• Three brave friends.
  • A fight forsurvival.
  • The adventure of a lifetime.
  • The Book Series

    The Last Dogs: The Vanishing

    Book One: The Vanishing

    When all the humans in his world disappear, Max, a yellow Labrador Retriever, begins the search for his family. He knows that if he can just find Madame Curie, a wise, old black Lab, she’ll be able to help. Madame had a premonition of astonishing events to come — she might know where Max’s family is.

    But Max can’t make the journey alone. Joined by friends Rocky and Gizmo, Max sets off to find Madame. Along the way, the trio must face a pack of angry wolves, forage for food in a land where kibble is akin to gold, befriend a house full of cats, and outsmart a gang of subway rats. Ultimately, they’ll have to escape from the biggest threat of all: the Corporation, a “perfect” society for dogs and by dogs, where nothing is quite as it seems.

    Book one is available at your favorite bookstore. Book two arrives Spring 2013.

    Start Reading Now

    Prologue: Darkness


    Max was running in a field.

    It was a happy place, with tall yellow grass and freshly turned earth-the land surrounding his people’s farm. He loved being there. So many smells! The scent of rodents and cows and summer ragweed and mud filled his nostrils. He liked to run through the long grass, stretching his legs as far as he could, running until he couldn’t run any more.

    He heard distant laughter. The crystal clear shrieks of Charlie and Emma, his pack leaders, the children who had been there to play with him ever since he was a young pup. He loved his pack leaders, and they loved him.

    Max could see the children standing on the horizon, shadows in front of a setting sun. Distantly, Max remembered that they should be away with their parents on vacation—but he didn’t want to think about that. It didn’t matter. His boy and girl were waiting.

    “Hey!” Max barked. “I’m here! Wait for me!”

    The children’s shadows laughed, the sound echoing across the field.

    “Come get us, Max!” Charlie called.

    “Come on, boy!” Emma shouted.

    Max bounded forward, as fast as his legs would take him, so fast that his muscles began to ache. But no matter how hard he ran, he never seemed to get any closer. Max craned his head to look back behind him and saw that the fields, the farmhouse, and the barn were shrouded in a thick, inky blackness.

    The blackness undulated, pulsing like a liquid, living thing. Wispy, smoky tendrils spiraled up and outward, becoming dark storm clouds that raced to overtake the robin’s‑egg blue of the summer sky.

    The darkness was spreading.

    Max turned back to Charlie and Emma. Soon the darkness would overtake them, too. He pushed himself to go even faster, but he couldn’t possibly reach them in time.

    Max’s ears twitched as something clicked.

    The sky exploded into a stark white, blinding him, burning his eyes.

    No, not the sky at all—it was the lights on the ceiling turning on to signal a new day.

    Max awoke.


    Chapter One: Bright and Empty


    Max’s head jerked up from the chilly concrete floor. He blinked his eyes, clearing them of the fog of sleep.

    Max was alone.

    He was snuggled against a ratty old blanket in the back of his cage—a kennel, the humans called it. It was quiet and cold, and Max’s stomach growled endlessly, nipping at his insides until he ached.

    It had been so long since he’d seen anyone. So long since he’d eaten the last of his kibble, two days since he lapped up the last of his water. Day by day he awoke to the click of a timer and the fluorescent lights on the ceiling flicking on, the buzz of them hitting his ears before the light shone into his tired eyes.

    And day by day Max expected Vet, the man who was supposed to watch after him, to come and refill his food bowl, to take his water dish to the big stainless-​steel basin across the room and fill it with water.

    But Vet never came.

    It had been two weeks. At least, Max thought it was two weeks.

    The first week had been normal, with Vet coming into the back room to feed and water Max as he did every morning, and to take him out to the field behind the farmhouse-​turned-​Vet’s‑office so that Max could run and stretch his legs.

