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Nothing tugs at the heartstrings like a sad dog book. When people say that a dog is a person's best friend, it's more than just a clever turn of phrase.
Dogs have been our companions and friends since before the agricultural revolution, a sort of friendship that can be measured in millennia. It's no wonder that stories about furry canine buddies can capture our attention like few others.
Stories about dogs are therefore uniquely compelling, with sad dog books even more so. After your done with these books you can check out our dog shirts and apparel (for humans).
By Wilson Rawls
You may have read Where the Red Fern Grows in school at some point, though some teachers hesitate to give this sad story to younger readers. It's a semi-autobiographical story with the main character, Billy Colman, standing in for author Wilson Rawls.
As an old man, Billy looks back on the two dogs he had as a boy, dogs named Dan and Ann, and the experiences he had with them.
Of course, it's a sad book because the dog dies at the end, but the book's message is a strong one of faith and that even sad things can ultimately be for the best.
Photo credit: thefirstedition.com
By David Wrobleski
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle was an Oprah book club pick and was widely hailed as a brilliant first novel from this author. Calling it a sad story about dogs might be an understatement, however, as Edgar's story is pretty tragic for everyone. Edgar is a young, deaf boy whose family breeds dogs for a living.
Along with his dog named Almondine, Edgar tries to take over his family's business after his father mysteriously dies. That's not the end of the troubles, though, and this book follows a plot somewhat similar to that of Hamlet.
By Garth Stein
This is the first book on this list told from the point of view of the dog, rather than his human owner.
The dog, Enzo, believes that if he prepares himself properly he will be reincarnated as a human in his next life. To that end, he spends his time observing the humans around him and trying to understand their lives.
The name 'Enzo' is taken from Enzo Ferrari, founder of the car company, as the human in the story, Denny, is a fan of race car driving. Enzo helps Denny throughout the two's lives and, while this is a sad story, the ending is ultimately hopeful.
By Sharon Creech
Unlike the other books on this list, Love That Dog is actually a book of poems, though all telling one story. They are written from the perspective of a young boy who would rather not write poetry at all, which the author manages to imitate with some humor.
The book was a finalist or winner of several awards for children's books, including the Carnegie Medal.
Photo credit: childrensbooksdaily.com
By Sandy Fussell
This story is also told from the point of view of a pup. In this case, the main character isn't even given a name by his first family, instead choosing the name of 'Sad' for himself.
That tells you everything you need to know about how he is treated. While it seems like things get as sad as they can when his family moves and leaves him behind, things quickly begin to look up for him.
Ultimately about accepting people for the things that make them special, Sad ends up with a new and better name by the end.
By Fred Gipson
This has got to be the quintessential sad book about dogs. A farm family struggles, the father absent and working, with the bulk of the work falling on the main character, Travis.
A stray dog, Old Yeller, appears and sticks around to help, though Travis initially tries to get rid of the dog. Old Yeller proves his worth more than once, saving each member of the family from a threat in a different way.
Old Yeller saves them one last time, forcing Travis to face an incredibly difficult decision.
By Leslea Newman (writer) and Machiyo Kodaira (illustrator)
This illustrated children's book tells the true story of Hachiko, an Akita dog who lived in Japan during the 20s and 30s. The dog and owner had a very particular schedule every day, and every day the dog would meet his owner at the train station at the same time.
One day, Hachiko's owner goes to work and never returns. Hachiko's care is taken over by a young boy named Yasuo and the master of the train station the dog still came to every day, waiting for the master that will never return.
It's a bittersweet story, one that highlights the deep relationship between dogs and their people, that ultimately lingers on the lives Hachiko impacted during his life.
A statue of Hachiko now sits in a prominent square outside Shibuya train station, where Hachiko once waited for his master.
By Nick Jans
At once beautiful and heartbreaking, the story of Romeo the wolf offers a glimpse at the first friendly interactions between humans and dogs' long-ago ancestors, wolves.
Romeo was a black wolf who lived near Juneau, Alaska. While initially wary of him, the residents of Juneau found that he was gentle and curious. He would join cross country skiers on their trips across the snow, play fetch with dogs, or sit and keep quiet company with people.
Everyone knew him and liked to say hi. None of the books on this list have happy endings and you might have guessed that Romeo is not left to live long and peacefully. However, it's plain that while he lived, he was loved.
By Mark R. Levin
Another memoir, Rescuing Sprite is the story of the author and his family adopting a new dog. Sprite proves to be happy and friendly, so that every member of the family quickly falls in love with him.
Unfortunately, as sometimes happens with rescue dogs, Sprite proves to have some serious health problems. Soon, Sprite's short time with Levin's family comes to an end.
Many people have cited this book as being helpful after the loss of a pet, the writing being so authentic and beautiful as to be cathartic.
By Catherine Ryan Hyde
A woman doctor in mid 50s America struggles with her past, caring for abandoned animals. Soon, she finds love and family in an ad hoc family, consisting of an African American father and son, a neglected boy, and a wounded dog.
After all, life is better with a dog. While the small town they live in is not accepting of the little family, friendship eventually stands the test of time. This book highlights the fact that found families can be as strong as those connected by blood, and that dogs are as much a member of the family as any person.
By Lynn Hall (author) and Antonio Castro (illustrator)
Barry was a Saint Bernard who lived at the beginning of the 1800s in Germany. If you ever think of a big, sloppy Saint Bernard saving people from avalanches or the cold, it's because of Barry.
Like a lot of big dogs, he had a shorter lifespan, dying at the age of 12. However, during his life, he was credited with saving at least 40 people in the mountains around his home.
Barry has been long remembered, recognized as the most famous Saint Bernard ever. The hospice where Barry lived has kept a Saint Bernard named for him ever since.
By Dan Rhodes
There is a whole genre the describes the adventures of dogs and other pets on epic journeys. One of the best known is Lassie Come Home.
This book is something of a twist on that classic, with a little mongrel taking the main role. Timoleon Vieta is left by his owner in Rome, abandoned to please a demanding lover. The book describes Timoleon's journey across Italy back to his home.
Like a lot of these sorts of stories, it may make you miss your dog. It's an irreverent take on a classic that still displays affection for the pup at the center of the story.
By Patti Sherlock
This story isn't just sad, it's heartbreaking in a particularly affecting way. Wolfie is a German Shepherd mix who lives with a family in the United States during the Vietnam War.
The young boy who is Wolfie's friend decides that he can help out with the war and keep the soldiers safe by sending his dog to be a scout in the army.
The book tells the story of Wolfie's time in Vietnam and that of the young boy who volunteered him. While just the plot is sad enough, the book depicts some of the complexities of patriotism and sacrifice.
Reading sad books about dogs doesn't seem like it should be much fun. The stories are always heartbreaking and a gut punch in the feels usually doesn't make for a good time.
It might be that these stories are a guilt-free way to see man's best friend do their thing, staying loyal and happy no matter what. After drying your tears, though, you may want to get a funny dog coffee mug or two to lift your spirits and so your loyalty to your own brave dog.