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Book Review – A Dog’s Purpose

I wondered briefly if cats also came back after death, then dismissed the thought because as far as I had ever been able to tell, cats do not have a purpose. 

A Dog’s Purpose tells the story of a dog’s many lives and the unbreakable bonds he forms along the way. 

It was enormously witty in a subtle way. It could have been so easy to take advantage of the obvious comedy at hand–a human trying to imagine the world through the simple-minded dog–but W. Bruce Cameron navigated through a dog’s eyes expertly, as if he’d maybe done so in a past life. And he did it without the added cheese, without making man’s best friend intolerantly stupid. 

There’s not a lot that needs to be said about this book, other than I highly recommend it. It was a very simple read, because dog’s are simple beings. At first, I was frustrated with the lack of complexity. Instead of going deep into relationships, the dog would allow years to pass with simple phrases like, she moved in, they wrestled on the couch, they were happy. And it’s interesting how truly simple it was, yet how triumphant this story turned out to be. 

One of dogs’ most prized gifts is their ability to intuit emotions, and you got a great deal of that in this book. Instead of being told two people were shy, you felt it as the dog paced around, concerned with their heightened heartbeats. It was glorious and well-researched. 

Several people stared at me as I trotted down the street, and each time I felt like a bad dog. I had no real purpose, now that I was here.

This was the first book in the longest time that brought actual tears to my eyes. The dog is such an innocent being, and the story does give you a slightly improved version of the world when you finish that final page. Why do we imagine such grand purposes for ourselves when each day you’re living out your purpose by being and listening and intuiting life’s many gifts? Why do we chase something future-based when we have loved ones and are loved? It was a wonderful message to spread: that your purpose could be as minute as loving someone with your whole heart. That that is enough.

Because love spreads, just as each of the dog’s lives strung together to form a non-linear web of connections. That final life wouldn’t have come to fruition if it hadn’t been for the lessons learned in the very first one. Each life was in its own way kindly brutal, fulfilling, and blessed. As a reader, I expected more in the beginning, but was pleasantly surprised with what I wound up with in the end. 

Maya was crying, whispering, “You’re a good dog,” over and over, and it was her words, and the sense of her love, that I took with me when I felt the tiny prick by my neck and then was washed away by the wonderfully warm ocean waters. 

I fell asleep and, predictably, was wearing a stupid cone-shaped collar when I awoke back home. 

Finally, Ethan asked Hannah if she wanted to see the flip, and at the sound of the dreaded word I whipped my head around and stared at him in disbelief. I had assumed we had ended that chapter of our lives.

I thought each life was just as interesting as the one prior. The foreshadowing was off the charts good. The stories were unexpected and wickedly infectious. Even the ones that weren’t as high-anxiety as the others. The scenes were set and stimulated all the reader’s senses, even as time changed the landscape into something unfamiliar. The writing was perfect. Symbolic. So easy to follow. So easy step away from and come back to. There were even moments where I paused in contemplation because it was so beautiful and insightful. 

I understood it now, why I had lived so many times. I had to learn a lot of important skills and lessons, so that when the time came I could rescue Ethan, not from the pond but from the sinking despair of his own life.

I felt the consciousness ebb from him as gradually as daylight leaves the sky after sunset. There was no pain, no fear, nothing but the sense that my brave boy was going where he was supposed to go. Through it all, I could feel him aware of me lying in his lap until, with one last, shuddering breath, he was aware of nothing at all. 

It was a great testament to the power of love, and the unspoken bond between man and dog.



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