Shiloh Themes

Shiloh Themes

Animal Abuse

Shiloh is a sweet, gentle dog who has clearly been terrorized by Judd Travers. Even when Travers comes to the Preston's home, where Shiloh feels safe and comfortable, he shrinks back into his bed and quivers at the sound of his voice. Travers almost brags about yelling at his dogs or kicking them so hard they might fly across the room. He also keeps them underfed hoping to make them more aggressive hunters, and gives them no love or kindness, keeping them on chains in the yard. When Marty tells his father about the way Judd treats his animals, his father points out that this is not an isolated case in the county and many people keep their animals this way. Marty has never really noticed this before but feels his eyes have now been opened. In small towns like Marty's animal abuse is horribly prevalent and the novel points this out gently through the eyes of the characters.


Trust is a recurring theme throughout the novel. Marty feels guilty for betraying his parents' trust but does not want to betray Shiloh's trust either. When his mother discovers that he is secretly keeping Shiloh she explains that she and his father have never kept secrets from each other because their relationship is built on a solid foundation of mutual trust and if that were betrayed it would be more difficult for them to trust each other in the future; this is borne out by his fathers reaction to Marty's lies-by-omission about Shiloh as he doesn't know when to believe Marty anymore. The importance of trust is emphasized throughout the book and shown to be one of the main elements that keeps the Preston family tightly knit.

There Is Always A Way

Keeping Shiloh a secret seems impossible but Marty pulls it off by ingeniously building a shelter away from the house, and by giving Shiloh half of his food so that he is not taking anything away from his family. Saving Shiloh's life after he is badly attacked by another dog seems impossible, especially without a veterinarian, but Marty's father's quick thinking in taking him to a doctor, and Doc Murphy's medical skills, make it possible. Finally convincing Judd Travers to sell Shiloh to Marty seems most impossible of all, but a mixture of luck and hard work makes it possible. The novel shows that with faith and hard work the impossible really can happen.

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