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The Dog Summary & Study Guide

Joseph O'Neill
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The Dog Summary & Study Guide Description

The Dog Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Dog by Joseph O'Neill.

The Dog by Joseph O'Neill chronicles a four-year time span that the protagonist, named X, spends in Dubai.

The story begins when X and his girlfriend, Jenn, argue about having a child. They've been together for almost nine years, which, as she states, means that they are 'married' even if it isn't on paper. Since both X and Jenn have had disastrous childhoods where marriage is concerned, neither have bothered to legalize their arrangement. Both Jenn and X are high powered lawyers for a firm in Manhattan. Originally, they were going to be the high powered couple who focused on their clients and their careers, but now in her late thirties, Jenn has changed her mind. X sees it as a betrayal of their original 'contract' and plans. The couple splits, but working in the same office proves to be awkward and uncomfortable so when X runs into an old college friend, named Eddie, and is offered a job working for Eddie's family....he takes it and moves to Dubai.

It is painfully obvious after a few weeks there that the Batros Family is not only extremely wealthy, but morally bankrupt and ethically obligated to no one. X is given the dubious title of Family Officer. He determines that for an exorbitant salary, high rise office, penthouse suite apartment, company car, and other luxury items, he is to keep track of the Family's finances, oversee operations, and to arrange any sort of activity or event that the family desired.

X's introduction to the culture of the wealthy and infamous includes some lifestyle changes for him as well. He quickly locates and secures the ongoing services of a group of prostitutes who service him regularly. He also hires himself an assistant by the name of Ali. Ali is not his real name, but a generic name that all wealthy Emirates give to their servants. X says that Ali's real name is not pronounceable. Ali accepts this with ease since he is a bidoon. A bidoon is someone who is without a country. Forced out of his own country, he, and others like him drift from one Arab country to the next looking for sanctuary and work. They are considered of the lowest class in Dubai society. Lastly, X takes up the hobby of scuba diving. It is through this hobby that he learns of THE Ted Wilson.

Ted Wilson is something of a diving legend in Dubai, and has been given the nickname of Aquaman. This is due in large part to his propensity to keep to himself and dive alone, something X would never do. However, X, other than to wave at Ted Wilson, and to learn that he lives in the same apartment building as X, has never really interacted with Ted on any other basis. X states that diving clears his mine, allows him to focus only on what is in his present and not what is in his past or his future.

X's past continues to haunt him as his breakup with Jenn never seems to be far from his mind. After his first few months in Dubai he learns that Ted Wilson has gone missing. He went out diving and never came back. The local scuba club decides to mount an expedition to try and find his body, something X knows is a pointless pursuit. However, X and his friend, Ollie, join the other divers to look for Ted. After only a short while both Ollie and X give up and go have dinner.

X has known Ollie since college days when they, and some other boys, including Eddie Batros, shared a small cottage in Dublin one summer. Ollie is Australian and is married to a nice woman named Lynn. They both seem to have assimilated into Dubai culture and Ollie owns a group of massage salons where he specializes in pedicures and foot massages. He is so good that X tells the Batros family about Ollie and in no time Ollie is massaging the feet of all of the wealthy people in Dubai.

The next day Mrs. Ted Wilson knocks on X's apartment door. She walks in, sits down, and begins to talk about where Ted could have gone. She is very distraught, but it seems to X that most of that is a show. He feels very awkward with her there and attempts to get her to leave. She becomes upset and smashes some things in the apartment before leaving. She remarks that X's apartment looks like Ted's, even down to the same books and furniture placement. When X tells Ollie about Mrs. Ted Wilson coming by the apartment Ollie tells X that there are rumors that there were actually TWO Mrs. Ted Wilsons. This rumor turns out to be true. The new rumor has it that, in order to get away from the two Mrs. Wilsons, that Ted left Dubai for a little populated island where he was living with yet another Mrs. Ted Wilson (or soon to be).

Meanwhile, at work, Sandros Batros, Eddie's brother living and running things in Dubai for the family, has saddled X with the dubious task of taking his son, Alain, on as an intern. The boy is 15 and was caught trying to steal money from the family ATM (which is located in the home). Sandros thinks that by exposing Alain to 'real work' that the boy will have an appreciation for where the money comes from. It is evident from day one that Alain doesn't want to be there any more than X wants him to be there. Later that same day he receives an invitation to come to a brunch hosted by an American acquaintance named, Brett. Brett wanted to host this brunch in honor of X who had lent him some money when Brett had lost his job. When someone who is not a Dubai citizen loses a job, all of their assets are immediately frozen, which is what had happened to Brett. X loaned him some money until he could get back on his feet. Brett had paid back almost all of it at the time of the brunch.

