One night in Toronto, Greek Gods Hermes and Apollo are having drinks at a pub. Apollo wagers a years servitude that any animal, any animal of Hermes choosing, would become more miserable if gifted human intelligence. After some discussion, the pair choose a group of dogs at a local veterinary clinic as the subjects for their experiment.
Andre Alexis’ Fifteen Dogs was a compelling yet heartbreaking story. After a significant boost in brain power, it isn’t all that shocking to see that things go pear-shaped rather quickly for the pups. Both the leadership and a level hierarchy are quickly established amongst the pack and seeing as the dogs have now developed the ability to consider complex emotions resulting from these developments, those on the low end of the pecking order become increasingly miserable. Understandably upset with their current situation, a small number of the dogs leave to find humans that will take them into their homes. I found the exploration between the dogs with their recent abilities and their new owners to be the most fascinating parts of the novel. Able to understand and communicate with their owners on a higher level, it skews the relationship between “master” and “pet” and asks what it means to be human.
I think Fifteen Dogs is an important read and well-deserving of both the praise and the awards it has been given. Alexis’ careful and clear prose is the perfect fit for an idea that could quickly go off the rails without the right author. While there are several deaths that are both violent and upsetting, there are a few that are beautifully written (especially the final one) and a real testament to Alexis’ ability as a storyteller. I give this one a firm recommendation but if you’re someone who frequents the website “Does the Dog Die” to avoid movies, then Fifteen Dogs might not be for you.