Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, is a fiction novel about eleven-year-old Marty who hides a beagle from his family and vows to protect the dog from his mean-spirited owner, Judd Travers. Your students will fall in love with Shiloh the dog the same way Marty does after reading the novel.
Marty goes for a walk after lunch on a Sunday afternoon and is followed home by a sad-looking, malnourished beagle, whom he names Shiloh. Marty’s parents dismiss the dog completely and after dinner, Marty’s dad returns the dog to Judd Travers, a conniving man who Marty suspects is abusing Shiloh.
Marty thinks about Shiloh all night and makes up his mind to find a way to buy the dog from Judd. He asks his father, who is a mailman, if he knows of any way he could earn money, but the only option is to collect bottles and cans. A day later, Marty helps his dad deliver Sears magazines all over town, including Judd’s neighborhood. Judd openly admits to not feeding the dogs or even giving them names. Marty is livid and more determined than ever to save that Shiloh dog.
Marty continues collecting bottles and cans for the next couple days, eager to make enough money to buy the dog from Judd. While contemplating about the dog, Marty hears a sound he knows is Shiloh. He picks him up from the front yard and heads to the woods so that nobody will see him. He makes a promise to Shiloh that he will never send him back to Judd, and sneaking back and forth to the shed, he picks up wire and some fencing to build a pen.
The next day Judd drives up and asks Marty and his dad if they’d seen him. Marty denies knowing anything about the dog. Marty continues to build upon his lies and decides that lying is better than letting Shiloh get beat up. When Marty sneaks off after dinner one night to tend to Shiloh, his suspicious mother follows him and catches him playing with the dog. Marty’s mother begrudgingly agrees not to tell his father until the next day, but in the night a German shepherd jumps the fence and attacks Shiloh. Marty and his parents run to the dog and find it seriously injured. They rush to Doc Murphy who stitches him up, but is unsure if Shiloh will recover.
The following day Doc Murphy returns the dog and Marty’s dad agrees to let Shiloh stay until he has healed, but then he will need to be returned to Judd. However, Judd finds out and comes to the house and demands the dog be returned by Sunday. After days of thinking, Marty walks to Judd’s horse early on Sunday morning to insist that he sell the dog to him. By chance, Marty witnesses Judd kill a doe and uses this as blackmail. Judd agrees to let Marty work for him for the next two weeks in exchange for the dog. Marty and his family, who have grown to love Shiloh, are thrilled at the news.
Marty owns up to his end of the deal - arriving at 3:00 to chop wood, pull weeds, tend to the garden, and do any other miscellaneous task that Judd can think up. Judd laughs at him, threatening not to hold up his end of the deal, but Marty keeps working just the same. In the end, Judd sells Marty the dog and even gives him an old dog collar.