A month later X is summoned to the Greek Islands where he is to speak with the Family's patriarch, Georges Batros, who is well into his 90's. It is easy for X to see where the moral and ethical depravity came from when he experiences Georges's almost feral lifestyle. While they are having their conversation about the Batros Family Foundation (which X wanted to start) Georges takes a full shower in front of X while standing on the deck of his yacht. Attending Georges is a lovely young woman whose task it is to suds the old man up. X makes the best of the situation. At the end of the conversation X is interrupted by some of the crew yelling to Georges from the shore where they've caught and butchered someone's goat. Georges cheers and tells them to bring it aboard so they can roast it. The men are all covered in blood and look savage. X wonders about the poor people that the goat belonged to.

This blatant disregard for others is evident all throughout Dubai, X begins to notice. Those who are not part of the wealthy elite are considered disposable. One day, while reclined in his massage chair (called the Pasha chair) he sees something drop from one of the buildings that are under construction. He later learns that it was one of the workers committing suicide. X asks Ali about it and Ali tells him that this is commonplace, that almost every week there are dozens of workers around Dubai who take their own lives.

Alain continues to be sullen and highly resents the daily weigh-in sessions that his father is requiring. Once a day, Alain must be weighed. In order to avoid this situation, X relegates this dubious task to Ali, who suffers silently through it all. Then, one day when it is time for Alain to be weighed, Ali asks to speak with X privately. X learns that Alain has been extorting money from Ali and that Ali has been paying him because Ali is just a bidoon. Incensed he pays Ali the money that had been taken from him, and sends him on a week-long vacation, just until Alain goes back home for good. To punish the boy X has Alain write several essays. When X reads them he learns that the boy stole the money from the ATM at the request of his mother, and that he took the fall for his mother. X forwards the essays on to Sanrdos with the hope that Sandros will excuse the boy. He also tells Sandros, in the same email, about Alain's extortion of money from Ali. Thinking that he's taken care of his major stress factors, he leaves to go home.

X finds out that Ollie is leaving Dubai and will shortly head out to Shanghai where he will replicate the same success he's had in Dubai. This news devastates X as Ollie was the closest thing he has had to a true friend. Ollie encourages him to leave Dubai as well. Later, Sandros visits X's office and confronts him about the email. He says that Ali is to be fired because Ali was alone in the rest room with Alain, when they were weighing him. Sandros has 'fired' X many times before and then taken it back, so when he fires X this time, X doesn't pay any attention to it. This time, however, Sandros is serious and has all of his assets frozen. X calls his friend Eddie (Sandros's brother) who tells him to fly to New York that night and that they will discuss things. He assures X that things will work out okay.

When X arrives in New York, after having been gone for four years, he is disgusted, as nothing seems to have changed. It all looks the same to him, even though he expected it to have gotten 'better'. He is also worried that he might run into Jenn, though this is unfounded. He meets Eddie in a restaurant and Eddie tells him that he's done some investigation into the events in Dubai and that it would be best if X would simply stay in the U.S. To go back to Dubai would be to admit guilt and to be arrested. X is beyond upset because he's done nothing to deserve this punitive action by the Batros family. The Dubai police have been brought into the entire ordeal and the Batros Foundation is also under investigation for money laundering. Since X's name is all over both documents in the office and the Foundation, it is likely, Eddie tells him that he will be imprisoned indeterminately.

X flies back to Dubai anyway and calls Ollie. Ollie tells him to cut his losses and go home, immediately. Later on in the day the Family lawyer comes to visit X at the office and tells him, off the record, that he will be returning in a couple of hours to collect his passport so that the work visa can be canceled. The Lawyer is suggesting that X make a run for it, back to the states. X considers his options and understands that in the past anyone opposing the Dubai government, or the wealthy elite, always came out on the wrong end of things. The injustice of it all makes him feel as if he is in the 'dog house' once again. It infuriates him to the point where he finally gains some clarity about his life and what is important to him. He decides to stay and be a thorn in everyone's side. He sits back in his Pasha chair and waits for the police to come.

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