Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 354
The main themes of A Dog's Purpose are loyalty and a consistent purpose of being helpful as a dog, in whatever situation the dog finds himself in. The other theme is reincarnation and the ability to keep working at something over various lifetimes, to come to a better understanding of true purpose.
The first dog we meet is Toby, a homeless stray who ends up at an old woman's home with other strays. Though Toby is in a difficult spot, he remains a good dog, though he finally is put to sleep because of the bad conditions the dogs are in at the old woman's house.
The next dog is Bailey, who has a hard start, but is rescued from a negligent truck driver, and lives his life out with Ethan. Ethan is a young boy, and Bailey lives with Ethan throughout various difficulties, as Ethan grows older, always loyal to him. Bailey forms a lasting bond with Ethan, as we see later in the novel.
Next is Ellie, who is a working dog, a search and rescue dog. She leads a purposeful life, helping save people. In this incarnation she is leading a purely purposeful and selfless life, living to give aid to others.
In the last life, we meet Buddy, who is at first named Bear, abandoned by a woman's alcoholic boyfriend. Bear somehow remembers his life as Bailey, and is able to find the home of his previous owner, Ethan. Ethan adopts Bear, calls him Buddy, and finally the dog's life has come full circle. He has the purpose of making Ethan happy, though now Buddy is truly happy too. This ties in with the theme of reincarnation and how this dog, who has gone through many lives, again finds the one person he has bonded with most strongly. In a sense, the dog's loyalty has been rewarded, showing the theme of loyalty being a code to live by, even when circumstances tell us otherwise.
When Ethan dies, he imagines that Buddy is Bailey, putting together the deep connection between the two. Buddy sits by Ethan's side, having fulfilled his purpose.
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