A Dog’s Purpose is a novel written by W. Bruce Cameron and is told from the dog’s point of view. The premise is a unique twist on the usual dog tale. In this one, as the dog searches for his reason for existence, he is reborn again and again as different dogs into the lives of different owners, in a reincarnation kind of cycle.
There are so many dog books on the market, it’s hard to find one as unique as this one, and it’s refreshing to know you’re going to read a book with a new premise.
One of his lives is spent as a stray mixed breed, and another is lived as an energetic puppy, a service dog, etc. The book runs along at an even pace that makes it feel more like you’re watching a movie. The story never gets boring, but it does seem a little sappy at times. You keep wondering how this dog will come back in its next life, and you look forward to reading about the next owner.
Each life he lives allows him to learn how to be a good dog, how to interact with humans, and how to take those lessons into his/her next life. Yes, he is a female dog named Ellie in one life. His other names are Toby, Buddy, and Bailey. He’s an intelligent dog that is easily trained, and super sensitive. Without giving too much away, it’s safe to say he’s more humane than at least one of his owners.
If you aren’t fond of dog books, this one might change your mind. It’s full of heart, spirit, and thoughtful situations that speak of the dog/human bond. This author has written a sequel, and is just as popular.
This dog lives through animal cruelty but comes out a survivor and triumphs on the other side. He doesn’t deserve the maltreatment, but then again, no dog does. Your heartstrings are pulled at just the right moments, if you have a heart at all.
His quest for the meaning to his life mirrors the questions we all have from time to time: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? But this dog doesn’t receive the answers easily, and when he does, he doesn’t wax too philosophical about it, which would be disappointing if he did. His epiphany comes simply and beautifully.
This book actually answers these questions quite well and prompts us to explore them about our own lives. By the end of the story, you’ll either have a better grasp of your own journey or have more questions to ask.
This book was turned into a movie and is well-loved by dog enthusiasts everywhere. I think both book and movie has a way of making the dog seem more human than most humans—a lesson presented over and over in the scenarios. But where some dog books try to make the dog out to be smarter than their owners, or are always engaged in a mental one-upmanship, this dog seems to always know his place.
It does make you imagine what your dog is thinking, how much he understands, and what happens to his “spirit” if anything after he passes. It makes you come away respecting dogs and a better understanding of how they help people. Dogs save our lives, and we save theirs. To say that dogs are man’s best friend is accurate, but a gross understatement.
Dogs are amazing creatures, as this book shows. They serve us with unconditional love, return to us after a separation, and help us in our time of weakness and inability. They comfort us, watch over us, and spend time with us. No wonder some dog owners insist that they are part of their family and treat them as such. There are some people that are able to relate to their dogs a lot better than they can people.
No one really needs a book to impress these notions upon us, but it’s nice to be reminded once in a while of the role dogs play in our lives, psyches, and place in the world. Dog books are the perfect avenues for doing this.
This book also has a lot of funny parts too, which helps bring balance to the somber themes. The funny parts usually come from the dog’s observations, or from the way he thinks, feels, or interacts.
Spoiler alert, so skip this part if you don’t want to know what a dog’s purpose is. Or at least, what this dog determined it to be, and that is, to stay by his human/master’s side no matter what. And this dog fulfilled his purpose quite well.
This book isn’t just a story told from a dog’s point of view. That would be kind of easy. This is told in a way that makes you believe the dog really IS telling a story, from the way he enjoys flicking water with his nose, to tramping through mud, through the way he’s a little confused sometimes by his owner’s actions and words. And since he has a dog’s intelligence, he doesn’t understand all of the English language when his human is speaking. He does understand the words and phrases he’s learned as a dog, like “biscuit” and “ride”, and I thought this was a nice touch by the author.
Another spoiler alert, so skip down to the next paragraph, but I’m not so sure if I agree with the idea that the same dog keeps returning in different dog bodies over and over again. The reason I disagree is because every dog I’ve ever had has had a different personality than the one before. Since there is no way to prove or disprove, it’s just an opinion on my part. I do know that when dogs and owners are separated accidentally, dogs can travel miles to find their way back home to you. Mine did.
This book would be a great book to read any time of year. I could recommend it as a nice summer read, a cozy winter read, or a wonderful gift idea for a birthday or holiday.
At times the book can seem a little manipulative in how it brings emotions across, but that’s kind of to be expected in a book told from a dog’s point of view. Most dog lovers have big hearts, so they’re easily moved by dog stories. Dogs depend on us much more than cats do. Cats are independent, while dogs can be quite needy.
Another spoiler alert, but it’s really shocking when the dog passes away. You see this rarely in stories, and its heartbreaking in this one, but so joyful when he comes back again. You begin to wish and hope that your own dog will return if and when he dies.
This book would be great for children, teenagers, and adults.
How does this book compare to other dog stories? Old Yeller is an excellent dog book, and it was heartrending in its own right. It’s always heartbreaking when a dog dies in a story, but that makes it so relatable. Who hasn’t lost a dog, or cried when one dies?
Call of the Wild is another great dog book, and it has become a literary classic. Another dog story called Chalou, a children’s book, is a tearjerker about a dog that is separated from its masters (two teenage boys), finds a new home and owner on a farm (an old grandfather and his little granddaughter), and is later reunited with his original owners by chance, who decides to let Chalou stay on the farm because he’s very happy there.
Marley and Me was a dog book that was turned into a movie, and this dog has to be put to sleep, which is always a sad event for any family or owner who’s ever had to go through the experience. It is losing a family member.
Dog stories like these remind us of our relationship with dogs, and humanity in general.
A Dog’s Purpose does more than just tell a good dog story. It also tells the practical way that having a dog for emotional, and sometimes physical support can benefit veterans dealing with PTSD or other injuries. Studies show that the presence of an emotional support dog can lower anxiety, blood pressure, and ease stress, not to mention all of the physical tasks a well-trained service dog can perform.
Throughout history, dogs have worked side by side humans, pulling sleds, rescuing victims, and mending broken hearts and minds. This is a bond that is reinforced again and again in this book.
If you want to read more from this author on the subject of books, check out the sequel, A Dog’s Journey, where he continues his reincarnated lives and encounters new characters and situations.
Other dog books by Mr. Cameron include A Dog’s Way Home, The Dog Master, The Dogs of Christmas, and Emory’s Gift, not to mention all of the Dog’s Purpose books.