Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Dog's Purpose

I’ve long become accustomed to long car rides, and now I look at them as an opportunity to catch up on my reading (but not while I’m driving obviously). Going to see my family in Western NY for Christmas meant a long car ride, 11 hours in the car. Fortunately I had just received one of the books I ordered from the library.

I devoured A Dog’s Purpose.  I saw the trailer for the movie a couple months ago and it looked good, but when I learned it was based on a novel I knew I had to read it first. I’m always a sucker for animal stories, especially ones about dogs, and I don’t think I’d read one so fast and furiously since Marley and Me was first published.

Marley and Me is the story of a special dog as told from a human’s view, and A Dog’s Purpose is the story of a special dog told from the dog’s point of view. What drew me to this story is the idea that this dog is not just one dog, but that the spirit of this dog is reborn in different  bodies throughout a few decades. Everyone has, I hope, a special pet. The one that no other pet can compare to because they filled our life with such joy and meaning, and when we finally have to say goodbye, it wrecks us. A Dog’s Purpose offers we who have been wrecked by the death of a special pet hope because it allows us to imagine the possibility that our faithful friends are never really gone, they just come back in different forms.

The dog begins his journey as a nameless mutt. His feral mother fears human contact and shuns people, but he is taken in by a well-meaning woman who cannot close her door, or her heart, to any dog. Unfortunately, this leads to his demise because when the authorities are called in, and they take note of his situation and his deficiencies, his fate is sealed and he is euthanized. It’s sad to imagine an animal so young fall victim to circumstance, but that’s why the reader ca so eagerly believe that he gets another chance at life. In order to enjoy this book, the reader needs to imagine that it might be possible. He is reborn as a golden retriever who is taken in by a loving family, specifically a boy named Ethan. He lives his life as Ethan’s constant companion, seeing him through all the trials and tribulations of childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. When his physical body finally gives out, he is lovingly cared for and he receives the dignity that his previous life, and death, did not afford him.

Although the boy showed him what love is, the dog’s purpose is not yet fulfilled. He comes back in a couple more bodies, sharing his life with other people who need him and he begins to understand that his rebirths are not random; rather, each life he has is connected to the next. In each body, he learned something that made him purposeful and worthwhile, and his worth to humans is what allows him to keep coming back.

I’ve already given some spoilers away so I don’t want to ruin the ending, and I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves dogs or animal stories or just good character development.

I will say that I have a special dog. Maybe she never learned any fancy tricks like the one in the book, but that alone does not determine one’s worth. She was the dog that no other dog will ever be able to compare to. I never wanted to say good-bye to her, and now that I read this book I indulge myself by thinking that maybe I didn’t. Maybe she’s around right now, in a different body, making someone else happy. When you fall in love with a dog, like Ethan fell in love with Bailey, or like I fell in love with Jasmine, it makes it difficult to see yourself getting another dog . But I know someday I will. Someday I’ll walk into a shelter, and I’ll walk up and down the aisles of kennels, looking in on the dogs. I’ll look into each dog’s eyes, and maybe one will already know me.

                                               me and Jasmine in 1992                 me and Jasmine in 2007

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