Title: The Plague Dogs
Author: Richard Adams
Year published: 1978
This book is not an easy book to read, not by any way you look at it. It tells the story of two dogs, Snitter (who once had a master) and Rowf (who never did and is therefore known only by the sound he makes, a great big "Rowf"), who escape from an animal experiment research place (called, amusingly enough Animal Research, Surgical and Experimental -- yes, that spells out A.R.S.E.). The stories of their tortures at the hands of the scientists and of the torture of other animals are all too realistic as they're based off real experiments, many of which are simply not necessary and are done "just to see how the animal reacts." That is part of what makes it difficult to read. The other part is some of the dialect. I admit, the dialect of the tod (a fox) was so hard to get through at first that I came close, more than once, to putting down the book.
I'm glad I didn't.
After a time you get used to it and it helps to really solidify his voice in your head.
These two dogs in their travels are first chased off and later pursued by farmers for killing sheep and hens and raiding dust bins. The press gets involved, bringing the public's attention to these two dogs and after finding out that there were experiments going on regarding the plague at A.R.S.E., concocts a story in which the dogs might or might not carry the plague. Either way, the public outcry for the deaths of the two "plague dogs" is overwhelming.
What ensues from here on out is a media circus and manhunt of the worst kind.
I won't spoil the ending, because I was surprised and amazed. Despite the sometimes emotional difficulty of reading about the experiments done not just on dogs, but on many other animals as well, and despite the difficulties of reading the tod's dialect, I will say this book was VERY worth reading. By the end I couldn't put it down and I was in tears.
Besides the plot and the twists therein, I found the book a rather telling commentary on the media and just what they can do to the public's perception. The way the media twists the facts, creating a story just to sell some more copies, is astonishingly accurate.
Buy The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams