In fourth grade, I was in love with animals. My family had a darling but incomparably lazy cocker spaniel at home. My parents had let me take a few riding lessons and attend a horse camp when we’d moved to Kentucky the year before. I wanted, rather badly, to spend every day with animals. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to many of them.
So I read books about animals–mostly horses and dogs, in retrospect. When I had read my way through most of the fourth and fifth grade selection in the school library, my mom suggested that I read James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. I loved it. Herriot’s tales of the many four-legged creatures–and their caretakers–he cared for in the English countryside made me fall that much more in love with my dear little dog. All Creatures Great and Small was a library book, and I don’t have my own copy, but I do still page through this smaller collection of dog stories on occasion.
I’m writing today with a puppy on my lap. Since he arrived in our home seven days ago, this little guy has made me laugh and cry in equal measure. He’s stressed me out and warmed my heart, sometimes in the span of a few minutes. I wish I knew where my copy of Dog Stories has disappeared to. The delights, frustrations, and sorrows of having a pet sound like just the reading I’d enjoy right now.
Have you ever read any of James Herriot’s stories? Do you have any favorite animal stories?
Until next Thursday,
[image of James Herriot by Fay Godwin via the National Portrait Gallery]