Today, I’m lucky enough to have a special piece from Ben Davis about his top ten fictional dogs in honour of Gizmo, the canine star of his own book: ‘What’s That in Dog Years?’ (OUP) I’ll let Ben fill you in on the plot of this gorgeous book, but if you want my review of this and several other stories with a doggy-theme, click HERE.
There’s something to be said for fictional dogs. They won’t chew your furniture or chase your postman and the poop you have to scoop is purely imaginary. All the same though, a vividly depicted fictional canine can still make you laugh. And cry.
My book, What’s That in Dog Years? is the story of young George and his ageing best friend Gizmo. When they receive some bad news from the vet, George sets about making a bucket list for Gizmo, full of all the things he loves to do. As well as dealing with subjects like mental health, divorce and issues facing young carers, I hope What’s That in Dog Years? serves as a reminder for us to make the most of our furry companions while they’re still around.
Of course, Gizmo is one in a long line of dogs that graced the page, so I have compiled my top ten kid lit canines, that paved the way for him and his adventures.
Darth Daisy from Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Wonder is one of my all-time favourite books, and a huge part of that is Auggie’s best friend, Daisy. One of the reasons she’s so special is she’s the only character that treats Auggie exactly the same as anyone else and loves him, no matter what. Full disclosure: one particular Daisy scene from Wonder made me sob so loud, it woke my wife.
Toto from The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz by L.Frank Baum
As well as lending his name to one of the greatest ever yacht rock bands, Toto is arguably the most iconic pooch in cinema history, but some may be unaware that the film was adapted from a novel, published in 1900. Toto is fiercely loyal and thinks nothing of defending his companion against wicked witches. We could all stand to be more Toto.
Snowy from Tin Tin by Hergé
Snowy is the only entry on this list that can talk, exchanging lighthearted banter with his old mucker, Tin Tin. Anotherthing that makes Snowy interesting is his all-encompassing lust for bones, which often places him at odds with whichever adventure Tin Tin has foisted upon him that week.
Fang from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
As someone who owns a big, black dog who is as soft and cowardly as a fluffy bunny rabbit (he once ran away from a caterpillar) I’ve always been fond of Fang.
Hagrid’s constant companion, Fang appeared in some pivotal moments in the series, including the Second Wizarding War, proving that he maybe has more steel than it originally appears.
Timmy from the Famous Five by Enid Blyton
Now here’s a dog that likes adventure. Timmy has been having ripping times with his crew since Five on a Treasure Island was published in 1942. Fiercely protective of his young buddies, and an early poster boy for cross breed doggy heroes, Timmy is in some ways like Gizmo’s great-great-great-grandfather.
Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd
This is the first book I ever remember reading, and can still recalls word-for-word the motley crew of dogs that join HairyMaclary from Donaldson’s Dairy on his ambling journey.‘Schnitzel von Krumm with the very low tum’, anyone?
Spot by Eric Hill
Another early years favourite, here. Spot is a charming young pup that can often be found lurking behind flaps. I can still remember all the words to the theme song of the TV adaptation to this day. I wish I could remember useful stuff, as well.
Monster from The Day I was Erased by Lisa Thompson
Lisa Thompson is one of my favourite kid’s writers working today, and in the Day I Was Erased, she creates a wonderful canine companion in Monster. Like my own dog, he’s plus-sized and lovable, and shows off the caring side of his otherwise cantankerous owner.
Snoopy by Charles M. Schulz
Snoopy is probably the most relatable entry on the list, if only for his unfortunate habit of coming up with wild, imaginative schemes only for them to not come to fruition. Now there’s a writer if ever I saw one.
‘The dog’ from the Adrian Mole series by Sue Townsend
Sue Townsend is one of my all-time favourite writers and ‘the dog’; a hound so wretched, he doesn’t even have a name, is one of my favourite fictional dogs. He’s always adding further turmoil to Adrian’s already chaotic home life, treading paint up the stairs, popping footballs and mauling hot-cross buns with reckless abandon.
Despite all that, there’s a very real warmth and affection in Townsend’s depiction of the dog, putting him at the centre of Adrian’s splintered family.
So there we have it, my Top Ten Kid Lit Dogs. Writing What’s That in Dog Years? gave me a renewed appreciation for how tricky it can be to bring the wonder of dogs; wet noses, wagging tails and flapping tongues and all, to the page and do them justice, but many of these books helped me do just that. Anyway, I have to go. My dog has started rooting around in the bin.
Thank you Ben, there certainly are a lot of truly fabulous fictional dogs out there. Are there any that anyone else would like to add in the comments? I might add Odie from the Garfield books by Jim Davis. Plays dumb but perhaps not as stupid as his lolling tongue would have you believe?
*Many thanks to Ben for allowing me to share this blog piece*