If you’ve ever wondered what our domesticated animal companions are thinking, Skip, a Timber Wolf-Labrador mix, will amaze and enlighten you. He’s the protagonist in Teri Case’s latest novel In the Doghouse. Without offering a spoiler-alert caveat, I can tell you the book’s subtitle, “A Couple’s Breakup from Their Dog’s Point of View,” is the perfect summary. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), the title is a play on words. Someone’s in the doghouse, the Chateau Bow Wow, and it isn’t Skip, although he may at times have reason to tuck his tail between his legs.
In the Doghouse has a wider cast of characters, human and nonhuman alike, and one common denominator is their need to belong—from the stray in the pound waiting to be adopted to the aforementioned couple post-breakup. Skip is the personification of this need to belong and feel loved. It’s in his DNA. Wolves mate for life and are social animals. Belonging to a pack is happiness, while its loss is the opposite of happiness.
At one point early in the couple’s breakup, Skip, left alone in the apartment, begins to howl for the return of his pack. After getting that out of his system, he begins to take matters into his own paws. It’s not all a romp in the dog park as he and Lucy, a busy RN who got de facto custody of Skip, reconfigure their lives.
In the Doghouse is a love story, with Skip’s unconditional love a constant throughout. It challenges the notion that pets are owned and somewhat removed from the complicated lives of their human masters. Skip is perceptive way beyond his keen sense of smell. He knows what Lucy and others are thinking and feeling and what makes people happy, as exemplified by the doga class he and Lucy start taking together.
Teri Case has written a doggone good tale. I’m certain my grandfather, a veterinarian for forty-five years, would have loved it. He knew in his heart that dogs are wiser than people, which is my In the Doghouse take-away.