Published in 1893, Beautiful Joe was the first Canadian book to sell a million copies and was extremely popular in America, too (selling almost a million copies by 1900). A work of fiction told from the dog's point of view, it is based upon the true story of an abused dog (in the tradition of 1877's Black Beauty). It reflects many of the unfortunate realities of society in those days, but it had an incredible impact upon the Western world's ideas about humane treatment of animals. Interestingly, it is still published with the author listed as Marshall Saunders. In fact, it was written by Margaret Marshall Saunders, and published using her middle name since it was felt that no one would want to buy a book written by a woman. (She was in fact the first woman to write a book which sold a million copies!) Every animal shelter and rescue organization in America and Canada owes a debt to Beautiful Joe.
Beautiful Joe is a real dog, and "Beautiful Joe" is his real name. He belonged during the first part of his life to a cruel master, who mutilated him in the manner described in the story. He was rescued from him, and is now living in a happy home with pleasant surroundings, and enjoys a wide local celebrity. The character of Laura is drawn from life, and to the smallest detail is truthfully depicted. The Morris family has its counterparts in real life, and nearly all of the incidents of the story are founded on fact.
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