As July threatens to turn into August, and our hair seems irrevocably plastered to our foreheads, we’re feel like we’re squarely in that special time of year that our mothers used to call the “dog days of summer.” And dogged they are, but in truth, the phrase comes from the ancient Greek and Roman belief that Sirius, also known as the Dog Star for its prominence in Canis Major, controlled the hot weather. The Romans would sacrifice a brown dog at the beginning of summer to appease the sultry rage of Sirius, but our offering is a little more whimsical (and less bloody) — a list of a few of the most beloved pups in literature. Because after all, if sacrifices to stars don’t work, who better to help you actually enjoy the sweltering summer than man’s best friend? Click through to read our list, and of course, if we’ve spurned your favorite canine, sing his praises in the comments!
Argos, The Odyssey
One of the first dogs ever to be named in Western literature, Argos is the most faithful of them all — having waited for his master to return for twenty years, he is the only one to recognize Odysseus for his true self when he does appear. Then finally, having seen his master safely home, the old dog can die in peace, an enduring symbol of fidelity and love.
Snowy, The Adventures of Tintin
Where would Tintin be without Snowy? Dead several times over, we expect (and vice versa, of course). Snowy is a goldmine of cynical commentary and fond eye-rolling to Tintin’s happy-go-lucky optimism (especially in the earlier books), and though, true, he sometimes gets distracted by bones, he is excellent at chewing through restraints. Just keep him away from Haddock’s whiskey.
How could you not love “a little black dog with long silky hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of his funny, wee nose”? Dorothy’s stolid companion in L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, Toto seems to be just a normal dog at the beginning, just an adorable foil for the heroine to talk to. But in later books, as other animals are revealed to have the ability to speak, Toto finally admits that he can speak too — he just chooses not to. Oh snap, Dorothy.
Buck, The Call of the Wild
Poor Buck. Stolen from a cushy life on a California ranch, he is sold into sled dog slavery in the harsh climes of Canada, where he becomes more beastlike than he had ever imagined possible. But when he meets John Thornton, he is reminded just how powerful love can be, even in the face of tragedy.
Tock, The Phantom Tollbooth
Obviously, we love Norton Juster’s Tock, the “watchdog” who rescues Milo from the Doldrums and accompanies him on his adventures. After all, we all need somebody to (im)patiently explain things to us like “since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking.” Good advice for any dire scenario.
Lassie, Lassie Come-Home
Though most people probably know Lassie from her on-screen franchise (twelve movies and several seasons of television), she originated in a 1938 Saturday Evening Post story by Eric Knight, later expanded into his 1940 novel Lassie Come-Home, which chronicles the dog’s trek to get back to the boy she loves so dearly. Capturing the hearts of millions, the franchise exploded, spawning many more books, and even a couple of radio programs, in addition to all that screen time.
Old Yeller, Old Yeller
We admit it: the name Old Yeller still kind of gives us pangs of deep upset left over from childhood, when we cried for hours over this book. Old Yeller saves the family so many times! And then they have to shoot him! It’s the ultimate sacrifice for everyone! This book was probably the very first tragedy of our young lives, and so will always have a special place in our hearts.
Ghost, A Song of Ice and Fire
We know, we know: Ghost is technically a direwolf. But hey, direwolves are canines too, and Ghost is doglike enough — loyal to a fault, Jon’s constant companion — that we decided to count him. Plus, he’s one of the best literary canines around: slippery, silent and pure white, he was the only one of his litter to be born with his eyes open, as much of an outcast — and as strong — as his keeper. Plus, there’s that whole warg thing. You know, no big deal.
Fang, Harry Potter
We’ve always had a soft spot for Hagrid’s lumbering boarhound. Sure, he’s a big, slobbering coward — until it comes to Hagrid, and then he’s as gallant as can be, ready to leap in front of any stunning spells that might be sent his way.
Jip, David Copperfield
Dora Spenlow’s lapdog is spoiled absolutely rotten, to be sure — but then again, he’s only a mirror of Dora herself: pretty, irritable and always the center of attention. Indeed, Jip lasts only as long as Dora does, dying by her side at the exact moment his mistress closes her eyes for the last time.