What is the main problem in Old Yeller by Fred Gipson and how is it solved?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main problem in Old Yeller is how Travis will adapt to taking care of his mother and young brother while his father is away from the family on a cattle drive. In addition, Travis has to deal with the arrival of a unkempt stray dog who he names Old Yeller in recognition of the dog's yellow coat. At first, Old Yeller seems like he will only bring additional work to Travis, who has his hands full already. For example, Old Yeller plays in the family's drinking water with Travis's brother, Arliss. However, the problem of how Travis will handle all of his new responsibilities, including Old Yeller, is resolved when Old Yeller becomes a help rather than a hindrance to Travis and his family. The dog saves Arliss from an angry mother bear and helps Travis herd an unruly cow on the farm. In the end, unfortunately, Old Yeller must be shot when he contracts rabies from a wolf.