"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Literature in the News: Famous Dogs in Literature

Now that we have a new canine in the family,  it must be Divine Providence that sent this blog post my way from the Books section of the HuffPost, titled “7 Memorable Dogs from Literature” by Mikita Brottman.  Being a dog lover, dogs in literature has occasionally crossed my mind, but I’ve never gone out of my way to note them down.  This was a useful and fun exercise.

Brottman starts her list with with why dogs are particularly memorable in literature.

Who could forget Old Yeller, or the dog of Anton Chekhov's short story, "The Lady with the Dog"? Fictional pups have the ability to tug at our heartstrings in a way their human counterparts sometimes cannot.

I can’t remember if I read Old Yeller in school.  I may have but none of my synapses can find trace of it.  Chekhov’s “The Lady with the Dog” came quickly to mind.    It’s one of those must read short stories.  But Brottman doesn’t list either of those as a “memorable” dog.  I’m just going to list her seven, and you can go over to see why she finds them memorable.

Bull's-eye from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Caesar III from “Coming, Aphrodite!” by Willa Cather
Flush from Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf
'Issa' from Marcus Valerius Martialis' poetry
Jip from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Kashtanka from "Kashtanka" by Anton Chekhov
Shock from 'The Rape of the Lock' by Alexander Pope

Now that’s a rather interesting list.  I think Brottman was trying for the obscure.  The only one I have read on that list is David Copperfield and I didn’t think of Jip initially but I do recall him now.

Who would I add?  Here are the ones that came to my mind.

Argos for Homer’s The Odyssey.  How can anyone forget Odysseus’s dog who recognizes his master in disguise having returned after 20 years away?  Of course it’s a stretch since dogs don’t live twenty years, and for the dog to have been so attached to his master they would have needed a few years of bonding on top of the years away.  But Argos is the epitome of a faithful dog.  

The hound from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Was there ever a dog in literature that caused so much terror?  What a great story.    

Bendicò from Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s great Italian novel, The Leopard.  Few people will probably identify this one, unless you’re into Italian literature, but that Great Dane in the story was most memorable.  

Buck from Jack London’s The Call of the Wild.  How could Buck not make Brottman’s list?  It’s a whole novel from the point of view of the dog.  If he’s not the most famous dog in literature, he’s probably the most heroic.  

Sounder from the young adult novel Sounder  by William H. Armstrong.  I definitely remember reading this in school, and in the little research I did here I was surprised to find that Armstrong was not African-American.  He was a white man from the south.  I can’t recall a better story of love for a dog than this one.  

Would it surprise you that Wikipedia has a page of a List of Fictional Dogs?  Of course it shouldn’t surprise you.  Peruse the list.  I have to say, it is way incomplete.  But it’s an interesting list.  The one that surprises me is Blue from Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury.  I’ve read that novel at least three times and for the life of me I can’t recall a dog in the novel.  Is it there at the beginning when the children are playing outside and we’re in Benjy’s mind?

Well which fictional dogs do you find memorable?  I’d love to hear.


  1. How about Charlie from Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie? Loved those stories. And yes, how could he have left out Buck?

    1. Great pick Kelly. I've never read it, but it is well known, or at least among the literary.

  2. Oh dear ... when I saw your headline there I was thinking of Snowy in the Tintin books, or Snoopy or Scoobedoo in the cartoons. Please don't tell anyone that I chose these - they'll think I'm uneducated.

    Surely Tintin at least is literature? Don't you think?

    God bless.

    1. I've never heard of Tintin. I'm not sure Snoopy and Scoobedoo are exactly literature...lol. Thanks Victor

    2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Tintin