In Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name (1986), Hearne channeled two passions--English (which she teaches at Yale) and dogs (which she trains)--into a poetic exploration of human-animal relationship. Now, in her first novel, she expands that meditation in the captivating story of a dog-trainer and her loves both canine and human. Hearne's heroine, Diane, narrates in a voice all her own: at turns tough and vulnerable, focused and dreamy--and always attuned to the meaning behind the gestures of others. Diane easily reads the ways of dogs; it's men she has trouble with, especially boyfriend Luke, a burnt-out journalist whose misery clouds life at the California kennels owned by Diane and fellow dog-trainer Sam. Man-troubles take a back-burner, however, when Diane gets a call for a White German Shepherd to star in a Hollywood film. Dozens of false leads finally turn up Jouster--with ""an eye as clear and dark and bold as you could want."" Racing against delivery-deadline, Diane ""works"" Jouster round-the-clock on training-routines. So bright is his response that, when local cops need a dog to track down a kidnapped girl, Diane suggests Jouster--who promptly sinks his jaws into the girl's father. Diane is shattered: Is Jouster only ""trash and a coward to boot""? And how will he perform during filming? Nobly, it turns out, attacking a bear who rampages the set; and a phone call from the sheriff reveals that the bitten dad was behind the kidnapping after all. ""Jouster's knowledge is faster than ours, more accurate,"" explains a chastened Diane to Luke; so accurate, in fact, that the dog knows to chew on Luke a bit later, inadvertently sending him packing and making way for Diane to mate with kindred soul Sam. A few creaky plot turns--e.g., Jouster's pat return to grace--mar only the surface of this bracing and unusual fiction; its depths remain vibrant with astonishing insight into dogs--and into the tugs of love, loyalty, and betrayal between humans and dogs alike. This ultimately heartwarming tale is a pedigree, then, the finest ""dog novel"" in a long, long time.