Dogs rule

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People depend on sight. Dogs on smell. What they often smell is trouble. That’s true in the case of Prince, who lives with a splintering English family in “The Labrador Pact” by Matt Haig (Viking: 342 pp., $23.95).

In the dog world, springer spaniels have risen up and begun to exploit their human masters, repudiating their traditional wet-nosed role as diplomats with the secret mission of keeping human relations in order. This uprising -- not the longer working day or secularization -- is the cause of the breakup of the family. Dogs are at fault for abdicating their caring role, except for Labradors, of course.

Members of this breed have pledged allegiance to a pact that stresses duty, obedience, protection. “I wanted them to have me,” Prince the Labrador tells us of the day he was picked up at the pound. “I wanted them to recognise that I was the missing piece in their Family jigsaw. . . . They needed me as much as I needed them.”


Prince depends on the wisdom of his elder, Henry, a former police dog. (“Prediction equals protection,” “Humans must never know that we are in control.”) But there are forces beyond Prince’s control, and he finds himself wrestling with breaking the pact in the name of family unity after his married master, Adam, starts chatting it up with a woman a dozen years his junior whom he’s met walking their dogs in the park. Trouble? She has a springer.

-- Orli Low