The best dog books to tug on your heartstrings

The Books I Picked & Why

Dog Songs: Poems

By Mary Oliver

Book cover of Dog Songs: Poems

Why this book?

Mary Oliver writes about her dogs, and slice of life observations of them with so much heart, wit, and compassion. The compassion isn't just for her dogs and her own heart but for us, her dog-lovesick readers too. I feel closer to my dogs, here and passed, humming Mary Oliver’s, Dog Songs.

In "A Little Dog’s Rhapsody in the Night,” Mary’s dog Percy says, with his eyes:

“Tell me you love me,” he says.
“Tell me again.”

Could there be a sweeter arrangement?
Over and over
“Tell me you love me,” he says.
“Tell me again.”

Could there be a sweeter arrangement?
Over and over
he gets to ask.
I get to tell.”


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Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival

By Kirby Larson, Mary Nethery, Jean Cassels

Book cover of Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival

Why this book?

A dog and a cat are left behind when Hurricane Katrina strikes. Rescuers dub them, “The Bobbies” because of their bobbed tails. The two are inseparable, and the dog Bobbie is fiercely protective of the Bobbie cat, who we later learn is totally reliant on him for her survival. The Bobbies are rescued, and we’re reminded how many “helpers,” as Mr. Rogers’ mother would say, there are in the world.


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This Old Dog

By Martha Brockenbrough, Gabriel Alborozo

Book cover of This Old Dog

Why this book?

I have a huge soft spot for old dogs. They’re like stiff, fragile children, needing our extra tender care.

Martha wrote this story remembering her old dog when her daughter was born. Old dog likes to take things slow and is sad how life’s sped up since “the girl” was born. But when the girl starts to walk… Walk?! Old dog and new girl literally find common ground: smelling the grass and rolling in it. They take walks together, nice and slow, discovering and delighting in things together, as old dogs and young children do. It’s love that keeps us going.


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My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts

By Laura T. Coffey, Lori Fusaro

Book cover of My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts

Why this book?

Adopters of elderly animals are everyday saints. In, My Old Dog, we get to meet some dog saints (including George Clooney), and the sweet oldsters they’ve opened their hearts and homes to. This is a tenderly written book — and I’m not surprised: Laura Coffey has one of the biggest, most generous hearts I’ve ever known. Lori’s photos will make you weep, smile, and go, “Aw.” There’s a poignant foreword by Niko Chase, and in the chapter, How You Can Help, wonderful advice from Dr. Marty Becker, and trainer and behaviorist, Mikkel Becker.

Now, go snuggle with your old dog.


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Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die

By Jon Katz

Book cover of Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die

Why this book?

I love and grieve hard. Sometimes debilitatingly so. When I lost my first cat, Olif, I couldn’t go in my studio for a year. Without my best boy in there with me, just crossing the threshold triggered a kind of PTSD, and I’d buckle under the grief. I finally saw a therapist and got the help I needed to move forward.

Books can help us with our grief too, and Going Home is one that’s helped me. Glancing through it now, I see I’ve opened straight to the chapter, “Guilt.” Yea, that one’s insidious, isn’t it. Katz covers them all: All the thoughts that needle and jab, all the emotions that drown, then drain us. Maybe, Going Home will help you too. Hold it on your lap where your beloved once was. And I will too.


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