Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 361
A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron is the story of a dog who dies and then comes back to life in the body of another dog. This happens to the dog several times throughout the novel, and the dog— who is named Toby in his first life—seems perplexed as to why this reincarnation keeps happening. I believe it is the dog's quest to understand this and to discover his true purpose in life that forms the crux of the novel.
Poor Toby has a very short life; he is injured by a feral dog and then must be put to sleep due to his injuries. As he is passing away, Toby wonders why his life had to be so short. He is then reborn as Bailey, a beautiful golden retriever who belongs to a boy named Ethan. Bailey and Ethan become inseparable, and when summer arrives, they go with the family to Ethan's grandparents' farm. Ethan and Bailey meet a girl named Hannah, and the three spend many wonderful summer days together and become very close.
Then Ethan is injured in a house fire, so he and Bailey decide to stay at the farm for a year while Ethan recuperates. Bailey finally realizes that his purpose in life is to provide comfort to Ethan. Ethan goes off to college, and after a long and happy life, Bailey passes away. Then Bailey is reborn as Ellie, but Bailey/Ellie is confused! Hasn't she already fulfilled her purpose? Ellie goes on to have a long and meaningful life as a K-9 rescue dog. After she passes away, the dog is born yet again and eventually goes on to find a much older Ethan living alone on the farm. Buddy, as the dog is now known, smells Hannah's scent nearby and is able to reunite Ethan and Hannah. The two rekindle their friendship and fall in love. Buddy is with Ethan when he dies, and Buddy does everything he can to keep Ethan calm and make the transition to death easy. Buddy knows that his purpose has not yet been fulfilled, because he will still need to be around to comfort Hannah.
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