Review by: PETA-GAYE NASH

I’m a cat person myself, but I find Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis endearingly witty, humorous, poetic and entertaining. Fifteen dogs overnighting at a vet are given the gift of intelligence, by Apollo and Hermes in a bet. Will human intelligence make them unhappier? In some cases, absolutely. “…Rosie, a German shepherd, stopped as she was licking her vagina and… wondered what had happened to the last litter she’d whelped. It suddenly seemed grossly unfair that one should go through the trouble of having pups only to lose track of them.” This Scotiabank Giller Prize Winner was one of the books selected for the 2017 Canada Reads and I had to read it myself when I heard about it on Metro Morning some months back. No small thing that a Caribbean word (albeit a “naughty” one) has made it in the book, testament to Canada’s acceptance of a non-mainstream culture. The book is an apologue of many lessons. Do our higher cognitive abilities make us more prone to domineering, aggressive and calculating behaviour? If dogs could speak our language, would there be a cultural divide, where true understanding would take as much effort as the divide between male and female, east and west, black and white? Is cooing to your dog actually demeaning? Human – Who’s a good boy? Dog – Oh, shut up already. One message really stands out: What’s good for the little people doesn’t apply to those in power. The leader of the pack prohibits the use of the dog language and insists the pack behave as they did before intelligence, like dogs, but he speaks the language privately with his soulmate. Even for a cat lover like myself, I learned a lot. Did you know dogs sometimes mount each other to show dominance? I had no idea. I thought it was only because…oh never mind what I thought.