Books Where the Dog Dies, Rewritten So the Dog Doesn’t Die

Finally, it’s safe to read “Where the Red Fern Grows”

Old Yeller

It came clear to me that Mama was right. And from everything I had heard, I knew that there was very little chance of Old Yeller’s escaping the sickness. It was going to kill something inside me to do it, but I knew then I had to shoot my big yeller dog.

“Come on out back behind the barn,” I said to him, a little too harshly, the words barely squeaking past the lump in my throat.

Old Yeller book cover

Old Yeller followed me back behind the barn. And that’s when I did it. That’s when I shot my yeller dog.

I don’t know if that’s the term: I think maybe I shoulda said “gave a shot to my yeller dog” instead of “shot my yeller dog,” but it don’t matter. It was still the hardest thing I ever did, because I’m dead afraid of needles, and I never dreamed I’d have to give a rabies shot to my own dog, but it was the right thing to do. Right away, Old Yeller seemed back to his old self: jumpin’ around and lickin’ me, and lappin’ up big bowls of water. He didn’t even complain too much about the shot. His rabies was gone.

“You’ve become a man today,” Papa told me later, at dinner.

“Why?” I asked, looking up from my cornbread. Giving the rabies shot was hard, sure, but I didn’t feel much ruined or much older by it. Then I remembered: Papa had also made me help him with his taxes that day. I sat up a little straighter. Maybe I had become a man after all.

Old Yeller gave a big ol’ woof, then stole the cornbread right off my plate, and we all laughed and laughed and laughed.

Marley and Me book cover

Marley and Me

“Do you think they’ll make a movie of this, Jen?” I murmured, my hand stroking Marley’s golden fur.

“Why would they make a movie of this, John?” Jen said, rolling over on her side and pulling the blankets up over her head.

“I’m just saying, we could spin this off into like three books and a movie, minimum,” I continued. Marley’s chest rose and fell under my hand.

“Why would anyone buy a book about two people who get married and have a dog and are happy?”

“Well, the twist is, the dog is kind of a rascal,” I said. Marley smiled in his sleep. He was a very healthy dog who would live longer than me, though I didn’t know it yet.

“That’s not a good story,” Jen mumbled. “Goodnight.”

“Jennifer Aniston would star in it,” I said.

“Goodnight, John.”

Where the Red Fern Grows

Where the Red Fern Grows book cover

Old Dan and Little Ann stood at the base of the tree, bawling and barking and howling. There was a long, deep growl from the mountain lion, who scampered from branch to branch, its yellow eyes glinting in the moonlight. For a moment, I saw what might happen: the leap of the big cat, the slashing claws, my pups lying bloodied and helpless, dying tangled in a huckleberry bush.

But none of that happened. The big cat hissed, and my dogs howled. I strained my eyes to see higher in the tree, gauging our danger. The mountain lion and I locked eyes. She kept her eyes locked on mine while she slowly reached her paw across the branch, farther than I would have thought she could have reached, and while still staring directly at me, batted a full glass of water off the branch of the tree. It crashed to the ground next to me, right where a red fern was growing.

Eventually my dogs and I grew tired of waiting, and I think the cat fell asleep anyway. And before you ask, yes, I did name my book after what happened that evening, but only because it was so hilarious to me and my living dogs. Where did that cup of water even come from?

The Grapes of Wrath book cover

The Grapes of Wrath

The dog wandered, sniffing, past the truck, until he found a puddle of water and lapped at it. He raised his head and looked across the pavement. Rose of Sharon screamed. A big swift car squealed its tires and jerked his wheel, the car nearly tipping up on two tires as the vehicle narrowly missed the family pet.

“Dammit, but I won’t be a symbol for the suffocatin’ and murd’rous weight of capitalism and the myth of the American Dream on the day laborer and migrant worker by killin’ your pup with my sportscar!” the driver screamed out his window, giving the whole Joad family the finger.

And he wouldn’t. Everythin’ else — ev’ry death an’ loss an’ unjustice an’ tragedy an’ animal for the next 400 pages or so would basically drive that point home — but at least the whole time, through everything, the Joads had their beloved dog. He wasn’t very good symbolism, but he was a very good boy.

The Art of Racing in the Rain book cover

The Art of Racing in the Rain

[No book found]

The Odyssey

The dog Argos lay there, covered in ticks,
But as soon as he became aware of Odysseus,
He leapt to his feet
And put his paws upon Odysseus’ shoulders and it was
Almost as though they were hugging.

The dog’s paws wrapped around the man’s shoulders
As they shook and shook.
It was as though no time had passed
Between man and dog.

“Who is this dog?” Odysseus asked at last, smiling through tears
As though he did not know his own pup.
“Who is this good boy?
Who is this good boy?
Who is this good boy?”

The Odyssey book cover

And the swineherd, though he still did not realize
The identity of Odysseus
Was filming the whole encounter
Because he knew good content when he saw it

And later, without Odysseus’ knowledge,
He uploaded the video on YouTube
Where it was titled “Dog Greets Soldier Coming Home”
And it received well over 3 million views.


Its snapping jaws were inches from her bare midriff, as she scrambled against the passenger seat, reaching out to try slam the Pinto’s door against the rabid dog. Cujo’s eyes met hers. Incredibly, his tail was wagging, even as he snarled, and thick strings of spittle and blood sprayed from his lips. She had a moment, then, while his tail wagged, when she could have slammed the car’s door on him: once, twice, ended it. But then she remembered what she had always said, before Cujo went and started murdering everyone in town: There are no bad dogs. Only bad owners. Or perhaps more specifically, in this case, bad rabid bats.

Cujo book cover

Did she still believe it? She still believed it. For a moment, she felt a twinge of guilt about moving the blame to a rabid bat. Could it also be true that there were no bad bats? It wasn’t talked about. Cujo roared at the door. The innate morality of dogs is well-established, but in a way, we are just beginning to have those necessary conversations around the morality of bats. She would have to —

THE BOY was screaming but THE WOMAN had suddenly become distracted and had let her hand fall from the door handle. He could tell THE WOMAN would not be smashing him to death with a door because she kept muttering “Maybe the only bully breed here is … man” but he didn’t understand what THE WOMAN meant and so out of confusion he bit her head off, and went on to bite the head off of every person in the whole town. Still, every MAN and WOMAN and CHILD agreed that they preferred to die by Cujo’s jaws than to live with the knowledge that they had killed a dog. Once all the people were gone, he suddenly felt very tired and much less murderous. He let out a big sigh and circled around three times before settling in to take a long, well-deserved nap. He was A GOOD BOY.

More Like This

The Bear That Stole My Identity

"If I Had a 3D Printer" and "The Charming Bear," two poems by Gary Leising

Jul 6 - Gary Leising

Have You Patted a Bodega Cat Today?

“How to Placate the Gods of New York,” a graphic story by Matthew Kramer

Apr 1 - Matthew C. Kramer

10 Animals Who Have Broken Into the Library

Meet an owl with his own visitor card, bats who take care of rare books, and other wild library fans

Aug 14 - Erin Bartnett
Thank You!