Fifteen Dogs

Fifteen Dogs

An Apologue

Book Club Kit - 2015
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A bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old 'dog' ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.
Publisher: Toronto :, Coach House Books,, [2015]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2015
ISBN: 9781552453056
Branch Call Number: ABC ALE
Characteristics: 171 pages : maps ; 21 cm (1 set of 12 copies and reading guide)


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Aug 17, 2017

Does human intelligence make people happy? Two gods, Hermes and Apollo, are having a beer or two at a downtown bar in Toronto (does that exhibit intelligence?) discussing this gripping thought when Apollo suggests a bet. Animals with human intelligence would die more miserably than they would have otherwise, and if he wins Hermes owes him a year of servitude. Unfortunately, they are passing a veterinary clinic at the time, and decide that all the dogs in there overnight will be the test case. What follows is the struggle of each dog to deal with the new condition, and what happens is just what you would expect. They figure out how to escape, but some cannot handle this new 'freedom' and don't leave the clinic. The others range out into the High Park area of Toronto and live lives of human thought and consciousness overlaid on top of millennia of dog instinct. I suspect that this was the Giller Prize winner because its characters were dog humans, so to speak, and their life journeys were full of 'deep meaning'. Although I had some trouble with the interjection every once in a while of the gods and their assessment of how the bet was going, I found this a quick interesting read with some very sympathetic characters.

Aug 14, 2017

I have mixed feelings over Fifteen Dogs. On one hand, it's a novel idea, and compelled me to read on, even as many characters abruptly died and I was left with no one character to really "root for". On the other, it felt unfocused as it blended poetry, mythology, and sporadic philosophical questions that were as quickly dropped as they were introduced.
Worth a read to be able to contribute to the literary discussion around it, because it is also a quick read, but not worth agonizing over if you can't get past the first chapter.

Aug 10, 2017

Fifteen Dogs is an apologue that throws light upon human intelligence in a unique way. Through the eyes of dogs, all human traits and habits take on a new colour. As the main characters of the story (the dogs) possess both animal instincts and the human ability to think, they are in constant conflict with themselves and others. While some try to hold onto the past, others try to adapt to new ways of life and find joy in them. No matter what they choose, there remains a struggle for dominance and survival. The story is told effectively through third person point of view; the narrative switches focus from the life of one character to another, each one as interesting as the previous. Fifteen Dogs absorbs the reader’s interest by providing enlightenment on the very aspects of humanity that separate humans from other beings. Undeniably worth reading.
- @VirtueofReading of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

Having to learn English as a Second Language in Canada I related to the story of dogs learning to communicate with humans. Being a dog lover I found the concept of dogs developing human intelligence very enjoyable and wildly original.
- Iwona

Jun 20, 2017

I adored this book. It's just so alternative. In a strange blending of worlds, these awesome characters (dogs, gods, and a few sapiens) display the gamete: animalistic compulsion, egoist motive, and pure beautiful love. So rich for such a little book.

WPLBookClub Jun 11, 2017

The Whistler Public Library and Armchair Books book club read "Fifteen Dogs" in January 2017. A bold choice for the first book of the year! This novel divided us into two camps: those that found this book too brutal (this camp included many animal lovers), and those that thought the brutality was necessary to the plot, and to the larger social experiment at work. For a book of only 200 pages or so, it certainly generated an active discussion!

We enjoyed discussing:
- The role of gender in this story, among the dog characters, the human characters, and between the species
- The poetry interspersed through this novel, spoken by the poet dog, Prince. As always, poetry continues to divide and confound us...
- Whether we "recognized" the behaviour of the dogs in our lives - some thought Alexis' dogs were 100% human from page one

An outstanding read for young adults and old dogs too. Start by reading the "afterward' about the poetry used in the text. The story challenges the ontological assumptions about who we are as humans through the eyes of a special pack of dogs. I laughed and I groaned as i recognized my own relationship to pet dogs in the story. This book should be on high school curriculum. Clever comparison by one of the readers below to 'Lord of the Flies'

Apr 01, 2017

Fifteen Dogs is an apologue, which is a fancy term for a fable, of which the beast fable is the most common type. Here the twist is that the dogs aren’t just unquestioned allegories for humans, but literal dogs given human intelligence by outside intervention. The distance—or lack thereof—between the two is what drives home the point. We are reminded that humans, too, have baser instincts and urges. It is a sort of defamiliarization that gives us just enough distance from our own nature and behaviour that we are able to see it with fresh eyes. The events of Fifteen Dogs can be rather brutal, and yet this clever devoice only serves to amplify that fact of our nature, lending the story additional poignancy.

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Mar 30, 2017

This modern fable delves into human nature through the perspective of dogs who are newly endowed with the “gift” of human thinking and language capabilities. I enjoyed the quirky premise, as well as the insight into human psychology played out through a microcosm of pooches. Author Alexis writes well, with many instances of tenderness and yearning that humans can relate to. He’s equally at home with poking fun at humanity and examining universal concepts like betrayal, dominance, love, poetry, and happiness. An engaging and thought-provoking read about what matters in life.

Mar 29, 2017

"Fifteen Dogs" by Andre Alexis was OK. I liked the 'dog jokes' and the 'dog poems'. I found the philosophical tone kind of dull. There were funny bits but over all it wasn't a page turner. More of a slog. I was glad when I reached the last word. Good thing the last chapter was about Prince. He was the best dog.

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Apr 01, 2017

In a Toronto tavern, the gods Apollo and Hermes strike a bet. When Hermes wonders what it would be like if animals had human intelligence, his brother Apollo wagers a year’s servitude that the animals—any animals Hermes would like—would be unhappier than humans if given human intelligence. The wager is struck, and fifteen dogs in a nearby animal shelter suddenly gain human consciousness—all while still in possession of their canine urges and instincts. As they develop a new language to convey their transformed understanding of the world, the pack becomes divided between those who embrace the new way of thinking and communicating, and those who wish to resist change at all costs. The gods watch—and occasionally interfere—as the dogs try to navigate this abrupt transition. But will any of them die happy?

Mar 14, 2016

what a boring and predictable book. I read it based on the comments but it was very predictable. The dogs were granted special power based on a wager between two gods. They dont get along. one dog wants to be the leader, kills a no of dogs and so on

What a waste

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Jul 27, 2016

trevordunfordswife thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


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Apr 01, 2017

Perfect understanding between beings is no guarantor of happiness. To perfectly understand another’s madness, for instance, is to be mad oneself. The veil that separates earthly beings is, at times, a tragic barrier, but it is also, at times, a great kindness.


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