I am usually skeptical of books where the author speaks in the dog’s voice, but from its title, The Dog Who Danced, by Susan Wilson already had points in its favor. A book called The Dog That Danced might have languished, unread, on the shelf. And Wilson seems to get it. The dog, Mack / Buddy, is a Sheltie with a strong personality and viewpoint all his own. He’s believable. The human characters are real, too.
During a cross-country drive, Mack gets separated from Justine, his person. The two have a very strong bond and are talented Canine Freestyle dancers. Their relationship is well-developed, explained well, and rings true. Mack is found by a couple, Alice and Ed, who have never quite gotten over the loss of their teenage daughter. Their initial hesitancy to get attached, and their growing, separate relationships with the dog, whom they call Buddy, also ring true. These are real people. They have all made poor decisions, lived with their mistakes and their regrets, and are trying in their oh-so-human way to move on and do better.
Mack / Buddy helps Ed and Alice work through their grief and anger with one another and move into a new beginning. He helps Justine cope with her dysfunctional family — her estranged son, her cold and selfish stepmother, her dying father. But he remains a real dog, though perhaps a better-behaved dog than most. His doggy thoughts and wants are plausible; he doesn’t have the cloying or idealized character of so many human-voiced dogs.
While there are certainly elements of the story and details that seem contrived, and it is a lightweight read, The Dog Who Danced is enjoyable and fun. I don’t want to give too much away, but I would unhesitatingly recommend this book to dog lovers and “non-dog” people alike.