7 Memorable Dogs From Literature

In the novel, man and dog are bound together, both victims of a cruel upbringing, both unpredictably violent.
10/07/2014 09:03 am ET Updated Dec 07, 2014

Who could forget Old Yeller, or the dog of Anton Chekhov's short story, "The Lady with the Dog"? Fictional pups have the ability to tug at our heartstrings in a way their human counterparts sometimes cannot. Below are seven fantastic canines from literature, collected in The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals:

  • Bull's-eye from 'Oliver Twist' by Charles Dickens
    Bull's-eye is the dog belonging to Bill Sikes, the vicious thug in Charles Dickens’s <em>Oliver Twist</em>, often assumed to
    Bull's-eye is the dog belonging to Bill Sikes, the vicious thug in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, often assumed to be a bull terrier. In the Dickens novel however, no breed is mentioned; Bull-eye is described as “a white shaggy dog, with his face scratched and torn in twenty places”. In the novel, man and dog are bound together, both victims of a cruel upbringing, both unpredictably violent. The two brutes share more than similar-sounding names; Bull’s-eye has “faults of temper in common with his owner”, yet they are inseparable, and Bull’s-eye, who sleeps at Sikes’s feet or by his side, is always ready to obey his master’s evil whims.
  • Caesar III from “Coming, Aphrodite!” by Willa Cather
    Caesar III is a Boston Bull Terrier who appears in the 1920 short story “Coming, Aphrodite!” by Willa Cather. The narrative’s
    Caesar III is a Boston Bull Terrier who appears in the 1920 short story “Coming, Aphrodite!” by Willa Cather. The narrative’s central character is Caesar’s master Don Hedger, a solitary artist who lives a quiet, uneventful life. Caesar, set in his ways, is a grouchy and sullen creature with an “ugly but sensitive face”. People complain about the dog’s surly disposition, but Don explains that it’s not Caesar’s fault -- “he had been bred to the point where it told on his nerves.” As the story unfolds, the quiet life of man and dog is thrown into turmoil by the arrival of a glamorous new resident to the Washington Square boarding house where they live.
  • Flush from 'Flush: A Biography' by Virginia Woolf
    “He & I are inseparable companions,” wrote Elizabeth Barrett of her cocker spaniel Flush, “and I have vowed him my perpetual
    “He & I are inseparable companions,” wrote Elizabeth Barrett of her cocker spaniel Flush, “and I have vowed him my perpetual society in exchange for his devotion.” Although Flush was a real dog, he’s best known to us through Virginia Woolf’s Flush: A Biography (1933), created, in part, as a playful mockery of popular Victorian life histories. In this charming story, told from the spaniel’s perspective, Woolf makes use whenever possible of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning’s own words, drawn mainly from their letters. “A dog somehow represents -- no I can’t think of the word -- the private side of life -- the play side,” she wrote to a friend, which perhaps explains why Flush remains one of her most popular books.
  • 'Issa' from Marcus Valerius Martialis' poetry
    Issa, whose name translates from the Latin as “her little ladyship,” was a small white dog, widely believed to be a Maltese,
    Issa, whose name translates from the Latin as “her little ladyship,” was a small white dog, widely believed to be a Maltese, immortalized in descriptive verse by the Roman poet Martial. In his poem, Martial makes light fun of the bond between Issa and her master, a well-known Roman figure named Publius, who hasn’t been conclusively identified. “Publius’ darling puppy”, writes Martial, is a “modest and chaste little lap dog, more coaxing than any maid.” She’s discreet and genteel, “purer than a Dove’s kiss,” thoroughly fastidious and perfectly toilet-trained. Would any male political leader today boast about owning such a dog?
  • Jip from 'David Copperfield' by Charles Dickens
    Jip (short for Gypsy) is the spaniel belonging to David Copperfield’s innocent and inept first wife Dora Spenlow in Charles D
    Jip (short for Gypsy) is the spaniel belonging to David Copperfield’s innocent and inept first wife Dora Spenlow in Charles Dickens’s 1850 novel. Naughty and spoiled, Jip behaves like most lapdogs in literature, challenging and menacing his mistress’s besotted lover, keeping his rival’s passion at bay. When David first approaches Jip, the spaniel “showed his whole set of teeth, got under a chair expressly to snarl, and wouldn’t hear of the least familiarity.” After their marriage, Dora and David are almost penniless; nevertheless, Dora insists that “Jip must have a mutton-chop every-day at twelve, or he’ll die!”
  • Kashtanka from "Kashtanka" by Anton Chekhov
    Kashtanka is the subject of a short story by Anton Chekhov first published in 1887. She is a mutt, “a reddish mongrel, betwee
    Kashtanka is the subject of a short story by Anton Chekhov first published in 1887. She is a mutt, “a reddish mongrel, between a dachshund and a ‘yard-dog,’ very like a fox in the face,” who’s lived her whole life with a drunken carpenter and his nasty son, both of whom treat her cruelly. Fortunately, a kindly stranger adopts her, feeds her bread, cheese, meat and chicken bones, and gives her a mattress to sleep on, and teaches her circus tricks. But when she spots her former owners in the audience, she leaps from the stage and runs to them, happily returning to her former life of abuse and privation.
  • Shock from 'The Rape of the Lock' by Alexander Pope
    This is the name of lapdog belonging to Belinda, the comely and cossetted heroine of Alexander Pope’s mock-epic poem <em>The
    This is the name of lapdog belonging to Belinda, the comely and cossetted heroine of Alexander Pope’s mock-epic poem The Rape of the Lock (1712), which, in keeping with its satirical style, presents Shock not as an individual in his own right, but as the source of various clichés about lapdogs. It was common for love poets to regard these popular pets as little rivals, nestling gleefully on their mistress’s lap or between her breasts or thighs, the fortunate recipients of sexual favors permitted to no human suitor. Could the source of this anxiety be that lapdogs make men seem unnecessary?