    The kennel was hardly Max’s favorite place, but he’d grown used to it. Once every year, Charlie and Emma and their parents put him here while they went away. Why they didn’t let him stay on the farm, he didn’t know. But every visit, he was poked and prodded by Vet, who would lift Max’s floppy ears and look inside and clean his teeth with a strange-​looking brush. Vet’s helpers would come brush his golden fur, combing out the burrs and matted hair. Eventually, after many days, Charlie and Emma always returned and everything went back to normal—that’s what made the time with Vet bearable.

    But this time was different.

    By Max’s count, the fluorescents had turned out six times and had turned on seven times since he’d last see Vet—seven days. Seven days since Max had been out of his cage. Seven days since he’d had anything to eat.

    His tongue and nose were dry. His stomach twisted with hunger pains. He was so tired.

    And alone.

    Vet’s back room wasn’t large, but it had enough room for four cages just like the one that boxed Max in. Each kennel was about the size of one of the closets in his family’s home. Metal pipes made up the four corners, with chain-​link fencing stretched between each pipe so that Max couldn’t get out.

    In Max’s past visits, other dogs had been in the kennels: Cupcake, a fluffy Lhasa Apso who yapped complaints day and night about how her space simply wasn’t posh enough; Shadow, a stocky black Chow who was mostly quiet and shy and kept to himself; Ariel, a wiry mutt who liked to gnaw and dig at the bottom of the kennel when she wasn’t barking challenges at Shadow.

    And Max’s favorite kennel companion out of all his visits was an older female dog named Madame Curie, though Max just called her Madame. She was the same size as Max and the same breed—Labrador—only her fur was like the night sky, black and flecked with strands of white. She was all wise words and good humor, and talking with her always helped the days pass by faster.

    Max especially liked looking at the sparkly golden symbol on her collar—three connected rings in a straight row. He’d never seen anything so fancy on another dog, and it glittered spectacularly even under the fluorescent lights.

    Madame had been with Max right up until the day Vet had stopped coming. Max awoke one morning to find her kennel empty, its door squeaking on its hinges. She hadn’t even said good-​bye.

    Since then, the other kennels remained empty.

    Max barely had enough room to pace back and forth. His area was bare except for the torn blanket that he slept on to avoid the cold concrete floor, the empty food dish, the plastic water dispenser that used to fill his now-​dried‑up bowl, and the shed fur that formed little messy piles. Once he’d also had a rubber ball, but in a fit of hunger, he’d torn it into tiny pieces, which were now part of the mess on the floor.

    And in the back corner was the place Max made his bathroom. He had been so ashamed the first time he’d been forced to go inside his cage. Ever since he was a pup, he’d been taught that his business was only to be done outdoors.

    Beyond the kennels, Max could see Vet’s examination room. The walls were lined with counters and cabinets, with sterile medical equipment hanging from pegs and lying in blue liquid. In the center of the room was a long table, its top shiny steel. On the other side of the room from Max’s cage was the large metal basin with the faucet.

    The faucet dripped.

    Drip. Drip. Drip.

    Each water drop pinged against the bottom of the sink, and Max’s ears twitched with each ping. His throat burned for water.

    Max hadn’t thought of it much at the time, but in the days before Madame disappeared, she’d started to act strangely. Muttering of something coming. Something dangerous.

    “Be prepared, Maxie,” she’d told Max in that serious, grave tone of hers the night before she was gone. “There is a darkness on the horizon. I can feel it.”

    Max had been chewing on his red ball covered with nubs. “I don’t feel anything,” he’d said with the ball between his teeth. “Are you sure it’s not just an old dog ache?”

    Madame had barked a friendly laugh. “Of course I feel it ’cause I’m old, Maxie. Old dogs have smarter bones that creak and rattle when bad things are going to happen.” Laughter leaving her voice, she added, “I don’t know what it is yet. But when I find out, I’ll tell you. Be safe, little Maxie.”

    And now Madame was gone.

    Everyone was gone.

    His dreams showed the darkness she spoke about, or at least how Max imagined it looked. And even though his body ached, he couldn’t stop worrying about where she’d gone, or what her cryptic words meant for his family.

    Because if Max knew one thing above all else, it was that his family would never abandon him for two weeks unless something or someone was keeping them from him.

