The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be

First published in 1957, this is one of those classic dog books that everyone who ever read it remembers. Much as they remember the great Canadian novelist Farley Mowat—for his wry humor, his marvelous use of language (his father was a librarian), his passion for animals in all forms and the outdoors in all its glory, and his seemingly endless series of misadventures. Mowat and his family moved to Saskatoon in 1929. His father had (for reasons never completely explained) taken the position of librarian in this remote Canadian frontier town on the edge of a prairie enduring the ravages of the dust bowl, and set smack in a landscape “that appeared to be in the last stages of dry rot.” The journey was trying for his mother, but for Farley it was “a land foreign to all my imagination, and one that offered limitless possibilities for new kinds of adventure.” One adventure arrived at their doorstep that summer in the form of a black and white mongrel, snapped up for four cents by his enterprising and frugal mother, and was quickly named by Farley, to his father’s chagrin, “Mutt”. Mutt turned out to be a game changer, a dog of formidable character. He not only possessed extraordinary skills as a retriever (once going so far as to retrieve a plucked and trussed ruffed grouse from the grocer), but was a determined cat-hater, skunk-baiter, and ladder-scaler. He was, in short, the perfect companion for a boy with a fertile imagination and a preternatural way with words. So with some pride we return this classic to the ranks of the living, to occupy space alongside the equally improbable tales of other immortals like Gerald Durrell, Will Cuppy, and L. Rust Hills on our Nonpareil list. We make this promise with total confidence; if you like dogs, you will love this book.

Farley Mowat (1921–2014) was a Canadian writer, environmentalist, and activist. After serving in the military and exploring as a field technician in remote areas of Canada, Mowat published his first book, People of the Deer, in 1952. Over the next half-century he published dozens of titles, and is best known for Never Cry Wolf , an account of his adventures studying Arctic wolves in northern Manitoba. Over his long career, Mowat received the Mark Twain Award, the Governor General’s Award for Juvenile Fiction, and the first and only Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Outdoor Book Award.