We’ve all read about them at some stage – the hero dog that saves the hour, the pooch with mischief on their mind that provides a welcome distraction or a four-legged friend that is anything but – here are ten dogs that have left a lasting impression or simply broke the hearts of millions; long after the book has been closed…
Timmy (Famous Five)
The faithful border collie of George, Timmy is a vital member of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. Apart from being George’s beloved pet, Timmy provides protection for the mystery-solving children on a number of occasions, but it’s only after the Five’s first adventure that George’s parents allow Timmy to live in their home. From 1942 until 1963, Timmy and the gang’s adventures delighted and thrilled readers in equal measure during more than 20 adventures. With more than 100million copies sold to date, Timmy is arguably one of the most famous fictional dogs of all-time.
Snowy (The Adventures of Tintin)
When Belgian cartoonist Hergé conceived the idea of Tintin, the early French versions had his little dog named as Milou (Slovakian for ‘lovely’), but the international audience would perhaps have not warmed so quickly to the comic book series had he not later changed it to Snowy. Snowy is Tintin’s loyal white fox terrier and the pair enjoy numerous adventures as Tintin’s role as an investigative journalist often leads to perilous situations for the pair. Like any hero, Snowy has his flaws and his penchant for a tasty bone has proved an untimely distraction on a number of occasions and while he’s happy to help tackle the most dastardly of villains, a spider will strike the kind of terror no mere mortal could dream of. Mute apart from his bark, in the Tintin books he has an acerbic inner monologue that is confirmation of his high intelligence. Snowy has graced the pages of some 200million copies of Hergé’s classic tales.
Bull’s Eye (Oliver Twist)
Bull’s Eye is the unfortunate bull terrier of one of Charles Dickens’ most violent characters, Bill Sikes. Sikes is a tour-de-force in Oliver Twist, a criminal who revels in living in the shadows in a world of violence that eventually leads to murder. In his master’s image, Bull’s Eye has a violent, vicious side to his personality and is often beaten by Sikes – on one occasion within an inch of his life. Yet despite the ill-treatment, Bull’s Eye remains loyal to the end and when his master leaps off a roof, he does the same, meeting his death on rocks below. Not one of fiction’s cuddlier creations.
One of the saddest stories comes from Homer’s classic Odyssey. Having raised a fine strapping young dog, Argos, Odysseus is forced to leave Ithaca and take battle in the Trojan War. Following the collapse of Troy, Odysseus heads on a journey home that takes more than ten years. Returning in disguise, he passes an old , sorry-looking dog lying on cow dung and infested with lice. Odysseus recognises the animal as his prized Argos, but unable to reveal his identity, tearfully he has to pass him without greeting his old friend. Argos, however, recognises his master, but too old and weak to walk to him, though he manages to drop his ears and wag his tail slightly with what little energy he has left. As Odysseus reaches his home, Argos, having at last seen his master home safely, closes his eyes and never wakes again.
Clifford (Clifford the Big Red Dog)
The runt of a litter of puppies, Clifford is little Emily Elizabeth’s four-legged birthday present. When he rapidly grows into a 25 foot red dog, his new family are forced to leave the city and relocate to Birdwell Island where a whole new set of adventures begin. The brainchild of Norman Birdwell in 1963, the shy but loyal hound became a much-loved character in a series of books that is still going strong some 52 years after it was first published. There are tall tales, and then there’s Clifford…
The Hound (The Hound of the Baskervilles)
The hound from hell and the curse of the Baskerville Family, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is recruited by Sir Henry Baskerville to solve the mysterious case once and for all. A ghastly howl from Dartmoor on a moonlit night had spelled the end for one of Sir Henry’s ancestors and the legend had continued ever since. Is there something roaming the moors in search of blood? Or is there more sinister purposes behind the hound’s sudden re-appearance? Holmes and Watson head for Baskerville Hall to discover what’s really going on.
The brainchild of writer Eric Knight – or Elizabeth Gaskell depending on which story you believe – Lassie is a collie who has a unerring knack of saving the day, rescuing its master and winning the hearts of all who come across her in the process. Originally a short story written in 1859, the broad appeal of this beautiful dog meant expanding the tale to a book entitled ‘Lassie Come Home’. A phenomenon was born with books, films and TV series ensuring Lassie was a staple presence for several generations. The world fell in love with the gentle heroine of the story who is still going strong more than 150 years after first appearing in print.
White Fang (White Fang)
White Fang first appeared in print in 1906 from the pen of Jack London and tells the story of a wolfdog and his path to domesticity. Written from White Fang’s perspective, London examines the violent world of the feral dog with more than a passing reference to their human counterparts’ equally violent lives. A classic novel set in Canada’s Yukon Territory, White Fang has been enlightening children and adults for more than a century.
A dog etched into American popular culture far more than in any other part of the world, Fred Gipson’s classic 1956 novel about an unwanted golden dog who invites himself into the lives of the Coates family and chiefly young Travis Coates, is a heart-warming story that seems destined to end in tragedy. Travis initially rejects the dog, but in time honoured fashion, Old Yeller wins the family over and becomes an integral part of their lives proving a brave a loyal companion for Travis. The heart-breaking conclusion to the tale ensured Disney snapped up the rights and the story of Old Yeller became an American phenomenon.
Rowf and Snitter (The Plague Dogs)
Watership Down author Richard Adams again showed his empathy to animals when he penned the 1977 classic The Plague Dogs. The tale of two dogs – Rowf, a large black mongrel and Snitter, a fox terrier – who escape their dreadful lot at a government experimental laboratory in Coniston, authorities believe the pair may have become contaminated with the bubonic plague during their daring journey to freedom – resulting in a huge armed forces hunt to find and destroy them before they spread the deadly disease. A heart-breaking tale of friendship and the dream of being reunited with their old, safe lives, The Plague Dogs is an incredible read with an ending that is both desperately sad, yet liberating.