“Fifteen Dogs,” The Talking Dog Novel That’s Definitely Not For Kids

Fifteen Dogs is a hard book to sell. In words, its premise sounds silly: a bunch of dogs are given human intelligence via a wager between two Greek Gods. The wager? If dogs have the same intellect as humans, would they live happier lives? Typically “what if dogs were as smart as humans” is a hypothetical scenario more fit for Disney than literary adult fiction. But Canadian author André Alexis takes a more philosophical approach, exploring morality, depression, and our perceived “places” in society. Oh yeah, and there’s lots of doggy deaths, too.

Although there are fifteen dogs in the book, the novel focuses on just a core handful: Prince, the poet; Majnoun, the fair leader; Atticus, the religious enemy; and Benji, the conniving Beagle. The fifteen initially start off as a pack, even inventing their own language that only they can understand. But when a rift splits the pack in two sides, the dogs quickly realize that this new consciousness might be more a curse than a blessing.

For dog lovers expecting some kind of fictional look at behavioral theory, this book is not for you. However, for those who like experimental fiction, particularly ones that gut punch you in your dog-loving heartstrings, Fifteen Dogs is a novel quite unlike any other.