A Dog’s Purpose is that perfect read for anyone who loves dogs, and will be appreciated by any animal lover. It is a wonderful book, not only intensely compelling (I read it in one day), but also very emotive. I laughed, I cried; I fell a little in love with Bailey, Ellie, and all the other incarnations of this most beloved canine. However, whilst it was written with both emotion and with love, it never felt too sickeningly sentimental. It delves a little into the ugly side of how we treat these, our most loyal and faithful of companions, including backyard breeding, and abandonment, but mostly it is about companionship, and the dog’s ultimate purpose: to live and to love, and for us to love.
Our hero’s story begins with the birth of a feral puppy, living the harsh and fearful life of a wild dog, until he is captured, and shown love for the first time. Here is his first introduction to humans, his first taste of an inter-species friendship. Alas, his time as an ex-feral is heart-breakingly short, and he is soon to be reborn again, this time to a backyard breeder. Here he finds his way into the hands and heart of his first human companion, the boy Ethan, and becomes Bailey. We watch the two grow up together, as inseparable friends, sharing many adventures – some exciting, some terrifying and life-changing. But dogs grow faster than boys, and all to soon it is Bailey’s turn for eternal rest, and his chance to be reborn once more, this time into the body and life of a rescue dog. Through every incarnation, or canine hero’s skills and knowledge grow, transferring with him, and help him to fulfill his purpose: to serve, protect, and love.
The writing style is relatively simple, befitting its canine narrator, with more going on behind the scenes than what the dog, with his somewhat simplified understanding of human behaviour, can properly understand. Also, admirably, the animals in the story communicate precisely as animals should: scent, body language, and other behaviour, without direct speech. Although I am not generally opposed to anthropomorphisation of animal characters, in this narrative, dialogue between dogs and, possibly, cats would be very jarring. Instead we have the humans’ dialogue, faithfully reproduced, even though our canine hero can only understand a small part of it.
I highly recommend this tale to any animal lovers, and will be eagerly awaiting the release of the movie (due in April), which promises the pulling of the same emotional heart-strings as the book, with some variations to the plot.
Reviewed by Angela Oliver
A Dog’s Purpose
by Bruce W. Cameron
Published by Pan MacMillan Australia
Note from the editor: This review was written prior to the recent claims regarding treatment of dogs on the set of A Dog’s Purpose.