Old Yeller


Plot Summary

The story begins with Travis saying farewell to Papa, who is leaving the Texas farm for a months-long cattle drive to Kansas. Papa puts the 14-year-old Travis in charge of the house. When Travis asks his father to buy him a horse, Papa responds that what Travis needs is a good dog.

The “good” dog coincidentally shows up the next day. It is a big “yeller” dog, and it immediately raises Travis’ ire because it steals and eats that morning’s meat. Travis tries to chase the dog off, but his little brother Arliss takes an immediate liking to the dog. Mama allows Arliss to keep him, intuiting that the dog will come in handy.

Travis does not have any use for the dog until he sees it save Arliss from an angry mama bear. The dog fends off the bear as though it were nothing and, from that day forward, wins a place in Travis’ heart. Old Yeller helps Travis mark hogs, hunt, and get the stubborn cow Spot to milk. Travis and Old Yeller bond at night when they defend the cornfield from varmints.

Old Yeller ends up saving the life not only of Travis (from wild hogs) but also of Mama and Lisbeth (Bud Searcy’s granddaughter, who is left at the farm to help Mama while Travis recovers from his wounds). In his fight with a mad wolf, Old Yeller is believed to have contracted hydrophobia (rabies). Travis realizes that he must kill the dog he loves to keep him from spreading the infection. Shooting Old Yeller leaves Travis in a state of grief.

Papa returns from his cattle drive with a horse for Travis. He learns the story of Old Yeller and tells his boy that he is proud of him. Lisbeth gives Travis a pup sired by Old Yeller. As the new pup grows, it begins to resemble Old Yeller. The resemblance draws Travis out of his depression, and he begins to see that life is not all bad, just like Papa says.

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