Talking dogs are only adorable on Disney: My review of “Fifteen dogs”

Fifteen dogs has got to be the most polarising piece of literature I have ever read. I recommend this book to a lot of my friends and they either LOVED it or HATED it. One thing is for sure, they all talked about the emotions regarding this book in caps lock. I think any book that can invoke such strong emotions is a winner. As a bonus, it’s by a Canadian Author, Andre Alexis.   

I personally think the most important point this book make is that when Gods make bets, they do not mess around.  

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

One fateful day Apollo and Hermes are walking down Bloor st, you know as Roman Gods often do, and the are discussing humans and their inability to be happy. Hermes thinks humans are flawed and can never be happy. That any other animal given the same tools as humans would be much happier. Apollo is not so sure and proposes a brotherly wager:

” I wonder”, said Hermes, “what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.”

” I’ll wager a year’s servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.

They happen upon an animal hospital, go inside and grant human reasoning and language to….you guessed it, 15 dogs.

This book follows the adventure of these dogs as they navigate the world. You would think a story about talking puppers would be like a Disney cartoon right? WRONG. Turns out Apollo’s pessimism was not unjust. The pack of 15,Suddenly capable of more complex thought, is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. Andre Alexis goes really deep exploring human nature, now manifesting in a new form with different needs.

There are a few aspects of this book that fascinate me the most.

  1. How easily these so called Gods seem to fit in the human world. Having a drink, tipping their server with a lifetime of financial security and yet still remain all powerful, experimenting with mortals out of curiosity. Being immortal with literally all the time in the world, they are fascinated with concept of death, limited time to live and how that affects one’s choices. It was fascinating to me how the author beautifully balanced the omnipotent and human side of Apollo and Hermes. Their dad even makes an appearance at some point…ok, no spoilers
  2. Although the dogs now possess human intellect to reason and speak, they are still dogs. They still have the same needs and preferences. They still mark their territory with urine and act as a pack with the most strong male at the head of it. The writer has done a great job separating instincts and desires of a dog from a human’s even if they are suddenly as smart as one. I think part of the reason Hermes believed other animal could be happy with power to make intellectual choices, is he has little faith in humans to control their greed of always wanting more and never be content.

The book is a roller coaster of emotions and you will either be thanking me for introducing it to you or cursing my name and my children’s children for traumatizing you for life. I stand by my love for this book though. It gets philosophical just the right amount and paints an interesting picture encouraging the reader to think about our human nature and how we interact and respond to changes. It even touches base on religion and belief is higher power raising the question about whether God created us or we created him as these animals try to find meaning in their new life and deciding if they want to surrender to the new ways or stay true to their canine nature and become “the perfect canine”. The perfect specimen one of the dogs imagine to be guiding him to salvation.

Have you read the book? Leave a comment. Let me know what you think. Which dog is your favorite and what moment touched you the most? If you have not yet read the book watch out for spoilers in comments! Pick up your copy today and find out who won this divine bet and what became of the furry participants who did not volunteer for the adventure (and in some cases misfortune) that was brought upon them.

Feeling a little peckish? Here is a recipe from this book. One of the dogs, named Majnoun(pronounced Maj-noon), finds himself in care of a lovely couple who feed him chicken liver and rice to regain his strength, which becomes his favorite food. He starts associating the taste and smell with love, care an a general sense of belonging. I did some research about chicken liver for dogs and i found that There is an ongoing debate in the veterinary community about the benefits of feeding dogs raw liver. Many veterinarians have expressed concern about food-borne illness, while others, emphasize that dogs eat raw food in the wild citing the form of the teeth designed for consuming raw meat. Ask your vet and make a smart decision best for your pooch. Dogs love this fatty treat and in moderate amount it has health benefits.

I am gonna share with you my favorite human friendly chicken liver and rice recipe. Before you get cooking set some washed liver aside for your puppy so you can dine together 🙂

Now, I KNOW liver gets a bad rep. Western food culture does not like to include internal organs. I have Persian background and In Iran we make all sorts of delicious food from liver, kidneys etc. Give this a try! Liver has a unique, sweet flavor and is full of protein, Vitamin A and Iron to give you a boost of energy!

What you need:

  • Rice 1 cup
  • Parsley (chopped) 1 Tbsp
  • Cilantro (chopped) 1 Tbsp
  • Butter 1 Tbsp
  • Garlic (minced) 1 tsp
  • All purpose flour ¼ cup
  • Paprika ½ Tbsp
  • Onion (cut Julienne style) ½ cup -I recommend white onions
  • Olive oil 3 Tbsp
  • Chicken liver (cut in small cubes)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

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  1. Cook the rice according to the package instructions. Invest in a rice cooker if you like rice. Thank me later.
  2. While the rice cooks, wash and dry the livers
  3. Mix flour, paprika and a bit of salt and pepper in a paper bag
  4. Put the livers in the bag and shake to coat
  5. Heat up the oil, put the livers in and half of the butter
  6. If you are planning to make liver for your dog, put some liver in a pot, cover with water and turn on the heat. It should be cooked by the time you are plating yours.
  7. Stir for 3 minutes and add the garlic. Cook for 5 more minutes. Take the liver out
  8. In the same pan, fry the onions. You might need to add a little more oil or butter. You can simply just soften the onions or let it change color and caramelize. 
  9. Fluff the rice with a fork. Add in the other half of the butter, the chopped parsley and cilantro, and season with salt.
  10. Return the liver to the pan and toss it with the onion
  11. Serve it up! Top it with a little chopped cilantro or chive for fanciness!

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