A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans
By: W. Bruce Cameron
Publisher: Forge Books
Publication date: December 2016
Dog lovers have always known that dogs are intelligent, loving, and deeply devoted to “their humans.” Author W. Bruce Cameron has taken this knowledge and added a unique twist that builds on it: a novel that imagines a dog, who lives several dog lives, and remembers each life and the lessons learned in that life.
The purpose of a dog begins with a puppy describing his life. It soon becomes clear that the cub, along with his three brothers and his mother, are wild. Finally, the cub, along with his mother and brother, are captured by a rescue dog. They are placed in a backyard with many other dogs and while the puppy, soon to be named Toby, adjusts well, his mother cannot handle human interaction and manages to escape. Toby grows up, makes friends, and finally reunites with his sister. But the problem arises when the authorities close the rescue service 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 puppy is part of a healthy litter, kept with a breeder. When he sees that other puppies, from other litters, are adopted and disappear 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 works to copy it. He runs and runs away from the breeder and wanders around until he is picked up by a kind man who takes him for a ride in his car. Unfortunately, the man stops at a bar and leaves the puppy in his hot car. Once again, the puppy is rescued, this time by a woman who smashes the car window just in time before heatstroke kills the dog. You bring the puppy home to your 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 again as a Black Lab. His final reincarnation as a laboratory takes a complete turn with a very satisfying conclusion to the story.
Told from a dog’s point of view, A Dog’s Purpose is a delightful story that immediately appealed to me and kept me reading until I turned the last page. The author has the true gift of 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 that his purpose was to do what his human wanted / needed him to do, be it saving a child from drowning or taking a car ride to make a child happy. Like all dogs, this dog learned words: “kennel”, “bed”, “sleep”, etc. and basic concepts like “Merry Christmas” which for him meant people who came to the house. He would sit at the feet of his owner and listen to a word of humans speaking, for example, 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 humans to give readers a clue as to what was going on, but even without that help, it wasn’t difficult to follow. Much of what the dog did was pick up on the emotions of the people around him, feeling joy, fear, pain, and reacting accordingly. The writing style definitely worked quite well, and I’m looking forward to diving into the sequel, A Dog’s Journey.
Quill Says: There’s a reason Hollywood came to call and made a movie based on this book! If you love dogs, do yourself a favor and read The Purpose of a Dog.