“But what am I without those who understand me?”
What would happen if animals were given human consciousness? This is a question posed by the god Hermes to Apollo. Apollo believes that they would be even more unhappy than humans, while Hermes believes that they would die happier.
– I wonder, said Hermes, what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.
– I wonder if they’d be as unhappy as humans, Apollo answered.
– Some humans are unhappy; others aren’t. Their intelligence is a difficult gift.
– I’ll wager a year’s servitude, said Apollo, that animals – any animal you choose – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they had human intelligence.
So, a wager is set between the two gods, and fifteen dogs at a Toronto veterinary clinic are granted human consciousness. The gods look on as the lives of the dogs unfold with their new-found abilities. There are those who embrace the new way of thinking and those who feel they’ve lost their way.
– Black dog, said Atticus, can there be a feeling greater than belonging?
– No, said Majnoun.
– And yet, said Atticus, I am sometimes afraid that I will not know the feeling again, that I will never again know what it is to be a dog among dogs. This thinking of yours, black dog, it is an endless, dead field. Since the change, I have been alone with thoughts I do not want.
– I understand, said Majnoun. It is the same for me. But we must bear it, because we cannot escape the things within.
Fifteen Dogs is a thought provoking read that brings up and explores many philosophical questions about human nature and happiness. The story overall is well crafted and it is clear that there is a point and purpose behind everything that occurs. It is a given that the dogs will die during the course of the story so it is not the easiest read, emotionally speaking. There is a considerable amount of violence, so if that is something you have difficulty with, perhaps this may not be the best option. While I did have certain reservations because of this, I found the concept to be well executed and appreciate the story as a whole.
Fifteen Dogs was the winner of the Giller Prize this year and deservedly so. You can see a short reading by the author here.