The rabies hall of fame: Famous fictional lives (and deaths)

August 23, 2018

Sure, youve heard of Old Yeller, but how about Teacake? Take a stroll through U.S. literary history to learn more about these renowned rabies cases from books, movies and televisionand dont forget that World Rabies Awareness Day is Sept. 28.

All illustrations by Roxy TownsendOld Yeller

Perhaps the most famous rabies victim, the title character of Old Yeller, a children's novel by Fred Gipson, saves his family from a rabid wolf. The wolf bites Yeller during the battle, and Travis, the dog's young master, is forced to shoot Yeller (and break our hearts) before the virus can take hold and endanger the rest of the family.


Tea Cake

In Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Tea Cake is the lover of Janie, the book's main character. Tea Cake is bitten by a rabid dog while saving Janie's life during a hurricane, and Janie is eventually forced to shoot him in self-defense.


Mad dog

In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a rabid dog named Tim Johnson (referred to simply as "mad dog" in the movie version) is found wandering the streets of Maycomb, Alabama. Atticus Finch-the father of Scout, the book's narrator-is summoned to the scene and given a rifle. To the amazement of his children, bookish Atticus hits the dog from a considerable distance on the first shot.



Like Old Yeller, Stephen King's Cujo puts the rabies victim at the center of the action. Cujo is a previously mild-mannered St. Bernard who's bitten on the nose by a rabid bat and infected, subsequently attacking and killing half the town of Castle Rock, Maine. The story was reportedly inspired by an incident in which a snarling St. Bernard lunged at King when he was taking his car to the mechanic.


Meredith Palmer

A character on the TV series The Office, Meredith Palmer is hit by a car driven by Michael Scott, her boss, and goes to the hospital. The doctor discovers that Meredith has rabies and administers treatment. Feeling guilty, Michael organizes the “Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure.” We think “Rabies Awareness Day” is a much better way to go.