I think because I grew up with the movies The Hundred and One Dalmations and The Incredibly Journey, I never got around to reading the books. I SHOULD though, as you're right--they're great dog stories without being depressing! I definetely need to check out Shadows though, it looks old school kinda good.
Thanks, Kitsune! I was fascinated by the Batavia, which (not being Australian) I hadn't heard of before. Totally going to check out Strange Objects.