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I am Dog
by Anne Santos

Release Date: 30th Mar 2009
Publisher: Pen Press
ISBN: 978 1 9067 1054 5
RRP: £6.99

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Religious motif and animal cruelty intertwine in this debut novella...

I am Dog is a novella spoken and seen through the eyes of Border Collie Baby Ben (renamed Seth). Baby Ben starts out life in darkness. With only his siblings and relative warmth of his mother, Tess, for comfort; Ben only knows neglect, uncertainty and fear. Sold on by one after another unscrupulous individuals for profit, with little or no care or consideration given to his needs as a living creature; he finally finds his way into a family home. During those impressionable first months, Seth learns some harsh lessons provided by older, more cynical dogs about human nature.

The story unfolds through the cyclical seasons – spring through to winter. It is an abbreviated life story of one dog and his perceptions of the world around him. Seth learns that not all of man is cruel and neglectful. There are brief moments of tenderness, but overall, I felt that Seth still got a raw deal – his master still used punitive measures to force obedience and Seth was not treated as part of the human pack. The author manages eventually to redress the balance of negativity towards mankind, but to little effect. The overall theme seems to be that man is selfish and unable to form loving bonds with animals; a theme I sympathise but cannot agree with, to do so would be to give up hope to despair.

Throughout, there are elliptical signs that the author is a God-fearing woman. Quotes from the bible, the reason for renaming the dog Seth, etc and that is no bad thing. However, the story derails somewhat at the end when Seth is reanimated in the afterlife. I found it irksome that a story that was supposedly about demonstrating against cruelty to animals became over shod by the author’s desire to espouse her religious beliefs.

I am Dog would have perhaps more credibility had the author written this with some dog charity in mind and more definitely had the author not inadvertently condoned the purchase of puppies from what effectively was a puppy farm. That said, there will be those that find its views appealing and spiritually uplifting. Santos can write but it is a bit too ecclesiastical for my tastes.

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