Why is it that any damn kids' book with a dog in it always ends up with "very, very sad times" at the end? Whose idea was it to kill off all those damn dogs? It never fails! Show me a book with large type and a happy damn dog on the front, and blammo, I guarantee the poor dumb animal's days are numbered, as sure as I stand here.

This is a special case of the Disney Principle, which applies to all cute animals: The inexorable and bloody-handed logic of children's entertainment dictates that All Things Cute Must Die. Boy-and-his dog books are aimed at an older audience than Disney movies, but never mind that. The cuteness flux wanes as the target approaches puberty, but the end is the same.

Maybe the Disney Principle and the boy-and-his dog book dead puppy imperative are both special cases of something deeper and more sinister. Yeah, shmaltz, kitsch, whatever, but there is only one plot in a non-comedy story involving animals.

I mean hey, I don't much like dogs myself: They stink, they're dependent, they're born slaves, etc. Even so, they surely deserve to come into this world with some hope of living long enough to star in the sequel.

Hm, Lassie is an exception.

I think that people are looking at this novel in the wrong light entirely. I mean, yes, it does involve dogs and there is an element of sadness to it.. but it's about life, the entire novel is about life and devotion and love, and it's kind of sad to see it broken down into some book about "cute things" dying.

Also, I have to point out that Where the Red Fern Grows isn't a boy and his dog book so much as a two dogs and pure, hardcore emotion. I don't remember the parts of the story that dealt with the boy nearly as well as I remember those which were solely about the animals. That may sound silly.. but I tend to think that dogs are passionate animals. The story is touching, and yes, it is also quite sad, but life is sad. Sometimes the most achingly beautiful things in life are also those that emanate with sadness.

It's easy to peg a book like this one down as being a travesty to dogs, or something along those lines, or even as just another Disney type flick.. but if you really read it, actually pay attention to it, it's a nice story. I like the fact that the boy in the book can see the bond between the two animals, but a lot of people reading don't understand. I think it's sort of a testament to the kind of devotion you just don't see very often anymore.. perhaps this is why so many people miss it in the novel.

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