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“Fifteen Dogs” the Book by Andre Alexis Essay

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Updated: Jun 8th, 2021


The book under the title “Fifteen Dogs” was written by Canadian writer Andre Alexis in 2015. It introduces a unique perspective on the state of affairs in the world where dogs are given the ability to think, analyze, and critically perceive reality as humans do.

The author presents a well-built system of presumably relevant events that might take place if dogs obtained human intelligence. Their mindsets change and the character of reality perception shifts thus imposing hierarchical structure in their ‘society’ and the ultimate lack of happiness. Human intelligence that the gods give to the dogs does not make them happy but subjects them to continuous thoughtful considerations and emotional perception of the surrounding world that ultimately leads to suffering. The paper provides an analysis of the book from the point of view of dogs’ perception metamorphosis.

Plot Overview

The book presents an exciting plot discovering the characteristic features of humanity. Two gods Apollo and Hermes wondered “what it would be like if animals had human intelligence” and whether animals would die happier or unhappier if they were intelligent (Alexis 14). Their argument became the beginning of a year-long experiment at the end of which the gods would see if at least one dog died happily. One morning fifteen dogs in a kennel found themselves in a new condition, capable of seeing colors, thinking, analyzing, and feeling. Their existence completely changed leading them to escape from a kennel, organizing a hierarchical community, developing a language, and writing poetry.

The Shift in Dogs’ Perception of the World

A dog without the ability to think or use language is a happy one. Human intelligence brings danger and destruction to the animal world. Firstly, being able to project their actions to the future with the help of conscious thinking, the dogs start to reconsider their usual activities. For example, Rosie who had been a mother for many puppies in her life started thinking about the litter she gave birth to and where it had gone.

The emotional experiences that intelligence implies are displayed in the form of Rosie’s sorrow and pain. The dog thinks how “grossly unfair” it is to be able to have puppies and lose them (Alexis 16). She does not see any sense in giving birth to any puppies because it will lead to even more suffering.

Secondly, the danger of dying from hunger is also a significant threat that the dogs are exposed to as a result of obtaining the capability to project feelings and emotions on other creatures. A great example of this idea is Atticus’ dream about chasing squirrels and rats which he used to like eating so much. When he lived under the guidance of pure instinct, there were no difficulties in gaining food. Catching and eating “small, furry animals” was the most delightful activity for him that always ended with eating them (Alexis 16). However, now that Atticus can feel emotions, he is unable to bite a squirrel because he knows it will cause pain to her, as well as it might do to him. The awareness brought by consciousness makes animals thoughtful and compassionate beings.

Finally, language is one of the most influential aspects showing how dogs’ minds have changed after they received human abilities. With the presence of intelligence, the language the dogs used developed from primary notions like “I will bite you” or “I am hungry” to the one loaded with the cognitive perception of the environment (Alexis 18). Suddenly they realized the whole meaning of the word ‘door’ and many others that were outside of the framework of instinctive survival.

Their knowledge of language rapidly developed and also imposed hazards for their living. For example, when Atticus comments on the choice of actions after the dogs live in a kennel, he says that “it is not like dogs to talk so much” (Alexis 29). Instead of acting instinctively they now negotiate and spend a lot of time communicating.

Moreover, the way they use language reaches the highest level of advancement when they start writing poems using a great variety of words. The author provides his comment concerning this issue saying “did any dog need a word for ‘dust’? (Alexis 40). After all, engaging in human activities does not make the dogs happier when they die. Thus, when comparing the life of people and the life of dogs both capable of rational judgment, emotional intelligence, and speaking a language, curious implications arise. The power of critical thinking and feelings humans have is very influential. However, for the fifteen dogs, the shift in their perception brought only suffering for them because they started to realize the complexity of life.


Alexis vividly constructs an intriguing story of the lives and deaths of dogs given human intellect. Once they perceive the world in all colors, start understanding the feelings of other creatures, the emotional burden of loss, and the meaning of words, their lives completely change. Nevertheless, they do not become more joyful. The absence of worries makes one happy, but the disturbance that comes with intelligence brings misery to animals’ existence. Therefore, humanity is unique in its ability to use intellect, emotions, and language in a way that fosters people’s ability to perceive the world as a complex notion.

Work Cited

Alexis, Andre. Fifteen Dogs. Coach House Books, 2015. E-book.

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"“Fifteen Dogs” the Book by Andre Alexis." IvyPanda, 8 June 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/fifteen-dogs-the-book-by-andre-alexis/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "“Fifteen Dogs” the Book by Andre Alexis." June 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/fifteen-dogs-the-book-by-andre-alexis/.


IvyPanda. (2021) '“Fifteen Dogs” the Book by Andre Alexis'. 8 June.

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