The best books about animal loyalty

Will Lowrey Author Of Where the Irises Bloom
By Will Lowrey

The Books I Picked & Why

Watership Down

By Richard Adams

Watership Down

Why this book?

I regret to say that I came across Watership Down later in life, but the book has left an indelible impression and I find myself thinking of it often. Specifically, the character of Bigwig left a profound impact on me and in no short part because of his loyalty to the band of rabbits at various stages of the adventure. When faced with the terrifying threat of General Woundwort, Bigwig did not hesitate to risk his life for his friends and even others he had just met. And in the heat of their travails, Bigwig’s loyalty extends to the downtrodden Blackavar, a rabbit kept prisoner and subject to sure death if left behind. Once more, Bigwig risks his own life in pursuit of purpose and principle. Bigwig’s character serves as a poignant reminder of the nobility of sacrifice for reasons beyond one’s own self-interest.  


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Where the Red Fern Grows

By Wilson Rawls

Where the Red Fern Grows

Why this book?

Although I was admittedly not keen on the scenes of violence inflicted on raccoons during this book, the tale does have many endearing and meaningful parts. Among them is the depth of loyalty not just between the boy and his dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann, but between the dogs themselves. Particularly compelling was the loyalty displayed by Little Ann toward Old Dan. The latter was stubborn and headstrong, often chasing into the woods in pursuit of the hunt without forethought. But no matter how many scratches and scars Old Dan suffered during the chase, Little Ann was always there to tend and comfort him. The loyalty reaches its tragic apex at the end, as Little Ann is simply unable to continue after the passing of Old Dan and settles on his grave for one final nap. The loyalty of dogs to people is well-known, but Where the Red Fern Grows powerfully captures the bond between dogs themselves 


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Animal Farm

By George Orwell

Animal Farm

Why this book?

In a book with so much treachery and deceit, it may come as a surprise to find a story of touching loyalty. This comes in the form of Boxer, the old cart horse. Although Boxer’s loyalty is his undoing in the end, he remains steadfast and resolute in service this fellow animals throughout the book. Again and again, Boxer works himself to exhaustion and never once complains or asks for reprieve. Boxer’s heroic efforts, both as a worker and as a warrior during one of the key battles and the rebuilding of the windmill, win him admiration from his fellow animals. Of course, the ending of the book leverages Boxer’s loyalty against him in tragic form and makes the old horse’s sense of duty even more memorable. 


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Pax

By Sara Pennypacker, Jon Klassen

Pax

Why this book?

Pax is a story that abounds with loyalty between the various human and animal characters in the book. The instance of loyalty that most impacted me was that of Peter, the boy, toward Pax, the fox, at the very end of the book. After releasing Pax into the wild at his father’s insistence, Peter recognizes his mistake and goes on a perilous adventure to reunite with the fox. Despite a broken foot and treks through treacherous terrain, Peter makes the hardest decision of all at the end. Understanding that, despite his personal longing for the bond he so dearly misses, Pax belongs in the wild with his own, Peter decides to leave Pax with his new family of foxes. Peter’s recognition that his human desires pale in comparison to the spirit of the wild is a moving sacrifice and a reminder of the often underappreciated power of the natural world.   


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Brighty of the Grand Canyon

By Marguerite Henry, Wesley Dennis

Brighty of the Grand Canyon

Why this book?

Probably a lesser-known book, Brighty still packs a powerful emotional punch. Similar to Pax, the book speaks movingly about the power of the wild and the value of allowing animals to exist on their terms. In addition to this less, Brighty also tells of the moving bond between a spitfire donkey and a pair of old men working the Grand Canyon. Although he loses his companion, a prospector named Old Timer, early in the book, Brighty never forgets the man’s kindness. He spends the rest of the book, loyal to another man, Jim, seeking justice for Old Timer’s murder. Throughout the book, Brighty never loses the wild inside him and Marguerite Henry does a masterful job of weaving together the themes of loyalty, purpose, and respect for Brighty’s personal integrity. Although mostly considered a children’s book, Brighty is well-worth the read for any adult looking for a story to remind them of the moral greatness of animals. 


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