Meg Rosoff has just written her list of the best literary dogs in fiction for The Telegraph — but it is in no way definitive so obviously I had to make my own. Here it is.
1. Friend — ‘FRIEND’S BEST MAN’ by Jonathan Carroll
Friend is from Carroll’s story ‘FRIEND’S BEST MAN’, winner of a World Fantasy Award. It’s about a man who saves his beloved dog from being run over by a train, but in doing so loses one of his legs. In hospital he meets a dying girl who can read his dog’s mind.
This apocalyptic tale of friendship found in ‘The Panic Hand‘, Jonathan Carroll’s superb collection of short stories.
2. Chiquitito-Brown — ‘A Dog So Small‘ by Philippa Pearce
This is one of those books that you read as a child and it stays with you for the rest of your life. Ben Blewitt really, really wants a dog. His grandfather promises him one for his birthday, and Ben “had picked and chosen the biggest and best from the dog books in the Public Library”, but when his birthday rolls around he finds out that it is to be a woollen cross-stitch of a dog instead.
The woolwork chihuahua in the picture becomes Chiquitito-Brown, “a dog so small you can only see it with your eyes shut.” Pop-eyed, pinky-fawn with pointy ears, this imaginary companion is bold, resolute and brave in the world of Ben’s imagination.
I think this is an amazing children’s story. Not just because of the extremely effecting relationship between Ben and Chiquitito, but because it’s so rare to have a cast full of flawed, human characters in Middle School fiction.
Someone’s scanned the whole book and you can read it here.
Special mention in the chihuahua category goes to Sebastian in ‘A Little Dog Like You‘.
3. Checkers — ‘Checkers‘ by John Marsden
This is some bleeeeak YA fiction by Australian author John Marsden. The title character is a loveable black-and-white dog that shares a special bond with its owner, a nameless teenage girl who narrates the story as a voluntary inpatient of a mental ward. Through the use of diary fiction and flash-back, we find out what happened to the girl — and what happened to Checkers.
Special mention in the surprise! dead-dog category goes to ‘The Gathering‘.
4. Snitter — ‘The Plague Dogs‘ by Richard Adams
For those of you not in the know, ‘The Plague Dogs’ is about two dogs, Rowf and Snitter, who escape an animal testing facility. They wander the English Lake District and with the help of a fox with a heavy accent, try to live like wild things. Oh, and they’re guilty of manslaughter and possibly carrying the bubonic plague.
Snitter had a human owner once, which colours his experiences. Both canines are victims of medical testing, but Snitter’s interpretation of the world is slightly more skewed than Rowf’s due to a lobotomy. The open wound from the terrier’s surgery has been covered with a dressing, leaving him with something resembling a jaunty cap.
Unlike ‘Watership Down‘, ‘Plague Dogs’ is neither marvellous nor charming. But Adams’ gift for storytelling means that this isn’t a totally depressing read (see: ‘Checkers’, above) and there are plenty of moments of beauty, insight and humour. And the ending is different to the cartoon version!
5. Sirius Black — ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban‘ by JK Rowling
Yeah, I’m mentioning Harry Potter again. Don’t you get it by now? “ALWAYS.”