I love to read. Put me in a closet with a good book and I could be happy for days. Obviously God’s plan was well thought-out when he gave me this passion, providing me the satisfaction of knowing that I will always be able to entertain myself – just from savoring time spent with millions of new friends nestled between the covers of a wonderful book.
With a long, hot Texas summer on the horizon, it only makes sense to gather up a few of these “new friends” and contentedly escape the sizzling afternoons on my sofa with a cool glass of iced tea and my four-legged family members as I lose myself in these summer getaways. Like Oprah, I have a long list of favorites, but highly recommend my latest discoveries and hope you will add them to your own list of literary choices.
I discovered the first one through a friend when she asked if I had read a book called “A Dog’s Purpose.” It’s not a new book, I found out, since Sam’s Club did not carry it anymore. I found it at Barnes & Noble after the salesclerk informed me that the “Shades of Grey” series was definitely the “hottest” read for the summer, and then looked bewildered when I insisted on staying with my original selection – a dog book.
My friend shared with me that this was a story written by a dog and told from the canine’s point of view. Of course, it sounded a little hokey to me, even though I love animal books. I went ahead and finished a couple of other books before I launched into it, even though my friend kept inquiring if I had read it yet as she was terribly anxious to discuss it. I was most intrigued of how a “tale” told by a “tail” (with four paws) could be anything more than a book geared to a child’s level.
Well, prove me wrong, once again. “A Dog’s Purpose” is a very funny and inspiring must-read for anyone who has ever loved, or been loved by, a dog. But be warned: once you start reading, you won’t be able to put the book down.
The story is narrated by Toby, a dog who is born, lives, dies, and then finds himself reborn again and again, eventually understanding that he has learned something from each life, which helps him find his ultimate purpose.
When I first heard about the book, I thought for sure that I knew what a dog’s purpose was, but was pleasantly surprised to further understand the complexity of each different canine’s mind and why each one desires to please and care for their human parent. The book also led me to feel more comfortable in the losses of my many four-legged children during the last 50-plus years.
The learning journey is something that the author W. Bruce Cameron understands. Cameron says that the idea for a book about a dog being reborn and remembering each past life grew out of the thought that what we call instinct in a dog might actually be a memory.
“If you think about it,” Cameron explains, “instinct is sort of a species-wide memory, hard-wired into the dog’s operating system. From there it was rather easy to picture that perhaps for some dogs, they could remember everything from life-to-life.”
Each life that the dog in the book experiences brings up that dreaded trip to the vet for spay/neuter surgery – followed by the embarrassing head cone. If you’ve ever wondered what your dog thought about that experience, Toby tells you. You also get a dog’s perspective on everything from boredom and food to human relationships and the family cat.
Many of the events in the book are actually taken from Cameron’s experiences with his own dogs. He says one of his dogs, Cammie, “helped the family revisit a guinea pig funeral by helpfully bringing the dead corpse back for an encore.” That event inspired the part where Bailey the dog watches his family bury Smokey the cat. Bailey later digs Smokey up, figuring, “They surely couldn’t have meant to bury a perfectly good dead cat.” Having several similar episodes in my own long timeframe of family pets, I had to chuckle as I understood much clearer “how the dog’s mind works.”
Be prepared. As much as you will laugh when you see your own dog on every page, you’ll need to keep a box of tissue handy. The relationships between the dogs and the humans are poignant and often emotional. But the laughter and tears will, for many readers, also bring healing, especially if you’ve ever been with your dog at the end of his life. For me, it answered those hard questions about what might possibly happen to a pet when he/she passes on.
And that is something that the author hopes readers will take away from the book. I know that I did.
“What makes life real are the connections we make,” he says, “both with other people and, of course, with our animal friends.” He hopes readers see that “true love is eternal, and that just because someone or something dies doesn’t means they are lost forever.”
Cameron continues, “If you let them, dogs can help guide you in every sense of the word.”
“A Dog’s Purpose” spent 19 weeks on The New York Times’ Best Seller hardcover list – almost four years in dog time. The best news is that when I completed the book (wishing for more), I discovered the sequel had just been released. “A Dog’s Journey” is Cameron’s latest release and is just as wonderful of a read as the original book, following the story of Bailey and his/her rebirth into several families, carefully threaded through the continuing lives of them all.
So, if you hear I can’t be found anywhere – check out the nearest closet (with the best lighting) where I just might be, lost in the memorable tale and continuing journey of a special dog who continues his/her life interconnected with a special person. What could be more fun this summer than losing yourself through a four-legged canine’s story and view of life’s purpose? It’s guaranteed to touch your heart and make you smile!