It’s no surprise that people call dogs “man’s best friend” even though they’re incredibly different from humans. They don’t have the ability to talk — at least, I’ve never met one that could — but their love and loyalty make up for it, because they become someone people can trust, cry alongside of and have fun with.

No two dogs are the same, which makes it special when you have a great bond with yours. Because each dog has a different personality, owners have a variety of stories to tell about their canine companions, ranging from silly behaviors to brilliant tricks. What’s the best way to hear these stories? Of course, you have friends and family with pets, but to really find a story about a dog’s life, you’d need to read it in a book. And wouldn’t you know it, here are four great places to start.

1. “A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher” by Sue Halpern

From the title, you might think this book is going to be funny: A dog walks into a nursing home … and then what? Well, laughter is a part of it, but so is happiness, sadness and love. Halpern tells the story about how she and her labradoodle, Pransky, become a certified therapy dog team. Therapy dogs are always needed, and if this dog could do what they do, why not give it a shot? Pransky sure did, and she became the nursing home’s favorite dog as patients bathed in her empathetic and loving being.

Halpern reflects on all that she and her dog experienced through their time in the nursing home. Dealing with loss and observing the lives of the patients, the two of them helped many of the residents through the healing that dogs can give humans. The stories are heartwarming and heartbreaking, and they might make you even want to get yourself a therapy dog to help patients. Halpern learned a lot by watching her dog go from room to room and by talking with patients herself, and one day, you’ll hope to learn the lessons that she has, and maybe it’ll include a therapy dog team.

2. “One Good Dog” by Susan Wilson

Chance is a pit bull mix who only knew the life of dogfighting until he left to become a street dog, searching for his forever home while not knowing if there was even out there for him. It wasn’t until he met Adam March, a selfish business man who had lost everything, that Chance found a new home and life.

Wilson alternates the chapters by using third-person point of view for more details about March and his perspective and using first-person point of view for Chance’s view of his world. It’s quite interesting to hear a dog so much in a book, which you might have guessed by now is fiction. In the beginning of the book, it’s clear that March and Chance are alike in many ways, and Chance’s tone and attitude come off as careless and fierce, just like March. However, as the story carries on, you’ll find that Chance is a dog who eventually welcomes change, again, just like March does.

Wilson has written a sequel to this book, called “Two Good Dogs,” which is also worth a read because it continues March and Chance’s story. When the two meet an innkeeper, her daughter, a street kid and his pit bull, they become entangled with a new life and these people who will become a part of their daily living. Chance and his new canine friend will continue to make their mark on the people around them.

3. “Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog” by John Grogan

You’ve probably heard of the famous dog Marley because of the movie “Marley & Me,” starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, but before the 2008 movie, John Grogan wrote the book three years earlier. In the book, Marley is a crazy dog who brings chaos upon his family and gets expelled from obedience school. Was this a dog who couldn’t be trained? Of course — all Marley need was patience and time.

The movie “Marley & Me,” featuring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, was released in 2008, three years after John Grogan’s book was published. (Image via USA Today)

Even with Marley’s disobedient behavior throughout the book, he never disappointed his family with his doggy humor and kisses. Sticking by his kid siblings, Marley showed the Grogans that even though he might be a bad boy at times, he’ll always protect his family and ensure they have a paw to cry on when needed until the end of his time.

4. “A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog” by Dean Koontz

This memoir captures the story of a dog who may very well be the exact opposite of Marley. “Big Little Life” tells the story of a golden retriever named Trixie, a retired service animal from Canine Companions for Independence, whose secret is her incredible intelligence. She is always impressing everyone in strange but fascinating ways, which you’ll read all about in Koontz’s book.

Koontz perfectly summed up the impact a dog has on a person: “Trixie inspired me to look at things from a new perspective, made the familiar fresh again, somehow shared with me her recognition of great beauty in mundane scenes and reawakened in me an awareness of the mystery that is woven into the warp and weft of everything we perceive with our five senses but can know only with our hearts.”

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Michelle Dreyer

Southern New Hampshire University

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