A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans

By: W. Bruce Cameron

Publisher: Forge Books

Release date: December 2016

ISBN: 978-0765388117

Dog lovers have always known that dogs are intelligent, loving animals who are deeply devoted to “their humans.” Author W. Bruce Cameron took this knowledge and added a unique twist based on it: a novel that imagines a dog, living several dog lives, remembering each life and the lessons learned in that life.

A Dog’s Purpose begins with a puppy describing his life. It soon becomes clear that the cub, along with his three siblings and his mother, are feral. Eventually, the pup, along with his mother and a brother, are captured by a dog rescue. They are placed in a backyard with many other dogs and while the pup, soon named Toby, adjusts well, his mother can’t handle the human interaction and manages to escape. Toby grows up, makes friends, and is finally reunited with his sister. But problems arise when the authorities cancel the rescue for having too many dogs. Toby soon finds himself in a bad situation…

When Toby’s life comes to an end, he is reincarnated as a beautiful Golden Retriever. Now the pup is part of a healthy litter, kept with a breeder. When he sees other pups, from other litters, being adopted and disappearing into the great beyond outside the yard, he wants to leave. He remembers seeing his mother from his first life open the door handle, and tries hard to imitate her. It works and he runs away from the breeder and wanders around until a kind man picks him up and takes him for a ride in his car. Unfortunately, the man stops at a bar and leaves the pup in his hot car. Once again, the pup is rescued, this time by a woman who breaks the car window just in time before heat stroke kills the dog. She brings the puppy home to her young son, and this is where most of the story is: between “Bailey” the dog and “Boy”.

After “Boy,” Bailey returns a few more times, once as a K-9 search-and-rescue German Shepherd and once as a black Labrador retriever. His final reincarnation as the laboratory brings him full circle with a very satisfying conclusion to the story.

Told from the dog’s point of view, A Dog’s Purpose is a charming story that immediately drew me in and kept me reading until I turned the last page. The author has a real gift for capturing a dog’s thoughts and it really felt like the dog was sharing his life with me. Toby/Bailey/Ellie/Buddy was a loving dog who knew his purpose was to do what his human wanted/needed him to do, whether it was saving a child from drowning or taking a car ride to make a child happy. Like all dogs, this dog picked up words: “kennel”, “bed”, “sleep”, etc. and basic concepts like “Merry Christmas” which to him meant people coming to the house. He would be sitting at his owner’s feet and hear a word of the humans speaking, say his name, and he would get excited, not knowing what the rest of the conversation was about. The author included a minimal amount of dialogue from the humans to give readers a clue as to what was going on, but even without that help, it wasn’t hard to follow. Much of what the dog did was pick up on the emotions of the people around him (perceive joy, fear, pain) and react accordingly. The writing style definitely worked out pretty well, and I look forward to diving into the sequel, A Dog’s Journey.

Quill says: There’s a reason Hollywood called and made a movie based on this book! If you love dogs, do yourself a favor and read The Purpose of a Dog.

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