Littlefield is a small town in the US. According to a survey its inhabitants are among the happiest people in the US. Clarice Watkins wants to find out why and finds herself in a dog war. Half of the town wants its dogs to run free in the park, the other half wants them leashed at all times. Things get nasty when dogs are found poisoned. Somewhere in the novel the shift goes from the dog war to the problematical marriage of dog owner Margaret. She has found the first poisoned dog and suffers from hallucinations ever since: more and more dog ghost show themselves to her.
It is clear to that Berne wants to make a point: the average person walking on this earth does not care about worldwide problems but about the everyday problems we all encounter. I do not understand where Berne wanted to take her novel. At first The Dogs reminded me of Desperate Housewifes: Berne described Littlefield and its inhabitants so accurately and beautifully that I could practically envision them. When the dog ghost started appearing I worried that I had accidentally started reading a horror novel and then I found myself in the middle of a marriage breaking down. As a result I found myself reading a beautifully written pleasant novel about an average town with average people living their average lifes; even sociologist Watkins turns out to be an average person with her own personal problems. Not that there is anything wrong with a beautiful novel about average people living their average lifes, it is just that I wonder whether this is what Berne wanted. If she set out to write a pleasant novel she has succeeded, if however she set out to write a novel with a bite she failed.