A Dog's Purpose Review
Updated: Jan 31, 2019
by W. Bruce Cameron
Published in 2010
Where do I start with this one? I myself have a dog, Peanut Butter, the most adorable sweetest lovely cute baby face in my completely unbiased opinion. As if I didn’t already love her enough, reading A Dog's Purpose really made me think about how dogs love us in the most overwhelming and unconditional way. For those that watched the movie, you probably already know about how this story just hits you in the feels and the book is very similar to the movie except it transitions between the different dogs much more clearly.
This book begins with a puppy being born as part of a litter of other puppies. Their mother is a feral dog who tries to raise her puppies on the street, scavenging for food, and avoiding humans at all costs. They get caught however by animal control and they live among other dogs who were found around the streets. Due to the poor conditions of the living place of the dogs, the place gets shut down and subsequently, all the dogs including the protagonist are euthanized. The same dog wakes up (which is the book’s way of showing how the dog soul is reincarnated in a new dog body) as a Golden Retriever puppy. He breaks free of the cage he was being held in and is picked up by a truck driver on the street who when entering a bar, leaves the puppy in the car - which is why I recommend drinking at home while cuddling your dog, win win situation. As the pup starts to pass out from heat exhaustion, a woman breaks the window of the truck and rescues the puppy.
She brings him home as a gift to her son Ethan, who immediately falls in love with newly named Bailey. They become inseparable, playing all summer long until it is time for Ethan to return to school, which is difficult for Bailey to be separated from his best friend. Throughout the years, Bailey is with Ethan as he grows from young adolescent to teenager to eventual adult. He is by his side through tough times at school, breaking up with his long-term girlfriend, applying to colleges, a sports injury, and his parents divorce. As he goes to college, he visits Bailey less frequently and in his old age, Bailey becomes sick and is once again put down. He is again reborn, this time as a girl German Shepard. She is confused as to why she’s a girl and where Ethan is as she is being trained to be in the K9 unit. The new owner is still gentle but firm, training frequently to prepare the puppy for the Search and Rescue unit. After living a long fulfilling life which includes helping to rescue a kidnapped young girl, Bailey once again passes and is reborn as a black lab. The new owner received him as a gift but can’t have pets inside her apartment and ends up giving Bailey to her mother’s alcoholic boyfriend. He simply ties him up outside, rain or sun, and neglects Bailey instead of caring for him.
Bailey breaks free and runs away into the woods until he realizes that he’s smelt this area before in one of his past lives. It smelled like summer and playtime and his favorite boy, Ethan. Using the smelling skills he gained as a search and rescue K9, he adventures out until the scents lead him to an old farm. Scratching at the door, he comes face to face with Ethan in his old age. *Insert dramatic sob here* Even though Ethan doesn’t recognize who this dog is, Bailey is over the moon. Ethan is hesitant about this strange dog but eventually begins feeding him and letting him inside his home. Eventually he also helps to find the girl Ethan had dated in high school and manages to reunite them so Ethan could be happy. As Ethan and Bailey get older and closer to death, Bailey finds an old toy he and Ethan used to play with in the old summers when they first met. At first Ethan thinks it’s a coincidence that he would find this toy, Bailey performs a trick Ethan had once taught him and Ethan realizes that this black lab in front of him is his beloved Bailey from his childhood. I’M NOT CRYING - YOU’RE CRYING!
Final Rating: 6/10
Overall, I really did enjoy reading this book. This is one of those easy reads that is perfect to read or re-read on a rainy day all alone while your partner walks your dog so you can comfortably cry into your wine glass without any judgement and reunite with your dog as if they were a veteran that left for 10 years. I thought every time the dog died, my heart was already being stretched thin but in the end when the dog was reunited with their original owner, even though in the body of a completely different dog and manages to get him to recognize his dog, I pretty much cried any tears I had left. I also thought it clever and humorous when the puppy was born as a girl for the first time versus a boy and how confused they were that something is missing downstairs. This isn’t a 10 because this isn’t the most mind boggling crazy book with twists and turns and impressive character development (besides that of the dog). Even though you care about Ethan because you view him through Bailey’s eyes, it can be limiting because you don’t get to see too much into Ethan’s character. When Bailey also helps him get a girlfriend at the end because Ethan looks lonely, I also think that was overreaching especially since there really didn’t need to be a romantic subplot in the book when it’s supposed to be about the love between a dog and their person.
Even with its faults, it’s just a well rounded wholesome book that gives you warm loving feelings and makes you want to grab the closest dog to you and give them a hug. It really shows the strength of the relationship between humans and dogs and how important it is to give the same amount of love and affection to your animal as you would a child. Even though I know dogs don’t talk (yet), I love getting an insight as to what would actually be going on in their mind and what their thoughts would look like. I also really like the concept of dogs being reborn as a new puppy every time they die and remembering their past life each time, even though I would prefer it to be like that movie where All Dogs Go to Heaven. I can only hope that when Peanut Butter goes, she will be reborn as a new pup and find her way back to me so we can be together forever. I would definitely recommend this book to others - cat and dog lovers alike.