    If only he had a way out, then he could find his family himself. A wave of exhaustion rolled over Max, and he padded back to his blanket. He turned in a circle and began to lie down, his eyes already halfway closed.

    And then he heard something: a rustling of plastic and a creak of hinges.

    Max’s eyes snapped wide open. He darted to the side of the kennel, stuck his snout through the chain-​link fence, and sniffed deeply.

    A stench of fur and musk met his nose. He saw the small cat door that led from Vet’s examination room into the main house. It was swinging back and forth, as though something had just darted through it.

    And Max could hear a clattering of claws atop the concrete floor.

    “Hey!” Max barked. “Who’s there?”

    From across the room, a muffled voice barked, “Whoa!”

    There was a great noise—a clanging and crashing as things fell and hit the floor somewhere out of sight.

    A creature darted from behind the table and raced across the room, back toward the door, a latex glove covering its head.

    “Stop!” Max yelped. “Please, I need help!”

    The little creature skidded to a stop mere inches from the cat door. It shook its head until the latex glove flew off, letting Max get a good look at the animal.

    It was a dog.

    A very small dog—no bigger than Max had been as a puppy. For a moment he wondered if this was another Labrador puppy, but no, Max’s limbs had been long when he was young, not like this little dog’s short, stubby legs. The little dog’s fur was also mostly a sleek black instead of the faded gold of Max’s shaggier fur, and though both dogs had floppy ears, the ears on the smaller dog seemed much too big for his pointy little head.

    Max lifted a paw and clung to the cage. “Please, can you help me?” he asked. “It’s been days since Vet has been here. What happened?”

    The other dog looked Max up and down with big, watery brown eyes that were surrounded by a pattern of brown fur. He tilted his head.

    “Hey, you know if there’s any kibble in here?”

    Max’s paw fell limp. That was the last thing he expected the dog to say.

    “I don’t know,” Max said, unable to keep a pitiful whine out of his voice. “I’m hungry, too. And I need to find my people.”

    The little dog studied Max with one brow raised and his tail wagging slowly, seeming to take in Max’s size. “You want food?” Looking away, the dog began to mutter to himself. “Of course he does. All anyone keeps asking about is food, food, food!” To Max, he said, “Well, tell you what—”

    The dog stopped talking, and his ears flicked, hearing something that Max could not.

    “Sorry, buddy!” the dog said as he began to back through the door. “Gotta run! Try to pinch the latch on the door. I’ve seen other dogs do it.” And then the dog disappeared, the small cat door flapping behind him.

    Max looked up at where the cage door met the pole that supported the fence. There was a gap there, enough space for Max to maybe stick his snout through.

    Across the room, the faucet drip-drip-dripped. The water was so close, yet so horribly out of reach.

    Max’s chest swelled with determination. If the little dog wasn’t going to help him, then he was going to have to help himself. He was going to get out of this smelly, horrible cage.

    And he was going to find his family.

  • The Author

    CHRISTOPHER HOLT grew up in a house filled to the rafters with dogs. He draws on his memories — of Salt, Pepper, Cupcake, Ariel, Shadow, Brandy, Sir Edmund Spunk, and Showtime Double Feature — to create the four-footed heroes of The Last Dogs. He has worked other jobs — most notably, selling gum balls and gum ball machines — but began writing professionally at the age of eighteen. Christopher currently lives in Seattle, Washington.

    Q & A with Christopher Holt


    When you were a kid, what kinds of adventure stories did you like to read?
    I loved adventure stories as a kid, which is why I write them now that I’m a grown up! I was super into everything written by Bruce Coville when I was in elementary school, and I also liked fantasy and sci-fi series like The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and The Time Quartet by Madeleine L’Engle. I was also a huge fan of a monthly book series called Animorphs by K.A. Applegate, which was about kids who could turn into animals to fight aliens. In fact, I think it was those books that taught me how to write from an animal’s point of view!

    If you had a dog, would you want him or her to be more like Max, Rocky, or Gizmo?
    I’m going to go with Max! I love Rocky and Gizmo a lot, but I think as pets go Rocky might be a little too lazy for my tastes, and Gizmo a little too energetic. Max is a nice midpoint between those two extremes, plus I love how loyal he is to his “pack leaders.” I think we’d get along great!

