their own. Believed to be carrying a dangerous plague, they are hunted ferociously by humans until they find sanctuary. Like other English novelists, Adams mixes talking-animal fantasy with the North American Realistic Animal genre -- but his works are too much fun and are just as beloved by "realists" as fantasists.
In North America, more realistic animal fiction and dog stories appeared. A modern classic is THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY, by Canadian Sheila Burnford. It's the story of three animals who walked home: Luath, a young and gentle Labrador retriever, with a reddish gold coat -- Bodger, the old half-blind but tough Bull Terrier, with a strong doggish sense of humor -- and Tao, a sleek wheat-colored Siamese cat...
Farley Mowat, whose NEVER CRY WOLF (1963) had sparked an interest in wolf research, gave us THE DOG WHO WOULDN'T BE, a warm, deeply-felt remembrance of his boyhood friend, Mutt.
American author Fred Gipson, who had first established his reputation with HOUND-DOG MAN in 1949, published his masterpiece OLD YELLER in 1956. The novel told the powerful story, set in 1860's Texas, of a stray dog who helps protect a boy and his family while the father is away. The author dedicated the novel to his father and mother, "Beck and Emma Gipson, whose memorable tales of frontier dogs supplied me with incident and background for this story." OLD YELLER won a number of awards, including the Newbery Honor. He wrote a sequel to this novel, titled LITTLE ARLISS, as well as CURLEY AND THE WILD BOAR and SAVAGE SAM.
A recent example of classic animal fiction worth finding is JOJOFU: A JAPANESE FOLKTALE, written by Michael Waite and illustrated by Yoriko Ito. Based on a Japanese folktale taken from the ancient Ima Mukashi scrolls, the story of Jojofu, who saves her master time and again, has stirred children and dog lovers for more than a thousand years. Though the hunter Takumi loved all his dogs as if they were his own family, his own favorite was named Jojofu (Japanese for "Heroine") for he considered her to be the bravest and smartest dog in the land.
BEST DOG STORIES: Over the past hundred years, quite a number of short story collections of "best dog stories" have seen publication, especially in England, Canada and the U. S. Single-author collections have appeared from writers such as James Herriot and Albert Payson Terhune. Multi-author anthologies of "best dog stories" have been edited by Eric Parker, C B Poultney, Lesley O'Mara, Pauline Rush Evans, Jack Goodman, Charles Wright Gray, Rosalie A Pope, W Illus Geldart, Patricia M Sherwood and -- of course -- the editors of Reader's Digest.
A fairly recent anthology that I highly recommend is THE BEST DOG STORIES, edited by Paul Staudohar and published in 2007 by Chicago Review Press. Staudohar has edited a number of themed collections, mostly sports related. He credits managing editor Gerilee Hundt for the idea: "she mentioned enjoying reading stories about dogs as a youngster." (Some of us never stopped reading animal fiction, or went back to it in our mature years, didn't we?)
This edition of THE BEST DOG STORIES contains 23 short stories, from classic to modern. Some of the classic yarns include two stories by Albert Payson Terhune -- "Biscuit" and "The Coward." Two short selections from Northwestern novels -- London's THE CALL OF THE WILD and Curwood's KAZAN THE WOLF DOG. The original short story version of Eric Knight's "Lassie Come-Home." Ivan Turgenev's "Mumu." Rudyard Kipling's "Garm -- a Hostage." Modern writers include Richard Ford, Richard Russo, Ethan Mordden, Arthur Miller, Bobbie Ann Mason, Madison Smartt Bell and T Coraghessan Boyle. P G Wodehouse's "The Mixer" is a hoot. Anatole France's "The Coming of Riquet" brings a wonderful French sentiment to the human-canine relationship. Mignon G Eberhart's "Murder at the Dog Show," first published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, blends dog story with classic whodunnit. And more. If you love dog stories, you've gotta track this one down!
