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Literature / Dogsbody

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Dogsbody is a novel by Diana Wynne Jones. The guiding spirit of the star Sirius is framed for a murder and sentenced to reincarnation on Earth in the form of a dog, unless he can come up with the murder weapon (which also happens to be a very powerful MacGuffin).

Tropes featured include:

  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Sirius can understand a lot more english than most animals. Justified since he's not really a dog.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Sirius achieves his goals and he finds a better home for Kathleen, but the two are separated, possibly forever.
  • Drowning Unwanted Pets: Puppy Sirius and his littermates are thrown into a river shortly after they're born, because an unknown dog got in with their pedigree mother, making them worthless mongrels from a breeding perspective. He later learns that the villain of the story persuaded their owner to this course, in the hope of cutting his mission on Earth short before it had properly begun. Several of the puppies survive, and Sirius meets some of his siblings again in later life, as well as eventually learning who — and what — their father was.
  • Evil Matriarch: Duffy, Kathleen's evil step aunt who works her like a dog, verbally abuses her, and threatens to kill her dog on a regular basis.
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  • Forced Transformation: Sirius is forced to take the form of a dog, with a dog's normal lifespan and other vulnerabilites, and has to find the MacGuffin before he dies of old age or something else kills him.
  • Hellhound: The Cŵn Annwn, spectral hounds from Welsh Mythology, appear and play a role in the plot.
  • Heroic Canines, Villainous Felines: The cats in Sirius' new home are at first jealous and try to set the Evil Matriarch against him. After he saves one of them from her wrath, however, they become some of his best allies.
  • I Was Named "My Name":
    • Subverted. In a world where stars are actually sentient creatures with godlike powers, Sirius is framed for murdering a dwarf star, and banished to Earth to search for a vital piece of evidence — and, in the process, forced to be reborn as a mortal... a mortal dog, to be precise. When he is later adopted by a young girl, she mulls over his name for a long time, but eventually settles on "Leo" — lampshading it later, when she learns about 'The Dog-Star, Sirius' at school, and comments that it would've been a better name.
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    • Played straighter later in the book when Sirius meets Miss Smith, who is generally presented as wise and perceptive and who quickly decides that she's going to call him "Sirius".
  • MacGuffin: The Zoi. The plot is driven by Sirius' need to find it and return it to safekeeping, while other characters try to prevent him, but the thing itself is never used during the story so its specific attributes play no role in the plot.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: Kathleen's story, especially after her father dies because of his escape from prison. She's taken in by relatives, but some of them treat her as a servant and abuse her emotionally.
  • Parental Abandonment: Kathleen is living with her uncle's family because her father is in prison. Then he dies in an escape attempt, and things get worse.
  • Punctuated Pounding: Duffie (the human Wicked Stepmother type) beats Tibbles (one of her cats) in this way for trespassing in the room where she keeps all her pottery. Since the victim of this incident is a cat, and the main character is a dog, this kind of incident with Duffie heads very quickly into literal Kick the Dog territory.
  • Sentient Stars: All stars have living spirits. The spirit of the star Sirius is framed for murdering a dwarf star, and banished to Earth to search for a vital piece of evidence — and, in the process, forced to be reborn as a mortal dog. A few other star spirits also appear as characters, including the spirit of Earth's Sun.
  • Taking the Heat: Sirius furiously denies having killed the victim and thrown the Zoi at the witness. But he won't provide an alternate story because doing so would implicate his Companion.
  • Tantrum Throwing: The Castor luminary claims Sirius did this (and aimed to kill) with the Zoi when he discovered Sirius with the body of the young Orion luminary. The problem with this: A Zoi has to be in someone's hands for him to kill with it, and it was Sirius' Companion who threw it as Sirius tried to wrestle it out of her hands.
  • The Wild Hunt: Sirius in his dog incarnation turns out to be related to them. As Sirius's littermates, so are most of the other dog characters.