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THE B-LIST: Dogs aren't the only best friends a boy could have ...

Stories built around plucky kids and their devoted dogs are perennial favorites. Just look at the abundance of dog-centric tales lauded as classic children's literature: "Lassie," "Where the Red Fern Grows," "Shiloh," "Old Yeller," "Because of Winn-Dixie."

The reason why is obvious: we love our pets with the same fervor that we love other people.

They entertain us, comfort us and brighten our days with their quirky personalities and unconditional loyalty. Service and therapy animals make thousands of lives easier every day, helping us through emotional upheavals, physical disabilities and trauma.

Whether the tales are told from the canine's point of view — like "The Incredible Journey" and "All Dogs Go To Heaven" — or go all the way back to the origins of the age-old bond with man's best friend, as with W. Bruce Cameron's "The Dog Master" and the film "Alpha" (in theaters this weekend), we devour such stories with a gusto.

Because they touch us with their sweetness and emphasize how important and fulfilling such bonds between humans and animals can be.

...And then there are the stories that follow that classic mold of "boy and his dog" — with a significant twist. Stories like:

6. "MONSTER TRUCKS" (2016): A boy and his monster. Teenaged Tripp (Lucas Till) just wants to build a truck to escape his rural hometown. Enter Creech, a subterranean, oil-drinking, tentacled monster brought to the surface by a fracking operation. With Creech using the frame of Tripp's truck like a hermit crab with a shiny new shell, the pair set off to rescue Creech's captured parents and save the day. Obviously, this is ridiculous and hammy as all get out. But it's a fun and brainless romp featuring literal monster trucks. The punster in me is delighted.

5. "RAMPAGE" (2018): A boy and his giant gorilla. Yes, this is that video game-inspired Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson film everyone jokingly called "Furious George." Johnson plays Davis, an ex-Special Forces commando-turned-primatologist (like you do) who has a deep bond with an albino gorilla named George. When George — and two other animals — are mutated into giant monsters by an experimental gas, Davis has to use his bond with George to save the day. This may be one of the most over-the-top stories of science-gone-wrong out there, but you can't beat Johnson when it comes to brawny charm, and his ability to share inside jokes with George via sign language is a surprisingly sweet element to the story.

4. "E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL" (1982): A boy and his alien. A lonely little boy befriends a lost alien, hiding him from the government agency bent on studying him. I confess to being terrified of this movie as a kid — E.T. is awfully creepy in design, a fact I appreciate much more now, and that experiment scene was legitimately traumatizing — but it's rightfully a classic for too many reasons to list. The friendship between Elliott (Henry Thomas) and E.T. is a tear-jerking one, and their ultimate parting is more than a little bittersweet.

3. "THE IRON GIANT" (1999): A boy and his robot. This mature animated film asks the question: What if a gun had a soul? Nerdy Hogarth (Eli Marienthal) befriends the Giant (Vin Diesel), an alien war machine, after it falls to Earth and loses its memory. It's Hogarth's friendship and moral compass (plus a few powerful "Superman" comics) that ensures the Giant remains a hero instead of a weapon. The scene where the Giant learns about death after seeing a deer shot by hunters is guaranteed to bring you to tears.

2. "FIDO" (2006): A boy and his zombie. In an alternate 1950's, Timmy Robinson (K'Sun Ray) is starting to question the status quo of treating zombies like slaves when his mother, Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss), buys Fido (Billy Connolly). The friendless Timmy and protective Fido instantly become fast friends, to the point where Fido retains his humanity even when the collar keeping his bloodlust at bay malfunctions. In an especially hilarious moment, Fido goes to find Helen when Timmy's in danger: unable to speak, he can only whine and lead her to the boy trapped in the woods. "You wonderful zombie!" the suburban housewife exclaims, proving that a boy's best friend doesn't have to have a pulse.

1. "HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON" (2010): A boy and his dragon. Every time I watch this series, I have to have the Kleenex on hand. Teenaged viking Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is expected to kill the dragons marauding his island, but instead captures and befriends the mythic Night Fury. Naming him Toothless, Hiccup quickly learns that the cat-like dragons can be tamed if treated with kindness. The film's themes of bucking destructive traditions and staying true to yourself are highlighted by Hiccup and Toothless' growing bond and dependence on one another, since Toothless' wounded tail means he can't fly without Hiccup's help. By the film's end, Toothless is willing to throw himself in harm's way to protect his master, just as any devoted pet would — he's a scaly Lassie with wings. What more could a boy ask for?

• ANGIE BARRY is a page designer and columnist for The Times. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers pop culture, history and literature, contact her at

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