How does the narrator of Garth Stein's novel The Art of Racing in the Rain describe the soul?
Early in Garth Stein's novel The Art of Racing in the Rain, the story's narrator, the aging canine Enzo, discusses the basis for his belief that he will be reincarnated as a human being. That belief, inspired by a television show he has seen, involves the concept of a human soul inside a dog's body:
"Sure, I’m stuffed into a dog’s body, but that’s just the shell. It’s what’s inside that’s important. The soul. And my soul is very human."
With this observation, Enzo continues to reflect on the importance of his soul and the role it plays in his plan to convince his human owner, Denny, to have him put to sleep so that transformative process towards becoming human can commence. Enzo can't explain the concept of a soul any better than most humans, noting that it is "a thing that has no surface, no sides, no pages, no form of any kind," but which exists nonetheless. Enzo proceeds to put forth a scientifically and spiritually-derived (and, he rejects the suggestion that creationism and evolution are mutually-exclusive) case for why dogs are closer to humans than the chimpanzees from which humans evolved. Key to that case is the notion of a dog as confidant to man, as when Enzo observes that Denny "talks to me, as if I’m his true friend, his soul mate."
Throughout Stein's novel, his canine narrator speaks of the soul in the same manner as do humans who similarly ascribe to the spiritual dimension of human existence. In the exceedingly brief Chapter 18, Enzo describes the process by which people in Mongolia prepare their deceased canine's for the journey to the next world, taking special care to preserve the soul "on its journey," and, in one of the novel's more poignant passages, describes the death of Denny's wife, Eve, as follows:
"Her last breath took her soul, I saw it in my dream. I saw her soul leave her body as she exhaled, and then she had no more needs, no more reason; she was released from her body, and, being released, she continued her journey elsewhere . . ."
Stein's canine protagonist is clearly no ordinary dog. Enzo is deeply reflective and deeply spiritual, and the concept of an immortal soul is an inherent part of his system of belief. While he claims to be "totally agnostic," he cannot truly consider himself as such given the importance he places on the concept of immortality. As the story, and Enzo's life, draws to a close, he has arrived at death's doorstep. Denny has brought him to the veterinarian's office where he will be put to sleep. He thinks to himself, recalling that television documentary: When a dog dies, his soul is released to run until he is ready to be reborn. I remember." Enzo's concept of the soul is entirely consistent with that held dear by hundreds of millions of people, and it is his faith in the immortality of his soul that allows him to drift off into a deep sleep never to reawaken again in the form of a dog.