Gil Winowiscz, the forty seven year old hero of Nose Down, Eyes Up talks to his four dogs (Jimmy, Cheney, Fruity, and Dink) as he putters through his days as caretaker and handyman on an estate in Malibu. Then one day he realizes that they talk to him, too. And that he can understand them.
There's been a recent outbreak of books told exclusively or partly from the perspective of a dog (The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle both come to mind), but I'd wager that none of them is as hilarious as Nose Down, Eyes Up.
Let's take the title, first. Jimmy, who Gil's raised from a pup, is the alpha dog of the neighborhood. He takes his responsibilities as alpha seriously, and when Gil accidentally crashes a meeting of the dogs he discovers that Jimmy's been giving them lessons in how to manipulate their humans. Nose down eyes up is one of the primary postures--rather yoga-like, if you will--which dogs use to melt our hearts and get us to do what they want. What, you think you really wanted to throw that ball 75 times in a row, sometimes having to wrest it dripping from the mouth of your manipulative pup? Nah, that's just Fido exercising his power over you.
It seems to me, as a dog lover, that Merrill Markoe captures their various voices and levels of understanding perfectly. The book is a romp, but it's also a keen meditation on the importance of love and family--however that family may be configured. You don't have to be a dog lover to love this book; that will just enhance your enjoyment of it.
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