21 reviews

A Dog's Purpose
by W. Bruce Cameron

Published: 2010-07-06
Hardcover : 320 pages
61 members reading this now
66 clubs reading this now
34 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 18 of 21 members

This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog's search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, A Dog's Purpose touches on the universal quest for an answer to life's most basic question: Why are we here?

Surprised to find himself ...

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This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog's search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, A Dog's Purpose touches on the universal quest for an answer to life's most basic question: Why are we here?

Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden-haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey's search for his new life's meaning leads him into the loving arms of 8-year-old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog.

But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey's journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders--will he ever find his purpose?

Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh-out-loud funny, A Dog's Purpose is not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog's many lives, but also a dog's-eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man's best friend. This moving and beautifully crafted story teaches us that love never dies, that our true friends are always with us, and that every creature on earth is born with a purpose.

Editorial Review

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Discussion Questions

1. W. Bruce Cameron is a humorist, and Bailey’s sense of humor is a constant, and pleasant, surprise throughout the book. What part does humor play in A Dog’s Purpose? Why does human behavior so often seem so funny when described from a dog’s point of view? Do you believe that animals can have a sense of humor? Has a pet ever made you laugh at yourself?

2. Love is talked about often in A Dog’s Purpose, typically as the emotion that brings Bailey the greatest joy. Do you believe that animals feel love in some of the ways that we do? Do the types of love expressed in the book recall broader, more transcendent definitions of love?

3. A Dog’s Purpose is written from an animal’s first-person point of view. How do you think that this book would have been different if its narrator had been human? As the book unfolded, did you feel drawn into experiencing the world through a dog’s senses? Was it an enjoyable, or uncomfortable, process? Did it surprise you, and if so, at what points?

4. At the beginning of A Dog’s Purpose, we see immediately how unique the personalities are of Toby and his siblings—Hungry, Sister, and Fast. Is personality hard-wired at birth? Does it help to determine one’s purpose in life?

5. What does it mean for Bailey to wish, throughout his life, to be a “good dog”? Do all the animals in the story seem to have a similar wish? Do all humans? Do concepts like evil, or sin, apply in Bailey’s world?

6. W. Bruce Cameron portrays the world through the lens of an animal’s reasoning. How does Bailey, in all his incarnations, process what happens to and around him? How does he set priorities and make decisions? What do you admire, or dislike, about the way in which he understands the world? How does it differ from your own understanding?

7. Bailey talks often about the fundamental relationship of dogs to humans. How does he describe that relationship? What does each group gain from it, and what obligations does it place on them? How have you experienced that relationship with your own dog, or another animal?

8. Bailey’s sharpest sense is smell, and either through that sense alone or via a combination of senses, he is also acutely and specifically aware of human emotions—Jakob’s grief, Ethan’s sadness, Todd’s rage. Are pets this sensitive to human feelings—perhaps more so than humans themselves, at times? Have you had an experience in which a pet seemed to intuitively understand something that you didn’t think you were outwardly expressing? How did that pet’s response make you feel, in that moment?

9. As the nickname “man’s best friend” implies, dogs have long been known for qualities of loyalty and devotion. How does Bailey’s sense of purpose intersect with those qualities? Is devotion in animals different than in human beings? How does Bailey demonstrate his purpose in his relationships with humans? How do devotion and purpose play out in your own life, and your relationships?

10. When Bailey first returns in his final incarnation, as Buddy, he finds himself living what he calls “this crazy, purposeless life as Bear” first with Wendy, and then with her mother and Victor. What are the qualities of a purposeless life, besides a basic sense of direction? Where does the idea of a home fit into the notion of purpose? What relationships, activities, or routines, are necessary for us to feel purposeful?

11. One of the most compelling arcs of the novel is the way in which Bailey’s understanding of his purpose—from being able to survive in the world outside the Yard, to being able to love and care for the boy, to ultimately being able to save people—evolves over time. Does our sense of purpose in life evolve in this way? Do the purposes themselves evolve—do we have different purposes as children and adolescents than as adults, or elders? Have you seen your own purpose change during your lifetime?

Suggested by Members

Have you ever had a special dog who seemed to understand you?
Which of the dog's lives resonated most with you? Why?
This dog understands the people in his life. Did anything in the book help you understand your dog better?
by RRReaders (see profile) 04/02/12

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by sue k. (see profile) 03/12/19

  "A Dog's Purpose"by Cindy L. (see profile) 01/18/17

OK, I didn't really care much for this book, however, the book group seemed to LOVE it. It made for good discussion. And the leader of the discussion brought great treats with a dog bone cookie and Mississippi... (read more)

  "A Dog's Purpose"by Karen G. (see profile) 06/12/16

Our group found this a light and fun reading. It made us laugh and love our animals even more.

  "A Dog's Purpose"by Lee C. (see profile) 08/03/14

I simply could not put this book down, and read it to the exclusion of everything else going on. I was sorry when it ended. I wanted it to go on . . .and on . . . I will always remember this book.

by Marilyn B. (see profile) 06/29/14

  "A Dog's Purpose"by Jeanne B. (see profile) 11/22/13

  "A Purposeful Story"by Nancy B. (see profile) 06/21/13

A Dog's Purpose was a beautiful story of life through a dog's eyes. I like to think that we all have a purpose in life, something we were meant to achieve or bring to the world -- and who is to say that... (read more)

  "Excellent Book!"by Amy Y. (see profile) 09/11/12

I would highly recommend this book and actually have to several people. It's a wonderful story from the perspective of the dog. It's completely changed the way I interact with my animals. This book... (read more)

  "Slow to get to the point"by Allison R. (see profile) 05/18/12

Our group found this an easy read, but slow to get into the story. Good discussion on one's purpose following the book. We all agreed that dog owners/lovers enjoyed this book more than others.

  "A Dog's Purpose"by Judy L. (see profile) 04/23/12

So interesting to see life and relationships from a dog's point of view.
Inspiring to see how the spirit of the dog could build on each of his (her) experiences.
Gives insight into the un

... (read more)

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