A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for People

By: W. Bruce Cameron

Publisher: Forge Books

Publication date: December 2016

ISBN: 978-0765388117

Dog lovers have always known that dogs are smart, loving animals who are deeply devoted to their “people”. Author W. Bruce Cameron has taken this knowledge and added a unique twist that builds on it—a novel that imagines one dog, living multiple dog lives, remembering each life, and the lessons of that life.

A Dog’s Purpose opens with a puppy describing his life. It soon becomes clear that the puppy, along with his three siblings and his mother, are wild. Eventually, the puppy, along with its mother and a brother, is captured by a dog rescue. They are placed in a backyard with many other dogs, and while the puppy, soon to be named Toby, adjusts well, the mother cannot handle the human interaction and manages to escape. Toby grows, makes friends and is eventually reunited with his sister. But trouble comes when the rescue is shut down by the authorities for having too many dogs. Toby soon finds himself in a bad situation…

When Toby’s life ends, he is reincarnated as a beautiful Golden Retriever. Now the puppy is part of a healthy litter, kept by a breeder. When he sees other puppies, from other litters, being adopted and disappearing into the big outside yard, he wants to go. He remembers seeing his mother from his first life open the doorknob, and he works to copy her. It works and he escapes from the breeder and wanders around until he is scooped 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 saved, this time by a woman who smashes the car window just in time before heat stroke kills the dog. She takes the puppy home to her young son, and this is where the main part 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 latest reincarnation as Lab 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 delightful story that immediately drew me in and kept me reading until the last page was turned. The author has a true gift for capturing the mind of a dog 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/threw him to do, whether it was saving a child from drowning, or going on a road trip to do a boy happy. Like any dog, this dog picked up words – “kennel”, “bed”, “sleep” etc. and basic terms like “Merry Christmas” which to him meant people coming to the house. He would sit at his owner’s feet and pick up a word from the people talking – his name, for example – and get all excited, not knowing what the rest of the conversation was about. The author included minimal dialogue from the humans to give readers a hint of what was happening, but even without that help it wasn’t hard to follow. Much of what the dog did was pick up the emotions of the people around him – sense joy, fear, pain – and react 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 called and made a movie based on this book! If you love dogs, do yourself a favor and read A Dog’s Purpose.

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