Good dogs and good books— it’s hard to imagine life without either of them. And when you have good books about good dogs? That’s pretty great, as well. In honor of our love for both words and dogs, here are ten of the best dogs you’ll ever read about (and before you ask where Old Yeller is, he’s on this list, and I was trying not to do any repeats!).
1. Lassie Come-Home: Lassie
Arguably the most famous literary canine of all time, Lassie first appeared in a 1938 short story by Eric Knight, which he expanded into a novel two years later. Set in Depression-era England, the book tells the story of the titular collie and her journey to be reunited with her young master after his family is forced to sell her. The novel was an immediate success, and Lassie went on to be immortalized in countless more books, movies, and television shows. Her name has become synonymous with canine faithfulness and devotion and no list like this would be complete without her.
2. My Life and Hard Times: Muggs
Of all the dogs on this list, Muggs— an Airedale owned by humorist James Thurber— is the one you’d least like to have around. Also known as “The Dog That Bit People,” Muggs bit everyone he came in contact with (with the exception of Thurber’s mother), at one point even cornering a young James on the mantelpiece over the fire. Not exactly warm and cuddly, but there’s something about the irascible Muggs— the way he had to be fed at the table so he wouldn’t bite you as you put his dish down, or the way he would bite the guests in the dining room but not the mice in the pantry— that makes him not just memorable, but strangely loveable. From a distance, of course.
3. The Henry Huggins series: Ribsy
A homeless stray turned faithful companion, Ribsy is the dog all of us wanted to have growing up. Wherever his boy went, Ribsy followed, accompanying Henry on his paper route, waiting for him after school, and helping him get into— and out of— all kinds of mischief. Ribsy was the dog who played ball with you in the afternoon, ran alongside your bike, and curled up with you in bed at night. Everybody in the neighborhood knew and loved Ribsy, and with good reason. Affectionate, loyal, and patient, he was the quintessential “best friend” dog.
4. The Call of the Wild: Buck
It’s hard not to love Buck, the huge St. Bernard mix who triumphs over adversity. Stolen from his affectionate master and sold as a sled dog, Buck endures ill-treatment and abuse, but is reminded of the power of compassion when he is adopted by kindly outdoorsman John Thornton. After saving Thornton’s life and winning him $1600 in a wager, Buck avenges his murder before taking off to live with the wolf pack he has befriended. But the faithful Buck returns every year as the Ghost Dog of the Northland, to mourn at the site of Thornton’s death. Both fiercely wild and fiercely loyal, Buck is a dog like no other.
5. The Phantom Tollbooth: Tock
“Since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking.” With that sage bit of advice, Tock the watchdog (literally— he’s part dog, part watch) rescues Norton Juster’s aimless hero Milo from the Doldrums. Tock continues to be a voice of reason— sometimes the only voice of reason— for the rest of Milo’s journey, his sound judgment and loyal nature proving invaluable in many a sticky situation. Patient, steadfast, and full of good advice, Tock is the most furriest, most loveable timepiece you’ll ever meet.
6. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: Toto
Let’s face it— you can’t 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.” Especially when that dog acts as a faithful companion on a dangerous journey through a strange and magical land, never faltering or wavering, even in the face of wicked witches and flying monkeys. Especially, especially when it’s later revealed that this adorable, loyal little pup can actually talk (he just usually chooses not to). Dorothy Gale’s dog Toto is all of the above, and frankly, we’re totally jealous (or should that be toto-lly?).
7. Peter Pan: Nana
We here at #AmReading do not normally advocate leaving your children in the care of a dog, but when that dog is Nana, we’ll give you a pass. Based on J.M. Barrie’s own dog Luath, Nana is just about the best babysitter you could ask for. She may be a dog, but she’s devoted and responsible, playing with the children, getting their meals, giving them medicine when they’re sick, and tucking them lovingly into bed at night. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s super cuddly, too.
8. Harry Potter: Fang
In a lot of ways, Fang was basically just the canine version of his owner, Hagrid: big, hairy, clumsy, not the brightest, but with a good heart. True, Fang had a tendency to slobber everywhere, and he was a bit of a chicken, but he was always there when it counted. He tolerated his owner’s parade of strange, sometimes dangerous pets, accompanied Harry into the Forbidden Forest more than once, and was hit with a Stunning Spell defending Hagrid from Death Eaters. Given all that, we can forgive him for running away from the Battle of Hogwarts after being startled by an exploding vase.
9. A Song of Ice and Fire: The Stark Direwolves
Okay, so maybe direwolves aren’t technically dogs, but they’re definitely canines and after reading the books or watching the show, who can honestly say they didn’t want one? They’re big, beautiful, vaguely magical, fiercely protective, and loyal to a fault. They’ve gone into battle, trekked beyond the Wall, and on more than one occasion laid down their lives for the Stark children. Plus, there’s that whole warging thing that at least two of them have going on. And, despite the tragic aftermath, who among us can honestly say they didn’t cheer when Nymeria bit that little brat Joffrey?
10. The Odyssey: Argos
One of the first dogs ever named in Western literature, Argos is the faithful hound of Odysseus, king of Ithaca. When he finally returns home after twenty years away, Odysseus is in disguise. But that isn’t enough to fool Argos, who has been waiting faithfully for two decades for Odysseus’ return. Argos is the only member of the household to see through the disguise and, satisfied that his master is finally home, the aging dog is at last able to die in peace. It’s a touching scene, and a reminder that dogs have been man’s best friend for as long as we can remember.
Did we miss any of your favorite literary dogs? Let us know!
YouTube Channel: Nana T. Asabere
Featured image via Pixabay