The best heart-melting, life affirming books about the bond between a dog & his human

Sam Angus Author Of Soldier Dog
By Sam Angus

Who am I?

I was asked in my final year at university, to choose between my degree and my dog. I’d kept a little Yorkshire terrier hidden in my Cambridge rooms for two years before he was discovered and he’d been lovely company as I plugged away at my reading there. I'm pretty confident that I'm the only student who has ever kept a dog at Trinity College. Because of the impact Lassie made on me as a child, I’ve always longed for a collie and now have space for one. He’s called Cedric and is as human and sentient as I. The first book I wrote was about a dog with the loyalty of all the dogs in the world, and with the love of all the dogs in the world.

I wrote...

Soldier Dog

By Sam Angus,

Book cover of Soldier Dog

What is my book about?

A heart-stopping, harrowing, story about love and courage, about a boy and the dog that he loves. It’s 1917 when young, lonely Stanley Ryder discovers that his bullying Father has drowned his puppy. Stanley runs away and enlists in the hope of joining up on the western front with his older brother Tom. Recruited into the Messenger Dog Service, Stanley finds himself in the front lines with a dog named Bones at his side, As the fighting escalates, he experiences the horror of war and comes to realise that the loyalty of his dog is the one thing on which he can rely.

The Books I Picked & Why

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Greyfriars Bobby

By Eleanor Atkinson,

Book cover of Greyfriars Bobby

Why this book?

This made an enormous impression on me. You will not get through it dry-eyed. Whenever I come across any highland terrier on any street anywhere, I remember little Bobby sleeping for fourteen cold long years beside the grave of Auld Jock and I see all the great love that a dog can have for his human. A classic, based on a true story, published first in 1912.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

By Garth Stein,

Book cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain

Why this book?

This has everything you could ask for: originality, wit, humour, bottomless humanity, and a deeply satisfying, uplifting ending. If you love animals, you won’t be able to put it down, you’ll cry and you’ll smile, you’ll feel heartbroken, you’ll feel hopeful and, when you’re done, ever afterward, you’ll remember it.

The Call of the Wild & White Fang

By Jack London,

Book cover of The Call of the Wild & White Fang

Why this book?

One story is about a dog and the other is about a wolf, so they’re companion books and mirrors to each other. Both are deeply atmospheric, transporting you to the isolated, raw, cruel wastes of the frozen north, to the world of famine, brutality, and the survival of the fittest. Both stories examine primal instincts: How much dog there is in wolf, how much wolf there is in dog, and how the balance of the primal canine instinct can be tipped by trust in man. Read each one in a day and you’ll never forget them.

Where the Red Fern Grows

By Wilson Rawls,

Book cover of Where the Red Fern Grows

Why this book?

Unlike my other recommendations, this story is about a boy and two dogs, so it is not only about the boy's love for the dogs but about the dogs’ love for each other. It’s also a story about childhood, about freedom and wilderness, about courage and determination and loyalty, about love and heartbreak. It’s a devastating, beautiful tribute to childhood, to adolescence, to family and to love.

Lassie Come-Home

By Eric Knight, Marguerite Kirmse (illustrator),

Book cover of Lassie Come-Home

Why this book?

When I was very young, we had a golden retriever called Nesta. While we were away on holiday one year Nesta was put in kennels. Clearly, she thought that she was there by mistake and that her duty was to find us, so she dug herself out of the kennels, crossed three very busy roads, and somehow, with that extraordinary homing instinct a dog can have, made her way back to our house - a distance of 15 km. When we finally returned, there she was at the door, starving and weak, but happy and supremely confident that she’d done the right thing. If you’ve ever had a dog do that, then Lassie is the story for you. The movie is good but has nothing on the book which should be part of everyone’s growing up: the family’s poverty, the dog’s courage, and loyalty - all this has stayed with me, become part of my marrow and I now, finally, perhaps 40 years after reading Lassie, have a collie of my own.

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