It's hard to imagine an American boyhood without a dog. The iconic image of a sandy-haired kid in overalls chasing a mutt or bird dog through fields and streams has taken its place beside apple pie and baseball as a symbol of our national heritage. A boy's love for his dog is wholesome, natural, fraught with adventure, and heartwarming all at once, which is pretty much the way we've come to think of our country.
For some reason, there aren't a lot of books about girls and their dogs. This is probably in part historical—boys were understood to be the future hunters and providers for their families, and while dogs were their friends they were also servants helping to track and retrieve game. The bond of man and animal united in hard work is stronger than the one between owner and mere pet.
A lot of the best dog stories are very sad. Old Yeller is the obvious candidate for best tear-jerker of the genre, but there are plenty of others. Dogs often throw themselves in harm's way to protect their masters, and when the faithful hound is killed we often feel more sad than if the human master had been sacrificed on behalf of the dog.
This isn't any crazy environmentalist sentiment, either. Dogs, perhaps more than any other animal, have personalities that humans can perceive, interact with, and love. Humans are pretty much all the same, but a good dog is different from all the rest. Even if you don't have dogs at home, we hope these books will help you love them as much as we do, and to experience one of the best parts of childhood and youth.