Old Yeller is a somewhat nostalgic yet sad story of a young man who is forced into an adult role of life all to early. His Dad is away, and he, his mother and younger brother must keep the family farm. He becomes a surrogate father to his younger brother; and head of household, evidenced by the fact that his mother and brother waited dinner until he returned from his farm chores. Underlying the story is the foreshadowing of hydrophobia, or rabies, the dread disease of animals that is 100% fatal. His dog, Yeller, saves the family from a rabid animal and must be confined to insure that he has not been exposed to the disease during the fight. Sadly, he has, and there is no choice but to destroy him. The young man, who has grown so close to the dog, must now shoot him himself to protect his family and livestock. This last act is his final passage to manhood; to make the hard decisions that no child should have to make. He has become a man.