Plague Dogs, The by Richard Adams, (c) 1977

This book does for dogs what Watership Down did for rabbits - makes them sympathetic well-developed characters, with their own quirks, foibles and culture. And people are bad. Really bad.

The two heroes, Snitter and Rowf, escape from a concentration camp-esque animal research laboratory into the not-much-friendlier wilderness. On top of that, there has been a news report that the dogs are carrying bubonic plague, so there's a hunt on for the dogs and no people will shelter them.

Rowf is an older dog who has been subjected to drowning experiments, where the "white-coats" make the dog swim in a tank of water until he gives up, then revive him with electroshock. Snitter is a nervous little dog with an open head wound. The electrodes in his brain give him hallucinations that he's still living in a happy home, being cared for by his now-dead master. (He's a lot like Fiver from Watership Down) Rowf just wants to die in peace and escape the tank. Snitter thinks they can find a new home where they'll be cared for.

Like most Richard Adams books, this one will break your heart. I've read several claims that all the experiments he describes in the book are based in real life, but I find that a little hard to believe (but hey, stranger things have happened, I guess.) Not quite as good as Watership Down, but an excellent work nonetheless.

There was also an animated movie based on this book released in 1982, by the same people who did the animated Watership Down. While many children enjoyed Watership Down, despite some pretty grim scenes, Plague Dogs is not a movie for children. Trust me.

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