Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

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It’s always been a dream of any dog loving, creative mind to make our canine friends come to life. That’s why we have fiction like All Dogs Go To Heaven and possibly the greatest dog movie ever, Homeward Bound. Author Andre Alexis approaches this subject too, with grace and sensibility. What if a group of dogs, fifteen to be precise, gained human intelligence? Would any of them truly be able to find a lifetime of happiness? Or would their enhanced smarts and lack of rationality do them in?

Fifteen Dogs starts out with greek gods Hermes and Apollo, both having a drink in a local Toronto watering hole. Soon their ramblings turn into a question: if a dog was given human intelligence or consciousness, would it be able to die happy? Not scared or abruptly, but happily under it’s favorite tree or in its masters loving embrace. The question was posed by them because it’s assumed that dogs and humans have different levels of intelligence about these sort of things. So the brothers make the bet; two years human servitude to the loser. Their next step is to free a group of dogs from a local vet clinic. Inside we find a wide variety of breeds: a pair of labradors, a Great Dane, a big ‘ol Poodle, a Labradoodle, an enormous mastiff and a few other randoms to round out the pack. The dogs release themselves, or are released by one another and make for their escape. Once free in Toronto, they group together and must survive the harsh realities like lack of constant shelter and food from their owners. Will one of the fifteen dogs be able to die happily?

Fifteen Dogs is no Marley & Me. Neither is it anything like Homeward Bound, Beethoven or My Dog Skip. What Fifteen Dogs is, however, is an incredibly smart and sensible novel about what a dogs life might be like if it were to gain human intelligence. Alexis is only able to guess on this subject, partly because he is not a dog, but a human, but also because this isn’t something that has been really explored before. But he does so fantastically. What we get in result is the complete opposite of a happy, feel good story, but rather a more realistic take on what could happen if dogs lost their happy-go-lucky nature for a more purposeful one. The dogs struggle with many of the emotions that humans do, but are also conflicted with some of their innate dog reflexes too, which tend to get in the way at times.

Humans love dogs because of their forgiving and loving nature. However it seems that when they are given an enhanced bit of intelligence they aren’t able to maintain that same demeanor. While our dogs must certainly view us as infallible, we too view man’s best friend as something of a rock in our lives. Fifteen Dogs is a constant reminder that we should cherish those loyal companions in our life..

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 – While wildly speculative in nature, Andre Alexis’s Fifteen Dogs is an absolutely splendid tale about our animal best friends. It’s pure truth and raw emotion might be off putting for some, but will likely be welcomed by many canine lovers.

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