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Literature / Dog War

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Dog War is a novel by Jamaican author Anthony Winkler, published in 2006.

Precious Higginson, a mature Christian woman who's recently been widowed following her husband Theophilus's death in a car accident, accepts her daughter Shirley's invitation to come and live with her and her family in America. The invitation comes after Precious, who's been living with her other child Harold for some time following Theo's funeral, has repeatedly had personality clashes with Harold's wife Mildred over housekeeping and child-rearing techniques.

Once she arrives in America, however, Precious finds herself facing severe culture shock, as the activities and mindsets that Americans take for granted are sharply at odds with her own Jamaican personality and Christian beliefs. The culture shock is not helped by Shirley's independent-female attitude and the rather effeminate activities of her husband Henry.


In an effort to stave off boredom, give herself something useful to do, and be able to live her own way peacefully, Precious takes up a job offer to work at the mansion of a wealthy woman, Mistress Lucy, as a live-in maid. However, hilarity ensues when she discovers that her specific job will entail caring for the woman's dog, Riccardo, who gets treated like a human being and happens to be rather perverted toward her...


Examples of tropes in this work include:

  • Anvilicious: An in-universe example occurs in Chapter 17, where Mistress Lucy shows a pro-animal-rights video to her supporting friends at a social gathering. The video details a hamburger patty turning into a miniature cow and talking about its life up to the horrific conditions it faced while going to the slaughterhouse.
  • Asshole Victim: Many people Red Dog has tried to bite have retaliated against him with due violence.
  • Attempted Rape: Henry sneaks into Precious's room to fondle her in Chapter 9, but backs down when she orders him out. Riccardo the dog tries to hump a naked Precious in Chapter 21, but she throws him off, accidentally killing him when he hits his head on the wall.
  • Berserk Button: Mildred, Precious's daughter-in-law, will not abide her children eating sweets. In the same vein, Mistress Lucy despises meat.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Precious has several of these in Chapter 4.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Mistress Lucy, at least as far as Precious is concerned.
  • Cosmic Plaything: How Precious sees herself, ever since she got brained by a falling tin can when she was 11.
  • Covert Pervert: Mannish, and the dog Riccardo to some degree. Henry too.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Theophilus, Precious's late husband, was this.
    Precious: Mind you make de maid see you naked.
    Theo: Dat's all right. De sight o' Brutus will sweet her and start her day off proper.
    • Precious herself gets off a snark or two at times. For instance, in Chapter 15, during a discussion with Mannish over Mistress Lucy's adoration of her dog Riccardo:
    Mannish: Riccardo is her financial adviser. If she is considering an investment, she will invite the broker for a visit. If Riccardo bites him, she will not invest. But if he urinates on the broker's shoe, she invests a lot. She says that the dog is a prophet who has never been wrong.
    Precious: De dog is a false prophet.
  • Drives Like Crazy: What eventually kills Theo.
  • Fantastic Racism: A bizarre case with Mistress Lucy. She cares more about the rights of animals than the rights of human beings, even going as far as to not mind at all if her dog Riccardo pees on her shoes, and she takes offense to Precious speaking out against it, calling her "speciest" (a mix of the words species and racist) for it.
  • God Is Evil: Mistress Lucy's viewpoint of God, when it comes to animal rights, as she says God is the one responsible for making animals suffer. Precious counters by declaring that God Is Good.
    Mistress Lucy: God is not an animal lover! God would not be welcome in the ASPCA!
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Precious gets moments of this, first with Theophilus and then with Mannish and later with her pastor.
  • Groin Attack: In Chapter 12, Precious recalls how, when she was young, a boy dropped a crab into her underwear. The creature ended up nipping her down there with its claw.
  • Heroic BSoD: Precious has a few brief moments of this after Theophilus's death, both before and after his funeral.
  • Ill Girl: Mistress Lucy at the end of the book, which prompts her to make peace with Precious.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Mistress Lucy, very much so. In one instance, according to her, she broke up with a wealthy suitor simply because she could water-ski better than him.
  • Insult Backfire: Mistress Lucy and her friends call Precious a "meat-eater" in a derisive manner. Precious doesn't mind, however, and in fact relishes the attention it gives her.
  • Ironic Echo: After Precious relates her experiences in America to her pastor including how Riccardo almost raped her, he tells her that "N.E.N." (No Explanation Necessary) is the only answer to explain how scandal could affect a decent church sister. At the very end of the story, when the pastor demands to know why Precious didn't correct Lucy's assumption about what happened concerning the near-dog-rape, Precious's single, firm answer? "N.E.N."
  • Jerkass: Mildred, Harold's wife and Precious's daughter-in-law.
  • Kick the Dog: Maud, Precious's former maid, does this to a literal dog, the Higginsons' mongrel Red Dog, long after having given him payback for chasing her up a tree. On one occasion she sticks a pepper in his food, causing him to run for the river after one bite. (And Red Dog gets this quite a lot after he's tried to bite a number of people.) Precious herself later does this to Riccardo the first time he tries to hump her leg. And she does it again when he actually tries to rape her, killing him on this occasion.
  • Love Triangle: The gradual feud between Mannish and Riccardo, over Precious, plays out this way.
  • Meat Versus Veggies: A source of contention between Mistress Lucy and Mannish.
  • Men Don't Cry: Mistress Lucy slapped a boyfriend who had the nerve to break down in tears after she rebuffed his sexual advances on her.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Henry, Shirley's husband, is a beautician, bakes, and cooks breakfast for Precious, something she finds distasteful.
  • Reality Ensues: Mannish, trying to chat up a woman under the belief that she's a reincarnated lover from one of your past lives, and professing to know her name when she never told it to you beforehand, will only result in her threatening to call the cops on you.
  • Reincarnation: Mannish, being of Indian parentage, believes in this. The trope's sub-tropes play out in two different ways, as well, as listed below.
    • Past-Life Memories: Mannish claims to remember stealing seven camels in a past life, and that the atrocities he's made to suffer now under Mistress Lucy's employment are penance for that past crime. He also claims that his brother, who died by drowning when they were children, has died similar deaths in 54 past lifetimes because God wants to teach him not to be afraid of water.
    • Reincarnation Romance: Near the end of the book, Mannish spots a woman who has mannerisms similar to that of a woman named Beulah, who he claims to have romanced in a past life. The woman is even named Beulah. However, his attempt to talk to her almost gets him arrested for harassment. They eventually hook up anyway.
    Beulah: Before I call the police on your friend, tell me, how did he know that my name is Beulah?
  • The Resenter: Precious's daughter Shirley, a policewoman, claims she chose that field because she was angry at her parents for always keeping secrets from her.
  • Running Gag: Riccardo peeing on Mannish's leg, and Mannish threatening to cook and eat the dog as revenge.
  • The Stoic: Mannish, the Indian butler, comes across this way at first. He is quickly revealed to be Not So Stoic, however.
  • Straw Vegetarian: Mistress Lucy, and a lot of her social circle. In Chapter 17, she's shown to host several dinners at her house, at which no meat is served and nothing resembling animal skin is worn or used by any of the visitors.
  • Supreme Chef: Henry. Put it this way: he can bake far better than Precious can.
  • Tempting Fate: In Chapter 3, Precious tells Theo that he won't be dying for many more years. The very next day, he dies in a traffic accident.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Mannish likes hamburgers, but he has to hide the fact from Mistress Lucy, who is a militant vegetarian. Whenever she's gone on one of her trips, he happily indulges in burgers at every opportunity.

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