Traveling through time with four distinct canine narrators, W. Bruce Cameron’s novel A Dog’s Purpose is both heartwarming and honest. We personify our pets every single day but rarely take into account their perception of our species. To see the world through a dog’s eyes is an innocent and simple interpretation of the crazy, and often times emotionally complicated, world we live in. Cameron’s lead character is a perfect specimen of canine mentality and his story will make you laugh right through your tears.
Born for the first time as Toby, the multi-lived lead dog is part of a feral family and must learn to survive on his own. When Toby’s life has ended, he is reborn as the loveable Bailey, who immediately wonders why he is living again and what, exactly, his purpose is. As Bailey, he learns to love and “most important[ly]” take care of people. Living to old age, he is born once again as Ellie, a search and rescue dog. Moving through training and work as police dog, Ellie is taught to Find, Show and save people, while she continues to wonder what her purpose is. After a fourth rebirth, this time as a Black Lab who goes through several owners, Buddy arrives with many lives worth of lessons at his final destination and finally discovers his purpose.
Cameron’s narration isn’t that of a human, but of a dog everyone has known. Neither Toby nor any of the dogs he becomes in his other lives understand English, though over the course of these lives, he does pick up certain words. As any dog would see it, most of the English language is unimportant. As far as dogs go, they know what they need to. Phrases such as ‘good dog’, ‘bad dog’ and ‘cookies’ are staples of each incarnation’s vocabulary. Nailing down the infamous selective listening that every dog perfects in infancy, Toby’s opinions will make you laugh out loud while his attempts to figure out what his people want will have your eyes welling as they search the room for your own four-legged friend.
Just as the cover shows, every one of the dog’s thoughts seem to appear on the page straight out of a thought bubble. Honest, unedited, innocent and uninhibited by a complicated human mind, Toby’s narration is spot on. It’s wonderful to be taken along with Toby on his journey to discover just exactly what a dog’s purpose is.
A fast, fun read that will make you swing from sentimental sap to laughing caninophile, dog lovers can’t miss this one. Even non-dog lovers will find Cameron’s tale a joy, and with its very own sequel, A Dog’s Journey, readers are sure to enjoy the continued search for a dog’s purpose.