There is an undeniably tight bond between man and animal. For instance, I can’t discuss the day my dog died without getting misty and pretending I have something in my eye—and it happened 12 years ago. But ours was just a normal life together, full of normal dog-person love. It was nothing like the devotion between man and beast in these novels, so full of the obstacles, loss, and relief that come with experiencing a good adventure together. These are 6 of literature’s most memorable pets:
Yeller teaches us so much about life, love, and loss, and he does it all while being adorable. At first he’s a rascal stealing meat out of a smokehouse, and Travis wants nothing to do with him. But when he saves the family from a bear, Yeller’s stock goes way up. Boy and dog become best friends, and nothing can take Yeller from his new family, not even his rightful owner. Yeller continues to save Travis when he gets into sticky situations with wild boars and whatnot, but he’s no match for a rabid wolf. Life, love, loss.
After his sister is bitten by a rattlesnake, Jody shoots a mother deer to use her liver to draw the poison out. He discovers that in killing the deer, he has orphaned a fawn, and decides to adopt it, naming it Flag. Flag is a constant companion through the extremely hard times the family endures as farmers in Central Florida: hunger, death, floods, poverty, dysfunctional family dynamics. In the end, Flag is too much of a strain on the family, literally eating most of their food supply in a time of starvation. Jody’s mother shoots and wounds him, forcing Jody to kill Flag himself. The story is similar Old Yeller, only four to seven times more depressing.
Snowy (Tin Tin)
There is no harder working dog in the business of solving mysteries. If his owner didn’t miss every clue and follow every fake lead, Snowy probably wouldn’t have to work so hard, but dogs are loyal.
The Black Stallion
This is just me, but if, for some reason, you asked me make a list of animals I would prefer to experience a shipwreck with, I would never put “horse” on that list. Tiger, sure, but horse? They are flighty creatures. Luckily, when teenaged Alec Ramsay’s ship sinks and he’s stranded on a desert island with a beautiful black stallion, it results in the most important relationship of his life. Boy and horse develop an amazing bond as they learn to love, trust, and depend on each other for survival. Not so amazingly, after their rescue it becomes clear that the stallion is an incredibly gifted racehorse with superior breeding. These books are responsible for jumpstarting most 8-year-olds’ horse obsessions.
Old Dan and Little Anne (Where the Red Fern Grows)
This book is a tearjerker, make no mistake, but somehow watching these two beautiful bloodhounds grow up, bond, and hunt with Billy is worth the tears. Little Anne has the brains, Old Dan the brawn, and both are fiercely loyal. It is again the theme of a young boy becoming a man, learning the dangers of nature, the power of love, and the devastation of loss. Over Dan and Anne’s grave grows a red fern, something only angels are supposed to be able to make grow.
Crookshanks (Harry Potter series)
This giant, snooty, smooshed-face puffball from the Harry Potter series is a perfect example of why you should never assume you know what a cat is thinking. It’s rumored that Crookshanks is technically half kneazle, a very useful mythical creature resembling a lion. If you’re lost, a kneazle will protect you and lead you home, and if you’re hiding a rat in your shirt pocket that happens to be a transfigured servant of Lord Voldemort, they will stop at nothing in order to destroy it, as kneazles are very adept at recognizing untrustworthy people.
Who’s your favorite fictional pet?