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Friday, March 27, 2015

Going to the Dogs

Written by Jon Williams

If you’re anything like me, you’re a sucker for a good dog story. Actually, if you’re even more like me, you tend to avoid a lot of dog stories, because you tend to get a little too emotionally invested in them. What can I say? Some of my best friends have been dogs. Fortunately for storytellers and moviemakers everywhere, though, it seems that most people are not like me in that regard, as stories about dogs always turn out to be quite popular.

One such upcoming release is sure to be a hit with young library patrons. Mogie: The Heart of the House begins with a litter of puppies that are all designated to be trained for a variety of jobs—all of them, that is, except for Mogie, who is too high-spirited for any of these roles. However, Mogie eventually finds his place keeping kids company at the Ronald McDonald House in Houston, Texas. This is a touching true story, and you can read a bit more about Mogie here.

One of the most popular recent dog stories, of course, and another true story, is Marley and Me. John Grogan’s memoir of “the world’s worst dog” captured hearts and leapt onto the bestseller lists. It spawned a movie adaptation starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. And that movie then inspired a prequel of its own, which features a talking Marley going on adventures as a puppy with his human pal. Bodi. And for those who like dog memoirs, another one that has gotten plenty of attention is A Big Little Life from bestselling author Dean Koontz, who shares the life of his golden retriever Trixie. Koontz’s affection for dogs is well known, as he has presented heroic canine characters into many of his most popular novels, including Watchers and Fear Nothing.

One dog story I found particularly compelling was David Wroblewski’s novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I was hardly alone in that, as it was a selection of Oprah’s Book Club, and Oprah, along with Tom Hanks, is said to be working toward bringing it to the big screen. The story is a modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with Edgar’s three dogs playing a pivotal role. Fantastic in its own right, it also made me aware of the story of Hachiko, the dog who accompanied his owner to the train station each day, and continued to make the pilgrimage even after the owner’s death. That tale was made into a movie, Hachi, starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen, and it was also featured in Martha Sherrill’s Dog Man, a book about Morie Sawataishi, who saved the Akita breed from extinction.

The list of dog “tails” is nearly endless. In addition to the above, there are classics like Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, and Sounder, as well as more contemporary comedies and family films such as Turner and Hooch, Because of Winn-Dixie, Hotel for Dogs, and the Air Bud movies. Then there are all the animated films—101 Dalmatians, The Fox and the Hound, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Balto—not to mention TV cartoon dogs like Snoopy and Scooby-Doo. Oh, and we can’t forget about Cujo, the one dog that’s the complete antithesis of all these warm and fuzzy pets, companions, friends, and heroes.

Clearly, there is plenty of interest in stories about man’s best friend. What are some of your favourites? Tell us about them in the comments section below.

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