These life-affirming stories about very good boys (and girls) will make you hug your dog extra tight.
By Jessica Dukes
It’s no coincidence that, of all the animals, we consider dogs our best friends. They make excellent companions, probably because they seem to understand us, and study after study has shown that living with a dog can reduce stress. Humans and dogs have had a solid relationship for centuries, so it’s no wonder that they’re the subject of so many heartwarming memoirs. Here are a few of our favorites.
Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan
Boylan transitioned from male to female in her 40s, and has since become a well-known human rights activist and bestselling author. Now, Boylan recalls her younger years through stories about seven beloved pets. She says, “I look upon boyhood now the way an emigrant might look upon the distant country of her birth. There are times I can’t even quite remember what that country was like. But I remember the dogs.” With pure acceptance and unconditional love, Boylan’s dogs help her through some of the most uncertain times of her life.
Molly: The True Story of the Amazing Dog Who Rescues Cats by Colin Butcher
The star of the United Kingdom Pet Detective Agency isn’t the human who runs the place. It’s Molly, a cocker spaniel with an uncanny ability to track down missing cats. When Colin Butcher starts his agency, he doesn’t imagine having a canine detective on his team. But then he meets Molly, realizes how smart she is, and sees her unique potential. After extensive training, Molly and Colin get to work and their successes quickly add up, earning them the nickname “the Sherlock and Watson of missing pets.”
Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen
As only Quindlen can, the life lessons she receives from her beloved black Lab, Beau, are recounted in Good Boy. Stay. As her children grow up, so does Beau. Through potty training, house training, and proper socializing for human and canine alike, a picture emerges of what it really means to have a dog as a member of your family. Children grow up and leave home, dogs grow old and slow down, and eventually we have to love them enough to let them go.
When Ryan adopts Will from a kill shelter in New Jersey, the elderly dog is deaf, blind, and scared after being surrendered by the only owners he’d ever known. Ryan thinks he’s simply giving Will an easy life until he dies, but Will has other plans. The New Hampshire countryside seems to reinvigorate him, and Will enjoys his life with the Ryan family for another two and a half miraculous years. This is Ryan’s tribute to the spirit of a tough-as-nails little dog.
Grossi is a Marine Sergeant in 2010 when, on patrol in Afghanistan, a puppy zeroes in on him. All it takes is one quick treat, and Grossi acquires a friend for life. With the help of his unit, Craig sneaks his buddy, now named Fred, back to camp and eventually home to Virginia. Craig saved Fred, and upon Craig’s return to the U.S., Fred saves Craig. Together, they recover from their hardships in Afghanistan, and Fred gives Craig’s life a new purpose: healing returning vets.
It’s hard enough moving your family from California to Maine, so imagine taking that road trip with 25 dogs in tow. Dedicated dog rescuers, the Rosenfelts have everything (even a small team of volunteers) they need to make it. Still, like any epic road trip, hilarity and dog trouble ensues … like the unexpected per-pet cleaning fees charged by tiny roadside motels. Dubbed the “Woofabago 2011,” the trip also serves as an occasion for the Rosenfelts to reminisce about the hundreds of other dogs they’ve rescued up to that point.
Judy was a brave pointer, and the only dog to be considered a WWII prisoner of war. Judy and Frank became friends in a prison camp in the Pacific and essentially took turns saving each other’s lives. As time passed, fellow POWs looked at Judy as a symbol of hope, a good luck charm. When conditions seemed the direst, the camp was liberated, and Frank brought Judy home for good. Judy passed away at the age of 14, and decades later, we finally get to hear their remarkable story.
My Life Among the Underdogs by Tia Torres
Torres is the star of the TV show Pit Bulls and Parolees, where she continues her life’s work of saving pit bulls and refutes their stereotype as a violent, dangerous breed. In her memoir, we go behind the scenes of the show for an intimate look at how working with rescued pit bulls brings focus and meaning to the lives of their handlers. We also meet some of her favorite dogs, each with its own inspirational survival story. In addition to the show, Torres runs the Villalobos Rescue Center, saving the lives of hundreds of dogs that would certainly have been euthanized.
Animal cruelty is a horrible thing to witness, which is why the story of how these dogs are brought to safety and given happy lives is so uplifting. Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick ran a high-stakes dog fighting organization that was notorious for its violent training. When the operation was busted up by the FBI, it resulted in nearly two years of prison for Vick. This is the amazing story of the dogs left behind, their rehabilitation, and the enormous amount of love it took to save them.