    How did you come up with the obstacles that your characters run into? Are any of these obstacles based on life experience?
    When coming up with obstacles, I pretty much sat down, thought about the places that the dogs would be traveling, and then tried to imagine what the animals in these places would do now that all the humans weren’t around. It made sense to me that dogs would form packs, and that those packs would work differently based on the personalities of each dog. It was also fun to imagine what other animals—like wolves, cats, and rats!—would do. And of course, without the humans around to run things, a lot of obstacles simply rose from our heroes trying to figure out how to eat and drink without someone around to fill their water dishes, or to navigate places that were never meant for dogs to travel through alone.

    I didn’t really base any of the obstacles on real life experiences, though I did draw on personalities of animals and people I’ve known to figure out how all the characters Max, Rocky, and Gizmo come across might act and react to this new world. A few of the animals are even based on real life pets of mine, my friends, and my family!

    If readers can take one thing away from this book, what would you want that to be?
    Each of The Last Dogs books deal with the power of friendship and having faith in yourself no matter what obstacles you might face. Max sometimes wonders if his journey to find his missing human family is worth all the danger, which isn’t helped by other, meaner animals telling him to give up. In order to succeed, he has to trust in himself and never waver from his goals. At the same time, he can’t do everything alone, so he also has to work together with his new friends Rocky and Gizmo to keep moving forward.

    My main goal in writing The Last Dogs books is to tell fun, adventurous stories. But I do hope that Max, Rocky, and Gizmo set a good example of how dedication, trust, friendship, and love can help you get through even the hardest of situations.

  • Meet the Last Dogs

    max

    MAX

    This heroic yellow Labrador Retriever wakes up starving and trapped in a veterinarian’s clinic with no idea where all the humans have gone. He misses his boy and girl—Charlie and Emma—and the happy life he once knew at their farmhouse. With the help of his new friend Rocky, however, Max escapes the clinic and begins his quest to discover the truth. He is brave and clever and will do anything to defend his friends.

    max

    ROCKY

    Rocky is a Dachshund with short, stubby legs and floppy ears that seem too big for his pointy little head. He helps Max escape from the Vet’s clinic, and the two become unlikely best friends (Rocky considers himself the “brains” of their partnership, and Max the “muscle.”) Even in the most dangerous situation, Rocky always has something funny to say!

    max

    GIZMO

    Only one word can describe this adorable Yorkshire Terrier: ENERGETIC! Gizmo is black and tan with puffs of fur above her bright eyes. Her little stub of a tail is always moving because she gets excited about EVERYTHING, especially getting petted, ear scratches, and racing. She also thinks that everyone loves her (even cats), and although this isn’t always true you have to love her positive outlook!

    max

    DANDYCLAW

    Dandyclaw may look like a dainty show dog, but this puffy Poodle is the leader of the Enclave, a community of dogs that forms after the humans vanish. He's all business, with no sense of humor (which doesn't stop Rocky from calling him Dandypuff, among other things). When not making long speeches to his adoring followers, Dandyclaw organizes the breeds to make sure they work together to survive. But this Poodle rules with an iron paw, and although he says Max and Rocky can leave the Enclave anytime, things are not so simple...

    max

    DOLPH

    Leader of the wolf pack and Max’s sworn enemy. Dolph is huge, with three evenly spaced scars on his snout and gray eyes. He is proud and fierce and willing to do anything to feed his pack. After Max and Rocky escape the wolves at the vet’s clinic, Dolph tracks them across the country, determined to get his revenge at any cost. It is only a matter of time before Max will have to face him.

    max

    MADAME CURIE

    An old, wise Labrador Retriever with fur like the night sky, black and flecked with strands of white. Madame Curie wears a mysterious collar bearing a sparkly golden symbol: three connected rings in a straight row. Before the humans vanish, she warns Max that there is “a darkness on the horizon,” and he should be prepared. Max needs to find her again so she will answer his questions about what really happened.