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I came across Fifteen Dogs at the Brooklyn Book Fair last year. I had not read anything by Mr. Alexis. It is an apologue. Apollo and Hermes wager whether dogs granted human consciousness and language will die happy or sad. Part of the pack of 15 dogs dominates those who are attracted to their new-found capabilities. They want to remain as dogs. Those who accept their new skills find it disruptive. Communication with humans is not always understood nor accepted. Human males treat them as circus performers. Female humans are drawn closer to them. The dogs presumed genetic pack hierarchy of male dominance makes it hard for these dogs to treat their female human friends as equal. Nature (genetics) is pitted against culture (epigenetics).

The book is anthropocentric. While it recognizes that dogs (and other animals) have their own language, it assumes that they may not be able to understand human language because they cannot speak it. It is known that in their own language birds actually have dialects like humans. The dogs in this novel are multi-linguistic although they prefer English. Whether dogs might have these natural skills is unknown.

There is no deep philosophy nor moralizing in this book. The book contains poems written by the dogs who have accepted their new linguistic skills. The author notes that these are written in the genre invented by Francois Caradec called oulipo. These poems purportedly can be understood by both dogs and human. They may give dogs a reason to hate poetry.

Given the wealth of outstanding literature that goes unread I would suggest you pass up on Fifteen Dogs. For me it wasn’t fetching.