The White German Shepherd

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The protagonist and narrator of THE WHITE GERMAN SHEPHERD, Diane Brannigan, likens finding a dog with both the looks and the heart to play the lead in a remake of THE CALL OF THE WILD to finding “snow in the Sahara Desert.” While the ordinary black-and-tan variety of the breed usually has heart to spare, white German Shepherds are “trash dogs” bred solely for their looks. Diane soon finds Jouster, a dog that appears to match the director’s description of what he wants for this part. Diane distrusts appearances, however, and even as Jouster continues to prove himself an animal full of intelligence and will power, she continues to find evidence of unfitness in him.

Just as Diane is reluctant to acknowledge Jouster’s admirable qualities, she overlooks the genuine appeal of another working partner, her fellow trainer, Sam, while she is caught up in a love affair with Luke, a disillusioned writer. Diane’s instincts are good, nevertheless, and eventually--through training Jouster and carefully observing the behavior of her own beloved Irish Wolfhound--she comes to trust herself, as well as Jouster and Sam.

Vicki Hearne is herself a former professional animal trainer who is clearly steeped in the language and lore of her previous trade, and THE WHITE GERMAN SHEPHERD is full of talk about minute distinctions between breeds and of instances of near mystic communion with dogs. The novel provides readers with an unusual glimpse into a highly specialized and somewhat esoteric world.