Hundreds of more dog stories have appeared, many of them beloved literary works. Most aren't adult fiction, like the works of London, Curwood and Brand. Most, in fact, are written for and marketed to children. Even so, they are all worth adding to your library.
Just some of the best works (in no particular order) are:
THREE NAMES by Patricia MacLachlan
MY DOG TULIP by J R Ackerly
TIMBUKTU by Paul Auster
BOBBIE, A GREAT COLLIE by Charles Alexander
WHITE RUFF by Glenn Balch
BRYN by Hetty Burlinggame Beatty
KING: A STREET STORY by John Berger
HEART OF A DOG by Mikhail Bulgakov
CORMAC: THE TALE OF A DOG GONE MISSING by Sonny Brewer
A DOG'S PURPOSE by W Bruce Cameron
GREATHEART by Joseph E Chipperfield
ALGONQUIN by Dion Henderson
NAVARRE OF THE NORTH by Esther Birdsall Darling
RED DOG by Louis de Bernieres
BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo
BORU, THE STORY OF AN IRISH WOLFHOUND by J Allan Dunn
A DOG ABOUT TOWN by J F Englert
HANK THE COWDOG by John R Erickson
JOCK OF THE BUSHVELD by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick
THE LABRADOR PACT by Matt Haig
BONES IN HIGH PLACES by Suzette A Hill
SILVERSHEENE, KING OF THE SLED DOGS by Clarence Hawkes
YEAR OF THE DOG: A NOVEL by Shelby Hearon
SOUNDER by William Howard Armstrong
A DOG NAMED CHRISTMAS by Greg Kincaid
CHRISTMAS FOR TUCKER by Greg Kincaid
MY DOG SKIP by Willie Morris
SHILOH by Phillis Reynolds Naylor
BUGLE, A DOG OF THE ROCKIES by Thomas C Hinkle
BRIAR, A COLLIE by Margaret S Johnson
DINGO, THE STORY OF AN OUTLAW by Henry G Lamond
JET, SLED DOG OF THE NORTH by West Lathrop
RESCUING SPRITE by Mark R Levin
NOSE DOWN, EYES UP by Merrill Markoe
A DOG'S LIFE by Peter Mayle
THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF MAF THE DOG AND OF HIS FRIEND MARILYN MONROE by Andrew O'Hagan
BOB, SON OF BATTLE by Alfred Olivant
TROOPER, U.S. ARMY DOG by Helen Orr Watson
STONE FOX by John Reynolds Gardiner
A DOG OF FLANDERS by Ouida
THE DOGS OF BABEL by Carolyn Parkhurst
DOG ON IT: A Chet & Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn
THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH: A Chet & Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN: A NOVEL by Garth Stein
FLUKE by James Herbert
CUJO by Stephen King
WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS by Wilson Rawls
BEAUTIFUL JOE by Marshall Saunders
THE 101 DALMATIONS by Dodie Smith
NOP'S TRIALS by Donald McCaig
THE UGLY DACHSHUND by G B Stern
TRAVELS WITH CHARLIE by John Steinbeck
FAITHFUL RUSLAN by Georgi Vladimov
ONE GOOD DOG by Susan Wilson
FLUSH by Virginia Woolf
HALF WOLF by Sewell Peaslee Wright
WHISKEY WITH A TWIST by Nina Wright
THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE by David Wroblewski
WHITE FANG II: MYTH OF THE WHITE WOLF by David Fallon & Elizabeth Faucher
HOUND DOGS AND OTHERS Collection of Stories by the Western Writers of America
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==>> To read more about Animal Fiction, as well as a wonderful personal memoir on the influence of animals and animal stories on his personal and literary life, I recommend Andrew O'Hagan on fiction's talking animals
Written and copyrighted© 2011, 2012, 2013 by Brian Alan Burhoe
A shorter version of this article appeared originally on Puppy-Dogs.Info
"What is the name of the dog in the silent movie, THE ARTIST?"