Life purpose, unconditional love - it’s all been said before. But when a four-legged animal speaks, new insights are startling. “A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans,” by W. Bruce Cameron is an irresistible lesson in how to transform one’s heart energy from survival to service from the perspective of (wo)man’s best friend.
Life purpose, unconditional love - it’s all been said before. But when a four-legged animal speaks, new insights are startling. “A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans,” by W. Bruce Cameron (Thomas Doherty Associates, $22.99, July 2010) is an irresistible lesson in how to transform one’s heart energy from survival to service from the perspective of (wo)man’s best friend.
Bailey the dog is like many of us, trying to make sense of life’s mixed signals. Like us, he is at turns confident and smug, then uncertain and fearful. But he knows the main rule of his existence: A dog’s place is to please the people who call the shots. But figuring out his ultimate purpose is too big a quest for one lifetime.
As author W. Bruce Cameron posed, “What if your dog never really dies? What if it lives multiple lifetimes as a dog, remembering everything from each life? Wouldn’t that explain how dogs often seem to know more about how we’re feeling than we do?”
Cameron applies his award winning humor to first-person doggy as our hero romps through four reincarnations, each one offering a lesson that proves crucial for his next lifetime. The author of “Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter,” Cameron’s signature humor entertains, but there is an insightful poignancy that refreshes. Each of Bailey’s lifetimes mirrors the merry-go-round of challenges humans face at various stages.
Each presents an important lesson or skill to learn. When next faced with a familiar obstacle, apply hard-won knowledge to break through to a new level of self-understanding and service to others. But do we?
The dog that learns new tricks is actually the reader who journeys on a parallel self-examination process. Every lifetime the dog goes through is a metaphor of one’s own evolution.
The dog’s first incarnation is as Toby, a cheerful mutt born in the wild, and learning to survive by his mother’s example of fearing humans, scavenging food and placating stronger rivals. Later taken in by an animal lover and living with other homeless dogs, Toby learns to cope by being lovable in the face of competition, jealousies and living among dangerous personalities. At the end of his bereft and hardscrabble existence, Toby feels that without love and attention his life had no purpose.
He is reincarnated as Bailey, a golden retriever who captures the hearts of an adoptive family and becomes the companion of a boy named Ethan. Bailey heightens his guarding instincts and ways to keep his master safe. By the end of his life, Bailey understands his purpose was to protect the boy. The dog has experienced complete love.
The next life is as Ellie, a female German shepherd whose intellect and obedience earn her a place among trained search-and-rescue dogs. Acclaimed and well-loved, Ellie leaves that life, convinced she has found her highest purpose in saving lives and that she is finally done with reincarnation.
So it is disappointing to be back again as Buddy the black Labrador. But this is the lifetime where all wisdom, skills and character developed from his past come to bear on his greatest challenge. Without spoiling the ending, Buddy’s transformations take him from basic survival, learning to love, to saving lives and, ultimately, to healing hearts.
Slipping under the fur of Toby-Bailey-Ellie-Buddy is a surprising way to chart one’s own progress through life’s challenges. Do we merely survive? The dogs that struggled in fear, bitterness and aggression never made it. To survive and later thrive meant keeping self-love alive and finding a way to radiate it outward. Inner light draws love and laughter, a karmic circle we can generate every day.
“A Dog’s Purpose” also examines the animal circle within a human circle. Cameron created his four-legged personalities based on research in canine behavior. Dogs do understand more than we know, and their highest purpose is to love us. Doggy devotion is portrayed with insightful clarity.
This book gives us a chance to sit at their paws and learn how we, too, can become better.
E-mail Suzette Standring at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is the award-winning author of “The Art of Column Writing” and hosts the TV show “It’s All Write With Suzette.” She teaches writing workshops nationally. www.readsuzette.com