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9 Great Reads for Dog Lovers

I’ve been doing some research for a future project I have in mind, which has required me to read as many books as I can find featuring dogs. I had no idea there were so many great reads for dog lovers out there!  It’s amazing what you discover when you just open your eyes. 

I plan to periodically add to this list as I read more books, but for the time being, these are the best I have read in recent years that I want to share with all of you.

Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog by Ted Kerasote

During a rafting trip along the San Juan River in Utah, author Ted Kerasote met a stray Lab mix. Kerasote invited the stray, whom he later named Merle, to join their rafting trip and the two quickly formed a bond. He brought him home to his small Wyoming town on the edge of Yellowstone National Park where dogs are allowed a certain freedom uncommon in other populations. Kerasote put in a dog door so Merle could come and go as he pleased.

Together, the two skied, ran, hiked and backpacked throughout their backyard wilderness. Intertwined within the story of their lives together, Kerasote brings in his observations about the human/dog relationship.

His formerly wild dog thrives on the freedom Kerasote provides and he notices how the dogs in their small village coexist peacefully, most without leashes and by teaching a few important rules. The book incorporates research and stories from dog communities around the world where they are allowed to make their own decisions and offers insight as to how it might change the way we interact with our pups.

Kerasote has another book called Pukka’s Promise that I have on my reading list as well.

American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

When conservationists brought wolves back to the Rockies, a battle quickly ensued between man and. beast in the west. Blakeslee tells the story of several wolf packs who live in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. One wolf in particular, O-Six is beloved by wolf watchers, especially naturalist Rick McIntyre who spent the better part of his life observing her moves.

Over the course of several years, we follow O-Six and her pack as they are challenged by hunters who compete for the same elk, cattle ranchers who lose livestock, politicians whose decisions are guided by other agendas, and by other wolf packs vying for the same territory.

This book reads like you’re watching a movie, and has you sitting at the seat of your pants anticipating the fate of the wolf pack. The complicated story of the coexistence of the hunters, ranchers, and wolves who share the same territory will make you whoop aloud, break your heart, and teach you everything you ever wanted to know about wolves.

The Education of Will by Patricia McConnell

This was the first Patricia McConnell book I picked up shortly after we adopted Laila and quickly became a fan of the world-renowned animal psychologist and dog trainer. The Education of Will shares the personal story of how her challenging Border Collie, Will helped her come face the memory of traumatic times from her past.

In order to give Will what he needs, McConnell sees that she cannot help him without first addressing the guilt and fear she harbors from her youth. Throughout the book, she weaves in stories about the dogs past and present on her farm in in the Midwest, her studies in animal behavior, and relatable tales from her clients’ dogs.

This is the book that gave me proof that I can have a good relationship with Laila one day, that it will take work and time, but will a memorable bond to cherish for a lifetime.

The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell

I picked up this book soon after finishing The Education of Will and it quickly became my most recommended to novice and longtime dog owners alike. McConnell ties in stories of her clients while explaining dog language in human terms.

With each anecdote, she demonstrates how the disconnect between many dogs and their humans lies within the way we communicate. All too often, we don’t realize that we’re not speaking the same language. McConnell offers funny stories all dog owners can relate to that help wayward dog parents learn to better understand what their dogs are thinking and how to train them in a way that they understand. 

This is a must read book for anyone who has a dog at home.

Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die by Jon Katz

My aunt who is a literary agent suggested that I read a book by Jon Katz when we were discussing books about animals. This conversation happened around the time that Sora died and when I was looking for Saving Simon (which I have yet to read), I came across Going Home..

Drawing from  personal experiences with his own pets, Katz offers solace and support for anyone mourning the loss of their own beloved pet. He assures us that if we gave our pets the best life we could, were there for them during their times of need, and made the best call during their final days, then we shouldn’t feel guilty for the difficult decisions we had to make on their behalf.

Katz encourages readers to celebrate and honor the life of their beloved pet and feel gratitude for the unfaltering love and companionship they provided. If you just lost your pet or have a friend who has, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Katz’s book inspired me to write this post as a way to help others going through the same heartache.

Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me from Myself by Julie Barton

After listening to a Dear Sugar podcast about pet dilemmas among couples featuring author Julie Barton, I made a note of the book she wrote and eagerly anticipated its arrival from my library. 

At 22 years old, Barton collapsed in her tiny New York City apartment facing severe depression in her first year out of college. Her mother raced to pick her up from Ohio to bring her back home to heal.

Despite working with various therapists and interventions from her family, Barton continued to fall deeper into a suicidal depression. It wasn’t until she decided to adopt a Golden Retriever she named Bunker that she slowly emerged from the dark cloud and into recovery.

Bunker gave her a purpose and as the two grew closer, he gave her the confidence to make big life changes and fully live once again. This beautiful story shares the remarkable ways that animals can teach and heal our aching souls.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

Golden Retriever Enzo recalls his life story on the eve of his death as experienced with his human, Denny, an up-and-coming race car driver. Enzo sees the world from a more human perspective, as viewed from the lessons learned from race car driving. Through his eyes, we learn about Denny’s quest to become a racing champion, the love and loss he experiences with his family, and how to fight for what is rightfully yours.

Yes, this is a tear jerker, but it’s also a funny and beautiful novel. It also takes place in Seattle, so I extra like it. 

A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron

Told through the perspective of a dog is reborn into four different lives, A Dog’s Purpose investigates the meaning behind life through the eyes of this dog.

The story begins with Golden Retriever, Bailey and Ethan, the boy who chose him, who grow up and experience life together until Bailey dies from old age and comes back as Ellie, a K-9 unit dog. As Bailey dies and is reborn, he contemplates his purpose as he (or she) experiences different homes, jobs, and humans.

Ultimately, he realizes that he must be reunited with the boy who he loved so dearly.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

I haven’t read this book in a very, very long time, perhaps more than 20 years, but it was one of my favorite childhood books. I don’t remember the story well, but I do remember the end. That memory has stuck with me for all these years. However, I’m not going to reveal the ending, you’ll just have to find out what happens on your own.

Narrated by adult Billy Colman, he retells the story of his childhood memories with his two Redbone Coonhounds, Little Ann and Old Dan. After helping free a coonhound he saw being attacked by other dogs, all Billy can think about as are the two hound dogs he saw an advertisement for a Kentucky kennel. He saves his money for 2 years to purchase them. 

He makes the trip to retrieve the dogs by walking to the freight depot where they are delivered and the three return home encountering all sorts of adventures along the way. He names them Old Dan and Little Ann. The three become inseparable.

Haunted by the incidental death of his neighbor, whose dog attacked his own two, Billy enters Old Dan and Little Ann into raccoon hunting competitions to try to forget about the tragedy. They prove a successful team and bring home a $300 prize, allowing Billy’s family to leave for the city.

This is where I’ll stop the synopsis and tell you to just go read the book.

Also on my reading list:

What are some of your favorite books about dogs?

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Jen Sotolongo

Jen is the Chief Storyteller and Photographer for the Long Haul Trekkers. Born with the travel bug, she has lived in Spain, Chile, and New Zealand. When she’s not galavanting around the world by bicycle, she is running long distances in the woods, exploring nature, or whipping up delicious vegan meals. She is always planning her next adventure.

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