The Heart of a Dog

by Mikhail Bulgakov

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Heart of a Dog is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. The story is set in Moscow and starts in 1924. A cook finds a dog looking through trash for something to eat and scalds the animal with hot water. The dog is then found by a doctor named Phillip Pillipovich, who wins the dog’s trust by feeding it a sausage. Phillip then ironically names the dog “Sharik,” which usually means a purebred dog, even though Sharik is more of a mutt.

The doctor is vocally anti-communist and only gets away with it because the local communists need his medical services. The dog is happy to be an upper-class dog now. The story continues closely following the dog’s point of view as if he were human, before moving back and forth between the doctor’s perspective and that of a narrator.

In your own paper about the book, it’s worth noting that the story is definitely not meant to be taken completely literally in terms of plot. The dog has many human characteristics and talks to people. There are many surreal parts of the story, and the focus is more on satire than realism as events unfold.

The dog becomes more and more human and eventually becomes so communist and unpleasant that the doctor has to turn him back into a dog. The plot itself is meant to be allegorical, attacking the communism and Bolshevism of the time, implying that under those systems, giving out help to people makes them act badly.

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