In the beginning of the novel, Joe describes some of the heinous crimes committed against animals; "He began to swear because we were so ugly, and said that if we had been good-looking, he might have sold some of us... He took one pup and then another, and right there, before his children and my poor distracted mother, put an end to their lives" (p9).
At a year old, Joe's abusive owner cut off his ears and tail with an axe - Joe's yelps were heard from the road and a young man came and took him away.
Joe then begins his life with the Morris family, and quickly learns to love them. This is a story to encourage humane education; through Joe's own experiences and his conversations with other animals the reader is exposed to many different types of cruelty and the overcoming of it.
Another example of cruelty occurred with one of the Morris' other dogs. Jim had been a hunting dog, and was loaned out to a group of young men. These men tied Jim to a tree and "He fired close to me a number of times - over my head and under my body. The earth was cut up all around me. I was terribly frightened, and howled and begged to be free" (p46).
I love this book, the story is told is a very direct way and gives a good description of how animals were treated circa 1893. It is a children's novel, therefore a very easy read. Although many parts are sad, most events told in the book have happy endings. Highly recommended to anyone who loves animals.