One of my favorite episodes of Friends is “The One Where Old Yeller Dies,” when Phoebe discovers her mother prevented her from seeing the true endings to sad childhood movies. Who doesn’t relate to this? As a parent, I love this idea. I already have to talk to my kids about bullying, death, weirdos on Snapchat, and why they can’t eat gummy worms for breakfast. I don’t need any more tears, because this mom life is already hard.
Plus, the pup-icide has gotten too much, even for me. Did anyone even see Marley and Me? I doubt it, since that little puppy on the poster practically screamed, “I kick the bucket in the end.”
Death-free dog books to the rescue.
So listen, fellow Chasers. Save yourself the heartbreak and read these dog books instead.
1. Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard
Remember that news story about the ultra-marathon runner who was followed by a stray dog? This is the dog. This dog book is perfect. You can enjoy the tension in the story, because anytime you start getting worried while reading the book, just pull out your phone and look up the news story. You already know the ending! He comes home because he is on the cover! This book is guaranteed not to betray you.
There’s even a kids version you can feel safe reading to your little ones! So no rabies-induced weeping here.
2. Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson
Listen, we only promised a lack of dog deaths. We never promised a lack of tears. The crux of this story is that Michael Hingson escaped the World Trade Center on 9/11 because of his guide dog, Roselle. Beyond that, this is a gut-wrenching, uplifting book on the plight of the blind. If you need a reminder that dogs are the best animals on the planet, look no further than Thunder Dog.
3. The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
The Mountain Between Us is the story of two strangers who, after surviving a plane crash, end up stranded on a snow-capped mountain together and having to rely on each other for survival. But don’t worry, there’s a dog! While this might sound like an Eight Below situation is brewing and you’re still upset about that movie, but I promise, that pooch makes it off the mountain. I can’t guarantee the humans do, though…
4. The Pug List by Alison Hodgson
Look. At. That. Face. Oliver the pug came into the Hodgson’s lives in a peculiar way: he was the only thing their seven-year-old daughter wanted after an arsonist burned their home to the ground. This dog book is equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, and Oliver is the little smooshed-face string that ties it all together. Not convinced? Check out his Instagram. Resistance is so futile.
5. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrations by Jules Feiffer
The next time a teacher tries to give your child Where The Red Fern Grows, knock it out of his hands and replace it with The Phantom Tollbooth. A little boy visits a magic world called the Lands Beyond via a — wait for it — phantom tollbooth. But who cares about that! You’re here for Tock the watchdog. He’s a dog…and a clock! It’s a match made in children’s lit heaven.
WARNING: The dog does die in the movie version, because sometimes movies are just jerks like that.
6. Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, illustrations by Margaret Bloy Graham
We were sold from the first sentence: “Harry is a white dog with black spots who loves everything…except baths.” What more could you ask for? When you tuck in your babes at night, regale them with stories of Harry. Bonus: he is accepted back home when he bathes! This is a great reminder for the kids.
7. Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond, illustrations by Diane deGroat
Charlie’s two favorite things are bacon and naps, and we’ve never heard anything more relatable than that. As a basset hound owner, Charlie the Ranch Dog is a constant reread at my house. While it’s hard to accurately portray the complete and utter laziness that is the life of our dog, Wrigley James Newton, but Drummond does it. Pass the bacon, bud.