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kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story of Old Yeller is one with a notoriously sad ending, but there is some hope in the resolution. In the beginning, Travis' family takes in a stray puppy. Travis doesn't like the dog because he causes trouble and gets away with it, but after "Old Yeller" saves his little brother's life, he changes his mind. He begins to develop a relationship with Old Yeller. The dog accompanies him when he goes out to hunt and calms the cow when it's time for milking. Travis even comes to love and identify with Old Yeller when the two are injured and recover together.

Towards the end of the story, Old Yeller protects Travis' mother and neighbor from a wolf. Old Yeller is bitten in the fight and begins to show symptoms of rabies. Travis must make the difficult decision whether to let the illness take hold-- possibly putting others at risk-- or to put the beloved dog out of his misery. Travis decides that it is better to shoot Old Yeller than to prolong his suffering or allow him to infect anyone else. Travis falls into a depression after losing his dog, but there is light in his life when he realizes how much the new puppy is like Old Yeller. The neighbor girl had brought one of her dog's puppies, fathered by Old Yeller, to Travis' home as a gift. When the puppy starts causing trouble, Travis realizes that Old Yeller lives on in the little dog.