Book Review: A Dog’s Purpose

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I have often pondered the unfairness of some dogs living in luxury while others must endure lives as forgotten strays, or worse, as test animals or food. Although A Dog’s Purpose shows the various circumstances of human life through a dog’s perspective, a dog’s fate and purpose is tied to the fate of its guardian or owner, with few exceptions.

Book Cover: A Dog's PurposeBruce Cameron, the author of A Dog’s Purpose, gives a unique perspective on the question of what a dog’s purpose is in life, and consequently, man’s purpose in life. The book is written from the viewpoint of a dog, thus the second part of the title, A Novel for Humans. Cameron is a best-selling author and this book is now a movie.

What is a dog’s purpose? That question is asked by Toby during his many lives on Earth. He is first born as a stray dog taken in by a well-meaning lady. Senora is the only name given to the woman that collected many stray dogs such as Toby. She tries, as many rescue shelters try, to provide for too many animals, only to lose them to animal control. Toby has an injury to his leg, is considered unadoptable and is euthanized. Making Senora laugh was the only purpose Toby could think of for his purpose in that life.

Toby is reborn as a Golden Retriever from a puppy mill. He escapes and is found by his next family who call him Bailey. He remembers his past life as Toby and ponders his purpose in life as he goes through a long life where he progresses in self-awareness and service to Ethan, a member of the family. After many adventures, Bailey realizes that his purpose in life is to love, be with, and make Ethan happy.

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Toby’s next life is as a girl dog named Ellie. He is now a German Sheppard being trained as a police dog. He draws upon his past knowledge as Toby and Bailey to achieve success as a companion work animal for Officer Jakob, a man with inner conflicts. As Toby moves from a life as a mutt, to golden retriever, to police dog, he progresses upward with each new life, which is the basic premise of Karma or reincarnation, but he still longs for Ethan his “boy”.

Jul at Rough Road Rescue, Perryville, MO, and ready for adoption

Jul at Rough Road Rescue, Perryville, MO, and ready for adoption. Image courtesy of Gila Todd,, Southeast Missouri Pet Photography.

The cycle of reincarnation and Karma comes full circle when Toby is reborn as a black lab. Through twists and turns of the story plot, he is reunited with Ethan, an elderly man now with limited time left on Earth. How Toby is reunited with Ethan is masterfully done and full of surprises. He understands his true purpose in life and looks forward to spending eternity with Ethan. The ending of the story will bring tears to anyone’s eyes. When I finally put the book down, I wished I had just one more chapter to read.

Cameron wrote A Dog’s Purpose because he wanted a book where the dog hero of the story didn’t die. Throughout the book, the main themes of reincarnation (among animals), service and purpose in life are intertwined within a

moving story relevant to man’s search for self-meaning.  Man is blessed with free will to move up or down in finances, education, spiritual life, or the pursuit of purpose. A Dog’s Purpose is a reminder that all lives need purpose or they are a wasted gift.

A book written from a dog’s point of view is refreshing but may be hard at first to adjust to. The book starts out slowly and then picks up to a point where it becomes a book you can’t put down.  All age groups can enjoy this book, though there are a few scenes in the book that may be very upsetting to sensitive or very young readers. The book is thought provoking and realistic. If the premise of the book is correct, it would explain why some animals are born as old souls, experienced in life, with intelligence beyond their contemporaries and live a life with meaningful purpose. It also gives hope that one day we will be reunited with our departed animal companions wither in this life or for eternity.

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