Old Yeller Study Guide

Old Yeller By Fred Gibson

Travis Coates lives in the late 1860s in the Texas Hill Country with his father, his mother, and his little brother Arliss. In order to make a little money, Travis' father is away on a cattle drive. His father has only confederate money to his name, and needs a little union money to buy food and supplies.

Shortly after the story begins, an "old yeller dog" comes visiting the family without invitation. Travis makes an effort to shoo the dog away, but Arliss will have none of it: he immediately takes to the dog and begs his mother to keep it. His mother reasons that the family really could use a good dog after all, and decides that they will keep it.

Travis initially loathes the "rascal" and makes several attempts to get rid of the yellow dog. Arliss and Mrs. Coates thwart his efforts, and eventually, Old Yeller proves his worth, saving Travis, Arliss, and even the entire family on several occasions. Despite his best efforts to the contrary, Travis grows to love Old Yeller.

At long last, Old Yeller's rightful owner shows up seeking his dog. Arliss throws a fit and Travis is mortified. Eventually, the owner realizes that not only does Old Yeller seem to be fond of the family, but they actually need and are quite attached to his dog. He finally submits and trades Old Yeller to Arliss in exchange for a good home-cooked meal.

While defending the family from a hydrophobic (rabid) wolf, Old Yeller is bitten. In a protracted struggle against rabies, Old Yeller gets sicker. Finally, in an effort to save his friend from a long and painful death, Travis is forced to shoot Old Yeller, which breaks his heart. Travis grows significantly from the experience, but never forgets the "rascal".

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