By Sheila Burnford
A good animal story is always welcome, and this 1960 Canadian classic is no exception. This little novel was quickly consumed in a day while I was sick at home with an early autumn viral attack. Not only that, it takes place as summer is transitioning to fall - perfecto! In case you’re not familiar with the story, it’s about three friends: an old pit bull terrier (Bodger), a Siamese cat (Tao) and a young Labrador retriever (Luath) who travel almost 300 miles of Ontario wilderness to find their long lost human family.
Their journey is indeed incredible in distance as well as hardship and adventure. But what I like best about the story is that the animals never “talk” to one another. They are just ordinary animals that communicate realistically with body language and vocalization. Burnford made the brilliant decision to simply describe the animals’ actions and emotions in her deceptively straightforward and naturalistic style.
Burnford is also very knowledgeable about the personality traits inherent in popular dog and cat breeds, yet she endows each animal character with unique characteristics and histories. And of course special attention is given to the royal lineage of the Siamese cat, my favourite! She also writes of the affection and camaraderie the animals have for one another with a genuine fondness that is never phony or saccharine. It’s obvious she’s a big dog and cat lover.
I never saw the 1963 Disney adaptation and I’m curious about it, but would never bother with the 1993 remake since they cop out with voicing the animal characters.