This past week I read Andre’ Alexis’ fantastic book “Fifteen Dogs”. When I initially picked the book up at the bookstore, I won’t lie, I thought it was a heartwarming story about a group of dogs. And it is, sometimes, just that. But I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who is looking for the “homeward bound” feels. This book will evoke emotions, and you must be prepared to think.
In the beginning of the book we happen upon Apollo and Hermes in a bar in Toronto drinking and discussing the effect that the human intelligence and consciousness has on our species and our ability to die happy. They then make a bet to this fact, deciding the best way to settle it is by bestowing human consciousness on members of another species, finally deciding on fifteen unsuspecting dogs on overnight stays at a veterinary clinic.
The book follows all fifteen dogs to a certain extent but I think the character that struck me most while reading this book was “Majnoun”. The stoic, thoughtful, black poodle is as close as we come to a main character. I really felt as though Majnoun gave me an inside look into Jack’s mind. There were many very striking similarities between the two, but the one I identified most with was his view on his “pack”.
As pet parents we often think about how our fur child sees us, what our relationship is to them, and what they think of us. I feel as though Majnoun’s view is probably very close to Jack’s. He describes the “male”, Miguel, as the pack leader. Stating that through the humans conversations he has gathered that the Miguel makes most of the decisions. Majnoun respected the place of the male, and enjoyed their time together, often fearing disappointing him. He said that the male left him more to his own devices, and he didn’t feel as though the male had strong instincts to protect him.
On the flip side, Majnoun views the “female” Nira, as his equal. The female is more of a nurturer, and much more likely to protect Majnoun because she feels a very intimate bond. The two are inseparable, and Majnoun feels as though the female has a deep respect for him. The two have their own special intellectual bond and understanding, despite the fact that they do not often communicate in the same language. The female is the first experience with any type of love that Majnoun has. It hits him profoundly cascading in a waterfall of emotions.
I feel as though these two characters are a really accurate representation of Nathan and I and our relationship with Jack. I, being unsure of myself a lot of the time, often secede my decision making to Nathan, relying on his ability to make the right decision and weigh all the necessary information. Nathan is also very much like Miguel in that he believes in letting Jack figure himself out and take care of himself where as I, in contrast, can occasionally have somewhat of a “helicopter” parenting style.
I think the biggest similarity for me however, was the bond between Majnoun and Nira. I do not doubt the bond and relationship that Jack and Nathan have, but I have for some time felt as though Jack and I were far more bonded. It’s often like we have our own understanding with each other, and are in our own little world, just relying on each other. I feel deeply connected to him, he is more than just my dog or my fur child, he has a part of me. A unique piece that I didn’t even know existed. It is truly special. I am very thankful for that bond, and feel incredibly emotional that Andre’ Alexis, while he didn’t realize it, was able to immortalize it in print.