In the tradition of stories about animals returning to their people, I present to you: Kävik: The Wolf Dog. This is first chapter book I ever loved. Mr. Wiggins read it to us in the third grade at Collins Elementary, and I checked it out again and again from the Ft. Lewis library. The copies I read were hardcover and featured a rangy wolf stalking through the trees. I always wanted to steal the library's copy and still hope to steal it somehow. Alternatively, I might happen upon a much-loved hardcover copy in a used book store...
Since most people I've encountered have never heard of this gem of a novel, let me give you a synopsis. Open on Alaska. Teenager Andy Evans is out checking his traplines and happens upon the wreckage of a small plane and a badly injured malamute sled dog trapped in a battered crate. He saves the dog and nurses him back to health, creating the first real loving human bond the dog has ever experienced. The dog's original owner returns to claim him and takes Kävik away. But Kävik is all like--I don't think so, buddy. Also, you're not my buddy.--and he begins the 2,000 mile journey back to his boy. Spoiler alert: there are trials and tribulations along the way, loyalties are tested, and of course, courage is regained.
But somewhere across that water was a house overlooking the sea, with the tundra rising gently behind it. In that house were warmth and love and the companionship of people. There was a boy, at the head of whose bed he'd slept and for whom he'd waited in the dark fringe of trees each day so they could race home together. It was the boy's gentle hands and understanding voice he missed the most. It was the boy he'd given the only love he'd ever known. It was to that boy and that house he was returning. --Walt Morey
We never had a dog growing up--we had between three and seven cats, rabbits, budgies, horses, big ol' carpy goldfish, rats, hamsters, and a turtle called Little Dude. (Not all at once, mind you. Well, then again, sometimes all at once.) But never a dog. I'm stressing that point because it makes what I'm about to say all the more incredible. Kävik makes me believe I could be happy with a dog.
If you want to shed some real tears over canine love and loyalty, I'd recommend any other book about a boy and his dog, especially Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, and White Fang.