In this collection of short stories, first-time author Cannon features the often violent experiences of dogs.
In Cannon’s work of fiction, individual dogs have as many personality types as humans and many of the same prejudices and character flaws. The dogs included here are hardly the beloved pets that curl up with the family on the sofa or chase sticks in the park. They participate fully in conversations, and they communicate clearly to one another but not directly to the humans. Brutality is commonplace in all the stories, which have a distinctly 1980s, urban ambience. The subject of the first story, “Brisk,” is a street-smart pit bull who must fight in an illegal dogfighting ring in a dark basement. In a setup evoking prison movies such as Stalag 17, the dogs attempt to make life tolerable for themselves as the sadistic guard dog Buzzsaw mistreats and starves them. One brave dog volunteers to help in stilted prose, “One of us must confront Buzzsaw for the life of us all….Under these exigent circumstances, we haven’t much choice.” When the inevitable battle royal erupts, it includes guns, bystanders, police, vicious criminals and many dogs. Some are maimed, and a few killed. Under such duress, canines become capable of numerous unlikely heroic acts, including the unlocking of cage doors. Helena, the beautiful German shepherd in the second story, is in the rigorous training program to become the city’s first female police dog. Much like human females breaking barriers in the armed services or fire departments, Helena endures mockery, isolation and even assault. Male dogs taunt her with outdated, inane comments such as, “We just don’t want no broads lousing up things.” The canines’ speech is as clichéd as the humans in many of the stories: The male dogs call the female a “skirt” and a “skank.” Far from using touches of magical realism, the narrative attempts bizarre and outlandish plot twists, such as a successful dog-to-human bone marrow transplant and retired greyhound racing dogs sold off to poor families for food.
Mistreated, abused or misunderstood dogs achieve superhuman and supercanine feats but leave readers with little to gnaw on.