The Starlight Barking by Dodie Smith
Many of you will have seen the animated Disney Film “The 101 Dalmatians” with Glenn Close playing the evil Cruella de Vil who stole Dalmatian puppies with the intention of making white and black spotted fur coats. All the puppies were successfully rescued by a Pongo and Perdita two ‘married’ Dalmatians who had initially set out to rescue their own litter of puppies but who eventually rescued all of the stolen dogs which when totalled came to 101 hence the title.
What many people will not realise is that Dodie Smith wrote a sequel – The Starlight barking. Set some time after the rescue (although actually written 11 years later) all the dogs and cats from the original story are happily settled , most still living at the farm owned at the time by Cruella de Vil but now bought by Pongo and Perdita’s owners and turned into a loving family home.
One morning the dogs awake to find that every other living thing is sound asleep and cannot be roused from their slumbers. Pongo and Perdita set out for London where one of their daughters ‘Cadpig’ who was rehomed to the human Prime Minister is trying to find out what has happened to their human pets. The dogs discover that they have mysterious powers such as the ability to cover long distances by ‘swooshing’ and to communicate by telepathic barking. Soon thousands of dogs are converging on London from all corners of the United Kingdom to see if Pongo can discover what is going on.
Before long the reason that only dogs (and certain animals that were given the title of ‘Honorary dogs’ following the original adventure) are awake becomes clear and Dogkind is given the opportunity to leave their human pets behind and live in a world free from hunger and suffering and persecution.
The dogs have an agonising decision to make . . . . . . .
I first read this book as a child many years ago (it was published in 1967 !) and I’m not too proud to say I shed a tear when I read how the dogs came to their decision whether to leave or stay in a world where too often they are mistreated. With so many dog stories on the shelves you might be forgiven for thinking that this is just a children’s book from a forgotten generation but you wouldn’t be more wrong. It is as poignant today as it was when I first read it 30 plus years ago and along with “101 Dalmatians” is the forerunner to the current generation of books written from a dogs point of view. So if you are looking for a Christmas present for a child or a grownup who loves dog stories then look no further than “101 Dalmatians” and “The Starlight Barking”. No Dog Lovers book shelf is complete without these two fabulous books.