I was scared off reading books about dogs when I was 11. That’s when I read Old Yeller and I thought I would NEVER get over it. I mean, who writes a book about a  kid who has to shoot his best friend, a yellow dog? By now, many years (ok decades) have passed, and I’ve finally started reading books about dogs again. Here are some of my favorites.

Books about dogs - Old Yeller

The plot of Old Yeller

From Wikipedia

“In the late 1860s in Texas, young Travis Coates has been working to take care of his family ranch with his mother and younger brother, Arliss, while his father goes off on a cattle drive. When a “dingy yellow” dog comes for an unasked stay with the family, Travis reluctantly takes in the dog, which they name Old Yeller. The name has a double meaning: The fur color yellow pronounced as “yeller” and the fact that its bark sounds more like a human yell.

“Though Travis initially loathes the “rascal” and at first tries to get rid of it, the dog, a Black Mouth Cur, eventually proves his worth, saving the family on several occasions, rescuing Arliss from a bear, Travis from a bunch of wild hogs, and Mama and their friend Lisbeth from a loafer wolf. Travis grows to love Old Yeller, and they become great friends. The rightful owner of Yeller shows up looking for his dog and recognizing that the family has become attached to Yeller, trades the dog to Arliss for a horned toad and a home-cooked meal prepared by Travis’ mother, who is an exceptional cook.

“Old Yeller is bitten while saving his family from a rabid wolf. Travis is faced with the harsh decision that he must kill Old Yeller after the fight with the wolf, which he does because he cannot risk Yeller’s becoming sick and turning on the family. Old Yeller had puppies with one of Travis’ friend’s dogs, and one of the puppies helps Travis get over Old Yeller’s death. They take in the new dog and try to begin a fresh start.”

A few of my favorite books starring dogs

The  Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein.

The hero in this book is a dog called Enzo. He’ s funny, he’s philosophical and he’s obsessed with opposable thumbs. Enzo watches a lot of TV to learn about people. He also listens carefully to his owner, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming racing car driver.

As he looks back on his life, Enzo realizes that racing isn’t just about going fast; turns out, you can use some of the principals needed on the race track, to successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals.

And Denny does go through ordeals; he loses his wife and must fight for custody of his little girl. And more.

This book is mostly funny, and partly sad and moving. But as a dog lover, you’ll love it!


available at amazon


Books about dogs - Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Books about dogs - Lily and the Octopus

Lily and the Octopus, by Steven Rowley

“From the cover: When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride. The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details. We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

“For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.”

available at amazon

Sounder, by William H. Armstrong

A family classic, Sounder was written in 1969. It is the powerful story of a poor sharecropper family in the Deep South, and the boy’s coon hound, Sounder.

When the family finally gets a break – they find some food – the Sheriff isn’t far behind. But Sounder never leaves their side.

Written for 8 to 14-year-olds, this is a timeless story of struggle, faith, loyalty, and redemption for all ages, told through the love of Sounder.


available at amazon

Sounder by William Amstrong
The Gift of Jazzy, by Cindy Adams

The Gift of Jazzy, by Cindy Adams.

Not a true classic, this book is still enjoyable and has special interest to us Morkie, Yorkie and Maltese lovers.

New York Post columnist Cindy Adams is deeply distraught over the death of her husband, and the gift of a small dog from a friend is the last thing she wants. But ultimately, Jazzy, the tiny Yorkie went from being an unwelcome surprise to a beloved family member.

Written in Cindy Adam’s trademark wise-cracking style, The Gift of Jazzy is a short read that’s funny, moving and hopeful.


available at amazon

Fifteen Dogs, by Andre Alexis.

 Imagine the ancient Greek gods, Hermes and Apollo, playing a game; they wager a bet on what would happen if dogs were given human intelligence. Would they be happier than mankind? Or less happy? 

The 15 dogs chosen by the gods are overnighting at a Toronto Vet Clinic. With human intelligence, they’re soon divided against each other. Each struggles with new thoughts and feelings and each develops a unique life. Goodreads calls it, “By turns meditative and devastating, charming and strange,” and that’s not the half of it!


available at amazon

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis
Marley and Me, by John Grogan

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog, by John Grogan.

Here’s one instance where the movie lived up to the book. Starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. In the story, Marley is a lovable but incorrigible Lab.

He fails out of obedience school and has a habit of doing the very worst thing he can at many moments. (I love the scene where he crashes into the swimming pool at a posh real estate open house).

Heartbreakingly funny, sad and wise, Marley & Me is the story of a life lived with an exceptional dog.


available at amazon

Finding Gobi, by Dion Leonard.

Dion Leonard, an ultramarathon runner, crosses paths with a stray dog while competing in a 155-mile race through the Gobi Desert in China.

This is an incredible true story, of a tiny dog with a huge heart, and how she opened the hardened heart of her finder. Amazing, triumphant and heart-stopping – before he could take her home, Gobi went missing in the sprawling Chinese city where she was being kept. A real page-turner.


available at amazon

Finding Gobi, by Dion Leonard

And of course, who could forget these 3 classics!

How many times have you read these to a child?

Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman

Go Dog, Go!

By P.D. Eastman and edited by Dr. Seuss. From big dogs and little dogs to red, green, and blue dogs, dogs going up and dogs going fast . . . who knew dogs were so busy?

available at amazon

Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion

Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion

Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham, this book was first published in 1956 and remains a solid favorite. The family dog Harry is fed up with bathtiime. So he buries the bathtub scrubber and runs away from home. Will the family recognize him when he returns, dirty?

available at amazon

101 Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith.

101 Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith.

This 1956 story has been adapted dozens of times but remains the same at its core: the Dearly family’s two Dals, Pongo and Missis, give birth to 15 puppies. Newly married, the Dearlys panic, the dogs are stolen and the game is on!

available at amazon

What is it about books about dogs?

woman crying over dog bookWe know it’s just a story, but the tears come anyway.

Psychology Today says that it has to do with oxycontin. Not the drug Oxycodone, but the powerful natural hormone that works on the brain. Experiments have proven that empathy was highly correlated with the spike in oxytocin.

So we cry at movies and at sad books because oxytocin is imperfectly tuned: it doesn’t recognize that it’s “just a story” and kicks in anyway. Our sense of empathy is turned WAY up, and the tears follow. But don’t be embarrassed; empathy is a vital part of intelligence and is high among successful individuals.

(And by the way, women release more oxytocin than men, and are more empathetic. But both cry.)


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What’s YOUR favorite book starring a dog?

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The feature photo comes from a painting by Albert Edelfelt [Public domain] called Good Friends (Portrait of the Artist’s Sister Bertha Edelfelt)  Click to see a larger version of this lovely work.